Tuned Out: Why Americans Under 40 Don't Follow the News

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David T. Z. Mindich

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Our democracy is on the brink of a crisis, David Mindich argues in Tuned Out. As more and more young people turn their backs on political news, America is seeing the greatest decline in informed citizenship in its history. The implications for overall civic engagement are also enormous.
Crisscrossing the country, from Boston to New Orleans and Los Angeles, Mindich has interviewed scores of young Americans about how they keep up with the news: young professionals, college students, and even some preteens. What he discovers is a group that knows less, cares less, votes less, and follows the news less than their elders do and less than their elders did. Noting that the problem is reaching almost unfathomable proportions (the median viewer age of network television news is now 60), Mindich explores the roots of the problem, including the powerful lure of entertainment, which in recent years has grown exponentially--from MTV and ESPN to Nakednews.com--far overshadowing serious news programs. The challenge, Mindich says, is to create a society in which young people feel that reading quality journalism is worthwhile. Some newspapers have responded to the problem by pandering, adding Britney Spears and subtracting John Ashcroft. But in trying to make news matter to young people, the author notes, they make it matter to no one. Tuned Out offers a number of innovative responses to this problem, from requiring every channel to carry news as part of its children's programming to transforming college admissions policies, to changing journalism itself.
Written in the spirit of Robert Putnam's Bowling Alone, this book illuminates a serious problem in our society, a problem that will only grow worse as older Americans retire and the tuned out young must take their place as leaders.


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