"There is always a philosophy for lack of courage."—Albert Camus

Tuesday, June 21, 2005

News for the Whole Family

This was written by Melissa St. John who, among many other fabulous qualities, happens to be my daughter:

I have been known to hire a babysitter so that I can watch the evening news.

Don't get me wrong; it's not that I don't want my children to learn everything they can about current events, foreign policy, economic issues that affect our lives. I would like nothing more than to sit down on the sofa for an hour before dinner with my family, turn on CNN and see what's going on around the world. In this little fantasy of mine, my preschooler asks me what trade sanctions are and listens, rapt, to my reply. He learns about world markets and the history of Islam. We go grab the encyclopedia and are off on a journey merging past and present, solidifying his understanding of what we're learning from the TV news.

The reality, however, is that the educational benefits of watching television news together are way offset by frightening and (I believe) unnecessarily graphic images of bloody, dead bodies on stretchers, film clips of Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie smiling while shooting at each other with semi-automatic weapons, and commercials for TV reality shows featuring what appear to be bug-eating swimsuit models.

Everyone today is talking about "tweens" and the unprecedented amount of money this social group represents to product marketers. According to various websites I've visited, we're talking about more than twenty million kids between the ages of 8 and 14 who spend more than $40 billion a year. For these kids, like it or not, television is a major medium.

Well, let's get a firm grip on the obvious: It's time for a TV-G news channel.

I want to be clear that I am NOT talking about child reporters dishing on the Backstreet Boys' latest tour. At least not exclusively. We need serious news, with in-depth reports including background and context so that current events are driven home for young learners. I think the channel should be real news and weather reporting, something that adults will want to watch but also feel comfortable leaving on while their kids are in the room. Please somebody, let me get my news fix in the evenings without worrying that my son will inadvertently see or hear something that will have him up with nightmares for the next three days. Let us watch together so that I can talk with my kids about what is going on in the world and encourage them to be politically engaged and generally curious about the world outside their classrooms.

With a target audience from 8-14 years of age, advertisers will surely jump to support such a channel.

And I'll happily contribute the $10 per hour that I currently have to pay a babysitter to keep my kids out of the room while I watch the evening news.

9 comments:

Tlaloc said...

"Please somebody, let me get my news fix in the evenings without worrying that my son will inadvertently see or hear something that will have him up with nightmares for the next three days."

If the news doesn't give you nightmares it isn't really the news. Or in the old formulation: if you aren't mad then you aren't paying attention.

Anonymous said...

TV-G news? It's called a newspaper.

Hunter Baker said...

I think what she's asking for is called CBS News circa 1957 and wouldn't we all like to have it? As a parent of two, I can easily agree. I've switched just in time and TOO LATE from the news as my little boy locked in.

Alan Reynolds said...

What Melissa is asking for is a specialized channel -- not much to ask for since my Comcast box has at least fifty channels that are a vast wasteland of wasted time. There are many specialized kids channels, but not one with regular news.

Our family often competed to come up with a "million dollar idea." This one could make someone a lot more than that.

Tlaloc said...

"I think what she's asking for is called CBS News circa 1957 and wouldn't we all like to have it?"

Honestly? No. Of course I don't like what we have now either. What I'd really like is real news. Not the infotainment of today or the ludicrously trusting "reporting" of 1957. Real news. With all the headaches, violence, and boring detail that permeates real life.

James Elliott said...

I find nothing objectionable in asking for one channel that specializes in family-acceptable news. So long as it doesn't take the option away from parents or other consumers who want to see the other kinds of news, it's really not so objectionable.

Anonymous said...

If the current news channels were suitable for anybody, I'd agree with the suggestion that we should have a news channel which is suitable for everybody.

Sure, this "family friendly" station may not have the graphic violence and sex of the other news stations, but if the reporting style is similar it will be just as destructive. As Tlaloc said, "the infotainment of today or the ludicrously trusting "reporting" of 1957."

So I say it again: newspapers. Read it to your kids and have them read along with you when they're old enough. If you're too tired for that, then possibly NPR radio news can do the trick.

TV rots yer brain.

James Elliott said...

So that's what's been leaking out of my ears these past few weeks...

Alan's Kid said...

I agree that reading the newspaper is an excellent idea. We do read the newspaper together, although ironically the lead content in newsprint makes it somewhat un-safe for very small children.

In ADDITION to reading the newspaper, when I'm cooking dinner, after eight+ hours of playtime and library books and chores, I'd love a kid-friendly news channel.

Yes, all of the TV news I see is pretty bad. We watch the BBC sometimes. But like my father points out, we have over hundreds of channels of mind-atrophying programming. Surely one of those channels could toss an hour of the evening to a kid-friendly newscast that - hey! - might even be good enough for grownups to enjoy.

We all love/hate the TV, but reality is that it's a part of life with kids. Perhaps we can make it a less-bad part?