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Nose Under the Community Tent

By Paul Losch

About this blog: I was a "corporate brat" growing up and lived in different parts of the country, ending in Houston, Texas for high school. After attending college at UC Davis, and getting an MBA at Harvard, I embarked on a marketing career, mai...  (More)

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Generations and Public Affairs

Uploaded: Jan 23, 2011
I am an NPR (National Public Radio) junkie. I also am a PA Online junkie, but the two have different missions.

My son and daughter are at their early adulthood years. Both profess to not follow the "News," and my son has told me he will not listen to KQED-FM (radio station that does a ton of stuff from NPR) because it was all he heard growing up in my household. (Due to me.)

My daughter, presently in China as a Junior year abroad college student, told me in an e-mail that she does not follow the News. Her response was from an e-mail I sent her about the horrible flooding in Queensland, Australia, which is a place she and I spent time when she was in middle school.

I don't think I am alone in my experiences with my kids. And it bothers me.

They present lack of interest and awareness in stuff that has an impact on their lives. Who do you vote for? How do you engage with issues and propositions?

Some of this may be that the way people in that cohort get their information in a different way. Facebook, Twitter, Yahoo and Google are obvious examples. But the medium is less important than how it is used, what content is developed and sought? Posting on a Facebook wall about a personal activity is not the same as reading the NYT Op/Ed on line.

What has me concerned is that my 2 kids, educated in Palo Alto and going to good colleges, exemplify their cohort. They had great educations, and are indifferent to matters of society.

What do you think/feel?

Rule of engagement on this post--this is not about me or how I raised my kids, who both are fine people. Ad hominem critiques on my child rearing experience is not the issue, so don't post on this blog unless you have some ideas about this new generation and how they get informed.
What is it worth to you?


Posted by Jerome, a resident of ,
on Jan 23, 2011 at 8:25 am

I am 60 years old. Most of my generation did not pay much attention to the news, when they were twenty-somethings, unless it had something to do with their lives, directly. For example the draft lottery number, and that was only the guys. Sure, there were a few exceptions, such as political activists, but not a lot. When the kids become directly invested in their own society, by paying for it through taxes, and when they start to raise their own kids, they will become much more aware of the news.

Posted by Parent, a resident of ,
on Jan 23, 2011 at 8:30 am

My kids are the opposite. They are pretty much news junkies - a bit like me. They have gone through or still in Paly. They are more interested in some news, like politics, than we are. They enjoy discussing with each other who to vote for or whether to vote yes or no (or could if they are not old enough). They have had some good teachers at Paly which have brought history and government alive. They are well traveled so enjoy hearing about news from places they have been.

But, they are not likely to listen to NPR. They get their news from tv or online publications. They post some articles on their facebook pages and comment on news as their statuses and get responses from their friends.

I don't think you are to blame. I think perhaps they are too young and will work it out for themselves. Keep on sending them news from home. Send articles about Palo Alto and other places they are familiar with. I believe they will start reading when they want to.

Posted by Defund NPR, a resident of ,
on Jan 24, 2011 at 12:47 pm

> I am 60 years old. Most of my generation did not pay much
> attention to the news

Hmmm .. with the heaviest opposition to the Vietnam War coming from students .. it's a little hard to believe that all they understood about the matter was what their lottery number was. (Remember too, only men were drafted, and had lottery numbers.)

As to NPR, it is very one-side .. very slanted away from "the middle".

Given how biased it is .. it should not be called "Public Radio" and neither should it be funded with taxpayer dollars. People who believe in its message should contribute to it, and let it live or die on quality of its product, like any other business.

Posted by Jerome, a resident of ,
on Jan 24, 2011 at 1:29 pm


Once the draft was ended, that was also the end of the protest movement. I can vividly remember that women in my co-ed dorm had no interest in the news. They wanted to watch Star Trek, endlessly, during the news time. There were some heated arguments about this, since there was only one television set in the dorm. The guys wanted to hear about the draft, and the women could care less. In the end, the draft ended, then it was back to the comity of watching Star Trek.

Posted by TheWallet, a resident of ,
on Jan 24, 2011 at 3:43 pm

When the financial crisis hit in 2008 and my husband and I were freaking out about our 401K accounts I had a hard time getting my college and HS aged kids interested. By and large most young adults in this cohort (those still in school) are not terribly interested in news because they are still financially dependent on their parents. The real impact of current events on their lives is blunted because (if their parents are still working) they are shielded from the consequences. When they start earning their own living and paying taxes, they will be much more tuned in to events that affect their pocketbook. Thus I would expect their view to change when your kids graduate.

