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Newspapers capture readers' interest

At the beginning of the summer many people were complaining about the fact that the youth of our generation no longer care about current events. Evidence of this was the fact that young people were no longer reading newspapers. (Ironically, much of this complaint came in the form of newspaper columns.)

So, written advice was running rampant -- "How do we get our youth concerned about the goings on around them." Then August came around and something magical happened . . . college kids started picking up newspapers -- the Persian Gulf crisis occurred and sparked the interest of our formerly uninterested youngsters.

It wasn't something that could have been planned for, but such a scenario could have been predicted. For it wasn't just students who were losing interest in the news, it was the population at large (although adult interest was declining at a slower rate). And this was said to be due to "The End of History," a phenomenon that was supposedly due to the end of the Cold War; significant battles of beliefs were replaced by an abundance of strategic weapons play. People no longer felt personally affected by world affairs, thus they were said to have begun not to care about them.

So, by a strange logic of sorts, the end of the Cold War and the onset of a war resembling the initial stages of World War II, may have signaled the end of "the End of History."

Whatever the reasons, the results here on the college campuses can be clearly seen, students who in the past have never picked up a newspaper are now spouting their beliefs on the Kuwaiti affair based on myriad articles, editorials and columns they've read in the recent past.

Thus, all those strategies set out at the beginning of the summer are no longer necessary. The interest of young readers has now been sparked; the question newspapers must now ask is "how do we keep it?"

The easy answer is keep writing about things that personally affect young people. The "Style" sections of most newspapers are big on this . . . "Finding a Job after College," "Blind Dates Popular with Youngsters," "Broken Engagements," etc.

This idea of writing about that which personally affects students is particularly appealing to college newspapers. Already doing just that, college newspapers need only sit back and reap the benefits of a more news conscious student body.

But this would make for a rather egocentric group of news readers. It's been said that the general news out there including a chain of crime, drugs, and increasing economic and social woes which has begun to sound like a broken record, topped off with the ever more popular non-issue government campaigns is all too banal to spark any interest, especially in our hard to please teens.

So, until we show young people their role in all of this, we can't expect the permanent trend to reverse. That doesn't mean we should settle for teens reading about other teens' failed romances, or job hunt blues. It means we should show teens the benefits of knowing what's going on in the world around them, namely to have an increasing role in the world they will soon embark upon -- a chance to unstick the broken record.

In light of the direct relationship between current events and current technological trends, the typical MIT student's blatant disregard for national and world affairs seems inexcusable.

I'm happy to see students on campus more aware than they've been in the past. We here at The Tech will try to do our part to relate students interests to national newsworthy interests. And perhaps we could see a more active role laid out for young adults by major newspapers, within the context of the news. But in the end it's up to the students. Will they recognize the proposed benefits of newspapers, and will they take them up on their offer, as one paper puts it, of reading "all the news that's fit to print?"


Joanna Stone, a junior in the Department of Urban Studies and Planning, is an associate news editor of The Tech.