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Posts Tagged ‘news’

The price of gasoline. It goes up. It goes down.

Over time though it inches incrementally higher. We hear about it in the news, where there is a war, or when there is some problem with the supply. We hear soundbites of the average consumer complaining about how it gets harder and harder to pay for the gas they need to get to jobs, how corners will have to be cut someplace, how people turn to cars with better fuel efficiency.

This isn’t the problem. All this focus on gas makes for an easy story in the news, something we can grasp easily, but only because the news media has never really bothered to give the true story its due.

The problems isn’t gas, it’s wages.

The amount paid at the pump only hurts because it affects people’s personal budgets. If the average salary increased with inflation the cost of gas at $4 and $5 a gallon would seem cheap. If the news media instead looked at how the inflationary costs of goods and services outpaced the earnings of the workers then maybe we would have a better understanding of the problem. And some real outrage.

News media, and especially media that focuses on business, tend to focus on the economics of business. We know the box office grosses of the latest movies, how much Apple’s stock has increased, the value of the facebook IPO but there’s never a story about how much the price of peanut butter has increased in the past year versus the average salary of a family that relies on cheap protein sources to keep kids fed. We don’t see these stories because… why? They don’t make businesses and their bottom lines looking good? Because we fear that if a business fails so does the rest of the country? Is it that important to save an auto industry that uses gasoline (two business stories that we use as gauges for understanding these economically uncertain times) that we completely ignore that we have totally lost the entire middle-income section of the economic chart?

It has always struck me that no one finds its odd there’s a Business section of the news but not a Labor section, or at the very least and Personal Economics section. I would think any media that presented itself as offering a balanced view of news would want to counter every corporate leader profile with one from the rank and file, a running tally of jobs lost against business gains, hourly versus salary.

What I think captures the attention and imagination is that gas prices fluctuate down as well as up. If there was ever better evidence of the value and pricing of a commodity within American society, gas prices would be it. But it’s subterfuge symbolism, this marker by which we are made to feel that things are either getting better or worse when, in fact, the question that should automatically come to mind when the news media talks gas prices should be:

Compared to what?

 

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Okay, so, this might have been a rising trend, what, ten years ago? This might have been newsworthy a couple of times maybe five years ago? Now it seem like every five or six weeks (around the same sales cycles that Barnes & Nobles shuffles its stock) some newspaper runs a feature about this “crazy” new trend where adults are reading YA books. Wacky, right?

Today’s article of note comes from the Boston Globe, and the hook this time is that the poor adults can’t find Twilight at the local book store because it’s not with regular fiction but “in the back” with the YA novels. Which is cute, and quaint, and a little ridiculous. Ridiculous because literally ten years ago I was filing Phillip Pullman’s His Dark Materials books in both YA and Sci-fi/Fantasy. Ender’s Game as well. And we had The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time in fiction and YA. Maguire’s Wicked took it’s time leaving the adult fiction shelves but eventually was also shelved in YA.

The point, and the reason this is not news, is that savvy booksellers and retail merchandisers put books where people expect to find them. If you have a crossover book that straddles a couple of sections – Stephen King has been doing this for years – you put copies of the book in multiple places for the simple reason that for every person who asks for help finding a title there are three who don’t find it and assume it’s out of stock. You don’t give your retail customers a chance to walk away empty-handed, you figure out that there might be some customers who would expect a book to be in one place and don’t necessarily want to feel insulted that they didn’t realize there were strict marketing rules involved. Seriously, do retail booksellers want to drive people to Amazon, where they aren’t forced to guess a genre in order to find what they’re looking for?

Naturally, that’s not the whole story here, because once you start talking about YA book trends you simply must mention the most recent movie based on a YA series coming out, and perhaps ride the coattails of a couple other titles people have already heard of, and then interview a few local writers for their perspective, and call it a day.

I really shouldn’t complain that any books are getting media attention and perhaps boosting sales, but could we maybe stop with the blatant attempt to tell this same story as a means of selling news? YA, hot topic, braced by a very vocal, buzz-generating community, I get it. But how about instead of talking about the same books, or giving more publicity to established adult authors who have made the leap into the money pit of YA, why not do something radical: create a YA beat. Give some column space to talk about books and trends that haven’t been reported to death. Maybe an old-fashioned three-dot column with smaller news snippets, brief reviews, and the occasional interview.

Damn it, I want that job.

Dear Boston Globe,

It has come to my attention that you like publishing features about the books and trends in children’s publishing, but you tend to write only the most obvious stories. You may have had critics who would occasionally review a few titles here and there, but in an industry that is losing sales in every other area, children’s books is the one place where sales have steadily increased during the current we’re-not-calling-it-a-depression recession. And once full-function tablets and e-readers become cheaper than cell phones, it will be a youth-driven market that will fully define the future of publishing. Will you be positioned to break that news as it happens, or will you ride in the way-back of the family station wagon and give updates on the industry’s exhaust?

What you need is a children’s and young adult beat. Regular installments – weekly at least, not monthly or whenever someone decides to pitch a story – where people can go to find news and reviews of the literature that is shaping and entertaining the minds of the rising generations. You need someone who reads these books regularly, constantly, and talks about them openly via social media. You could become a valuable community asset that would lead the way in providing a resource for parents and young adults (they read the news too, you know, and they smirk at your current attempts to speak to them) to discover what is out there in the world of books. Think of the children!

Should this idea interest you, I am available to discuss it further. I have a varied background that I feel makes me uniquely qualified, and more importantly I possess the desire to see a real change in how books for children and young adults are discussed in the media.

What do you say?

I’m sure there are better, less back-handed ways to do this, but what can I say.

 

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Uh, it sucks.

They seriously cannot have focus-grouped this thing on people who read magazines regularly.  The font, the layout, the tracking – everything about the new redesign makes every page and every article look EXACTLY like those “Special Advertising Sections” that are really paid ad supplements meant to look like the magazine, but never do.  Now Newsweek looks like a giant ad supplement.  I flipped through the pages waiting for content before I realized I’d passed several pages of this stuff.

Aren’t newspapers, magazines, and other peridoicals already in a enough trouble fiscally without losing audience?  I seriously could not read this thing.  And I wanted to.  Way to go, Newsweek, alienate your subscribers.

Just to be clear, I’m not one of these people who thinks change is bad, or that redesign automatically equals a bad thing.

But this redesign isn’t a fear of change, it was a visceral response.  You go to an art gallery and there are some paintings you just cannot look at, for whatever reason.  And with music, some sounds just grate.  I opened up this magazine and my eyes did not want to spend any time with it.  I tried to focus on a single article, and in the end I quit reading because it made my eyes tired.

It shouldn’t be a challenge or a chore to read.  I can’t be the only one who feels this way.

So, bravo, Newsweek.  You may have just redesigned yourself into obsolescence.  Not that anyone cares.

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