By Alan Cho
Every few years someone of great import and wit, probably a writer at Vanity Fair, proclaims the death of print news. It happened with the advent of televised news and again, during the infancy of the internet. As the 21st century slogs by without hovercrafts or robotic maids, newspapers continue to be in wide circulation. Still, they find themselves in a precarious position, experiencing an exodus of readers in search of alternative news sources. Technology hasn’t killed the newspaper, but the growing disillusionment of readers is doing the job nicely. You can almost hear the grumbling of newspaper publishers during power lunches between bites of dolphin steak: “Kids just don’t read the news.”
So you can imagine the smug grins and high fives the creators of Dose treated themselves to as street teams passed out the first issue to transit commuters on Monday. A new daily from the Calgary Herald, Dose is CanWest’s attempt to breach the coveted 18-34 demograhic. And when the say 18-34-year-olds, they actually mean boy band crazed couch potatoes, apparent in Dose’s Tigerbeat/TV Guide inspired design. Dose pats itself on the back for doing the public service of keeping the youth of today informed with all the bombastic flair of TV’s Blossom. This is what the readers want, they say–fluff news and obnoxious lifestyle features compressed into grey boxes. They say, we understand you because we have iPods too.
Dose illustrates how disconnected mainstream media is from its readership. It doesn’t help the mainstream media views readers as videogame playing, ADD-addled teenagers needing sound bites to be force-fed to them. The problem doesn’t lie in the audience, but the tired content running the media engine. Tear away the drab 14-year-old girl magazine aesthetic and you’re left with the same flimsy content that drove the readership away. Mainstream media has become the slow kid in your class who constantly stands up to inform the class that pandas like apples.
The youth of today aren’t apathetic, but disenfranchised. Mainstream media has become too comfortable, too willing to perpetuate the status quo. The opportunity exists for print media to move beyond the superficial, the time exists for papers to explore and elaborate issues. No need to regurgitate press releases and peddle soft news to avoid the real work or hurt feelings. News should serve as checks and balances, a watchdog for those needing to be watched.
It’s something to think about in the morning, when the mainstream media expects you to bend over to accept your daily dosage of sedative suppositories.