Yes, the news is less entertaining than Friends, so we need other reasons to watch. But those reasons — including voter participation, party affiliation, and educational expectations about following the news — have weakened in the past three decades. We need to turn the tide. But what can we do?
Plenty. First, we must raise our expectations for high-school students. To offer a model of how this might be done, consider the fact that while political participation and news consumption have declined, volunteerism is on the rise. When I posed that anomaly to Brandeis students, one offered what is probably the most plausible explanation: Volunteerism is a requirement for the National Honor Society and an expectation at many colleges. Why not make civic knowledge a requirement for college admissions?
Students who don’t pay attention to politics cede their political power to their elders and their more-involved peers. And without political power they are screwed. An e-mail message about that would be a scary one indeed. —David T. Z. Mindich —Dude, Where’s Your Newspaper? (Mindich|Chronicle)
With the summer break starting to wane, I’m pondering the task I face when I teach “Newswriting” this fall.
If you think of journalism as a noble civic vocation, one of the chief virtues of a good journalist is the ability to make the important seem interesting. A trained chimpanzee could make a TV news story out of hidden-camera footage of car wash attendants stealing change or nannies smacking their children, but campaign finance reform?