I love my young, single friends. They have so much to look forward to: marriage, divorce, macular degeneration, male-pattern baldness. I love them but they have some interesting ideas about the world.
I love my young, single friends. They have so much to look forward to: marriage, divorce, macular degeneration, male-pattern baldness.
I love them but they have some interesting ideas about the world. Whereas I was brought up under the rubric, “the best things in life are free,” those in their teens and 20s seem to think all things in life should be free.
Take entertainment. Movies, music, video games; the thought of opening their wallet for such amusement strikes the under-30 set as almost un-American. Un-Young American, anyway. They’ll invest in the hardware — laptops and iPods. But should a baby boomer suggest they cough up some change for the content, they’ll look at him as if he just suggested double-dating. (I know; I’ve done both.)
The idea of paying for content is not just an idle fascination for those of us in the newspaper industry. Despite having more readers than ever, we’re facing financial challenges because those readers are largely accessing the content online (i.e., for free).
But get this: Not content to nourish themselves intellectually on the fruits of our labors, free of charge, they now want to dictate how we prepare the literary meal.
It’s true. According to Gene Weingarten of The Washington Post, “a new essay in a journalism industry magazine contends that middle-aged newspaper columnists are alienating young readers by making fogeyish cultural references they don’t understand. ... To solve the problem, the essayist suggests that older columnists avoid such dated references or include glossary-like annotations for the sake of clarity.”(*)
Here the cyber-world has gone to the trouble of providing Wikipedia — for free, mind you! — and even that is too much trouble for younger readers coming up against an unfamiliar expression.
I don’t mean to paint with a broad brush here (that’s a saying that means lumping a group of people together, youngsters) because I know many young adults who are curious, ambitious and aware of many events, cultural and otherwise, that predate the Nirvana single “Smells Like Teen Spirit.” But there is a segment of Generation Y that seems to be giving the entire group a bad name.
The stereotype: plugged-in but tuned-out; in a hurry to advance professionally but not necessarily personally; and desirous of the world conforming to their own preferences and predilections, as opposed to the other way around.
At its worst, these characteristics can come across as arrogant. We had an applicant for a reporter opening respond angrily when we pointed out that on not one, but two separate correspondences, he had misspelled words — a big red flag for someone applying for a writing job. He seemed to think that, when it came to e-mails, even job applications couldn’t be expected to be error-free; didn’t understand why we were making such a big deal; and told us so colorfully.
As I say, most young adults are nothing like this. I work with several, so I know. They’re professional, mindful, ambitious, eager to learn and up for any challenge. But for some reason, they are not the poster children for their generation.
Perhaps that’s just the way the world works. The majority of those who came of age during the 1960s didn’t walk around barefoot, smoking homemade cigarettes. And we didn’t all don polyester in the 1970s and dance in discos, appearances on Facebook to the contrary.
Likewise, most of the generation now merging into the work force does not expect the world to bend to their views. They know an unfamiliar reference in a column is not a roadblock to comprehension, but an opportunity to broaden their intelligence. They look forward to such passages as jumping-off points for a deeper understanding of cultural knowledge. They celebrate the middle-aged scribes who selflessly include such enlightening pastiches in their work.
That’s what they tell me, anyway.
Contact Daily Messenger managing editor Kevin Frisch at (585) 394-0770, ext. 257 or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.
(*) Such as this one, for example: Hey essayist, pound dirt!