American Pie 11.02.05

By Jeffrey Blyth in New York
 
It might be assumed that anyone studying to be a journalist would read at least one newspaper a day.

But
that’s not what an instructor in journalism at the University of
Michigan-Dearborn discovered when students were asked what papers they
read.

Only four or five out of 35 said they regularly read
a paper. In another class, devoted to writing a newspaper column, when
asked to name their favourite columnist, only one hand went up.

And the name mentioned: a sports columnist. When this was reported in the local Detroit News the story caused a big controversy.

Many
editors and journalists were somewhat dismayed. The excuse made was
that many students these days are more accustomed to getting their news
in fast bursts. However, there were some who defended the students and
suggested that even if they don’t sit down with their newspaper over a
cup of coffee, it doesn’t mean they are not well informed. In fact one
response claimed that today’s future journalists are probably better
informed than any previous generation thanks to online news and such
fast-paced cable news channels. It was also pointed out that not all
the students taking journalism course go into print journalism. Some
end up as photographers and broadcasters.

 

It
was a different set of students, high school students in this case, but
a new study of their views on the press has proved disturbing. One in
three believe the press of America ought to be more restricted and even
more suggested the Government should approve newspaper stories before
they are printed.

More than 110,000 students took part in the
survey. Asked if they thought the press enjoys too much freedom and how
much, one in three responded: “too much”. The findings didn’t surprise
Jack Dvorak, director of the Journalism Institute at Indiana
University. American teenagers, he suggested, are not being taught
enough about the hard-won Freedom of the Press. Their views, he added,
coincide with the views these days of many American adults.

 

To
add to the negative news about journalism, another survey has concluded
that journalism is bad for your health. The one consolation: this
report comes from China where a check of 1,182 reporters in Beijing,
conducted by the Chinese Physicians’ Association, showed that only 28 –
only just over two per cent – are healthy.

Their most common
ailment: stomach problems. Among those examined 84 per cent said they
suffered from chronic exhaustion, 72 per cent complained of work
pressure, 82 per cent said they had trouble sleeping, half had bad
eyesight and almost as many said they had chronic pain.

 

Magazine
advertising here took an upturn at the end of last year – the first
increase since 2000. Figures just in showed an 11 per cent increase in
ad income and a four per cent increase in ad pages. Which bodes better
for some of the new magazines said to be on the launch pad. In addition
to a US version of OK! (Press Gazette 4 Feb) edited by Nicola McCarthy,
which is scheduled to hit the newsstands later this year, David Pecker,
head of American Media,the czar of the check-out mags, is working on
yet another celebrity mag, this one to be called Celebrity Living,
expected to be launched in the Spring. It will be priced at a new low
price of $1.80 a copy – a few pennies less than the best-selling
German-backed In Touch which in less than two years has reached a
circulation of over a million. Also due here soon, a US version of Red.

In
fact, reports suggest several other European publishers are eyeing the
US market – including Italy’s publishing prime minister Silvio
Berlusconi (above left). There is even speculation that the US faces a
European invasion similar to the one that reshaped American magazine
publishing in the l980s.

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