I must confess: when reading Thomas Friedman's October 10 article "Generation Q," I couldn't help but think of a lyric from Bob Dylan's song "Troubled and I Don't Know Why," in which Dylan sings, "Oh what did the newspaper tell?/ Well, it rolled in the door/ And it laid on the floor, /Saying, 'Things ain't going so well.'" And with all due to respect to Bob Dylan, the times are not a-changin' in regards to media coverage. Now more than ever, the media can't wait to uncover the latest scandal, blast someone's slippage of words, or report on the latest celebrity murder trial.
In other words, it's easy to talk about how deep a hole we've been dug in, it's easy to carp our optimism when times seem like we should be down and dejected, but in truth, it's the pervasive negativity of the media that disillusions our peer group — stifling political participation. Mr. Friedman wonders why volunteering in the Gulf Coast region and signing up for Teach for America is so popular. It is because, unlike in politics, youth can enter these fields without risking media annihilation or partisan smear.
What Mr. Friedman has failed to notice about Generation "Q" is that our blogging, think-tanking, and social networking frame news more positively. On these "passive" websites, youth encourage one another, read each other's thoughts, and spread the word about an interesting service project or a voter registration drive they want help administering. We are more productive than ever before; filling an auditorium is doable by simply creating a Facebook event, rather than spending hours taping up posters all around campus — not to mention the waste of paper. Websites like Facebook are not the activism itself, but merely the means for mobilizing such activism.
So let me ask this question: why don't we see a story in the New York Times about college students and their efforts to bring organic food to their dining halls? Why doesn't Fox News run a story about high school students pressing their administration to use renewable energy sources? Where is the news coverage on the newly established youth-led non-profit organizations?
More significant than the possible answers to these questions is the need for these stories to receive increased coverage. Such publicity would inspire more young people, stir more creative juices, and launch more activism. However, in order to achieve this, the media needs more courage — the courage to stop writing about tendentious political gossip and start celebrating youth innovation and creative accomplishment.
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