Posted by Paul Losch, a resident of ,
on Jan 24, 2011 at 5:07 pm

Paul Losch is a registered user.

Thanks for the thoughful postings so far.

What got me engaged at age 9 was JFK getting killed.

There have been other events before and after. 9/11 is the one my kids will remember. In my kids' case, it did not engage them.

When you have to pay your own bills, it most certainly affects your outlook on life. That said, I am not sure that all the dots are connected with this cohort.

Posted by Anon, a resident of ,
on Jan 24, 2011 at 6:20 pm

Posted by Defund NPR:

> As to NPR, it is very one-side .. very slanted away from "the middle".

> Given how biased it is .. it should not be called
> "Public Radio" and neither should it be funded
> with taxpayer dollars. People who believe
> in its message should contribute to it,
> and let it live or die on
> quality of its product, like any other business.

NPR is slanted towards objectivity, something that is not popular these days. I prefer to listen to the facts, rather than believe
in the message.

As for funding:

"In 2009, member stations derived 6% of their revenue from direct government funding, 10% of their revenue from federal funding in the form of CPB grants, and 14% of their revenue from universities.[14][15] NPR receives no direct funding from the federal government.[16] About 1.5% of NPR's revenues come from Corporation for Public Broadcasting grants."

Posted by Parent too!, a resident of ,
on Jan 24, 2011 at 11:21 pm

Patience... I know you did a great job raising your kids. My teen-aged son refused to follow politics for years - which had me baffled. He now forwards me NYT articles and listens to KQED occasionally (despite the fact that he was raised on it). He tends to be more conservative than me - but is intellectually honest enough to appreciate quality reporting wherever he finds it. I trust that your kids will be the same.

Another thing - when I was a young person, there were years I checked out from knowing what what going on in the world. What was happening in my chem lab or at my job was far more important. There are holes in my knowledge (like all of 1984-1987!). This seems to go with youth.

Posted by anonymous, a resident of ,
on Jan 25, 2011 at 4:19 pm

I am highly engaged with following the news. My kids vary on that. But there was the example there.

as for NPR, the calmer tone is nice, when one is in the mood for that. It isn't exactly totally thrilling for young adults, though, I imagine.

Posted by Mike, a resident of ,
on Jan 26, 2011 at 2:50 pm

A few months back I attended an author appearance at Kepplers in Menlo Park. The book was non fiction and of a political and social nature. The author was also a professor at at Cal, and commented early on that he polled his class of undergrads about whether they read the news from papers or magazines. Not a single student raised their hand.

I believe there is also an implication here that getting one's news from a handheld is likely to lead to acquiring whatever knowledge you get from condensed or selected snippets of information. Not in depth.

I listen to a wide variety of news on am radio while commuting to SF in the mornings for an hour. I can tell you that every station has an agenda, even NPR. It is often what they choose not to report, or the information they choose to mention versus what they don't that is most telling. You can slant news as much by what you don't say as what you do.

Posted by Defund NPR, a resident of ,
on Jan 26, 2011 at 5:00 pm

> NPR is slanted towards objectivity, something that is not
> popular these days.

It is very hard to define objectivity--particularly in a highly politicized environment. While one might claim that NPR "news" is objective, how about all of the commentary and opinion that is presented from this source? By definition, opinion and objectivity are not the same. (They may overlap, but then one might be able to toss a coin fifty times in a row and have it come up "heads".)

During the early phases of the financial meltdown, I listened to/watched as many sources as I could, trying to educate myself about what was going on. NPR did have some material on the matter, but it was pitched at a "sophomoric" level, I came to realize after months of research. The material wasn't false (although in my opinion it slanted "left"). What the material wasn't however, was complete. (In all fairness to the discussion, NPR was not alone in being incomplete, as we are daily being treated to one revelation after another about the depth of this debacle. However, the "lads" at NPR covering this matter didn't seem to understand that the bottom was a lot deeper than they let on.)

As to funding, there is no reason federal dollars should be funding any news/opinion radio/TV show. The concern that all taxpayers would have is that sooner or later, "money talks", and we (all) would have the government using NPR as its megaphone. If the funding for NPR is now about 1.5%, let's remember that it was much higher in the past. And, there is no reason that Congress could not increase its funding in the future. Best to simply snip the cord and let it "fly solo".

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