The latest Pew Research American statistics at first light make grim reading. It appears that over the last decade in all traditional news outlets, that is newspapers, radio, television and cable, total employee numbers dropped by 25%.
But analysis shows the employee numbers in radio, television and cable in fact pretty much stayed the same and the drop was almost entirely attributable to newspapers which lost 47% of their staff in the past ten years. For those of us interested in quality and substance in their news consumption, which television and radio cannot provide, this is alarming.
But we all know how misleading statistics can be. For example, an obvious explanation lies with the number of newspapers which folded over that same decade. Thus it may well be that there’s been no fall, or even (unlikely) an increase in individual newspaper staff over that same decade. I remain optimistic that the reduction in competition will lead to an improvement in quality. I believe there’s clear evidence of that occurring in Britain, even if on reduced circulations.
Underlying all of this is the electronic assault, mainly cell-phone obsession which is leading to an evident mass dumbing down of the younger generation and accompanying that, a total lack of curiosity which the desire for knowledge is based on.
Consider this conversation a few years ago with a 22 year old receptionist, admittedly employed for her beauty, but who nevertheless had a degree, albeit in a bogus subject where they’re little more than an attendance reward.
Perhaps my foolishly thinking she’d noticed my absence, it went like this.
Me: “Do you know where I was last week?”
Me: “I was in Belgium.”
She looked blank so I persisted.
Me: “Have you heard of it?”
Me: “Do you want to know where it is?”
Halfwit: “No.” – and she meant it.
And why was I there? Because the Antwerp City Council had begun the fightback and banned the use of cell-phones in the CBD, solely in the interest of arresting the decline in civility. So I’d popped over to have a look and it was visibly working. People were actually talking to one another face to face.
Some small American cities have apparently followed suit, but mainly it’s over to our educationalists to begin the fight-back.
Matthew Hooton summed the current alarming situation up a couple of years back when he suggested that the current generation may be the first in human history, dumber than their parents.