04 June 2005

Diminished Readership

While doing Saturday chores I listened to a talk given in November 9th 2004 by Dallin H. Oaks entitled “Where Will It Lead?”. The part that got me thinking was this bit: "Second is the matter of diminished readership of newspapers and books. The circulation and readership of daily newspapers in the United States is declining significantly, even while our population is increasing. Specifically, the per capita circulation of newspapers in the U.S. in the last 30 years has declined from 300 to 190 per 1,000 population. To cite another measure, in the four years ended in 2002 the percent of those ages 25 to 34 who have read a newspaper during the past week (either in hand or on the Internet) fell by almost 10 percentage points—from more than 86 percent in 1988 to less than 77 percent by 2002 (U.S. Census Bureau, Statistical Abstract of the United States: 1989 [109th ed.], table no. 901; and Statistical Abstract of the United States: 2003 [123rd ed.], table no. 1127). The proportion of adults who read books has also declined significantly in recent years (see National Endowment for the Arts, Reading at Risk: A Survey of Literary Reading in America, Research Division Report #46, June 2004, Washington, D.C. [www.nea.gov/pub/ReadingAtRisk.pdf]; and Christina McCarroll, “New on the Endangered Species List: The Bookworm,” Christian Science Monitor, 12 July 2004, 1–3). "Why are these trends of concern? More and more people are not reading the news of the world around them or about the important issues of the day. They apparently rely on what others tell them or on the sound bites of television news, where even the most significant subjects rarely get more than 60 seconds. Where will this lead? It is leading us to a less concerned, less thoughtful, and less informed citizenry, and that results in less responsive and less responsible government." I wonder, do blogs help or hinder informed citizenry? Blogs certainly level the playing field and diversify the voices out there, but do they promote a thoughtful, informed citizenry? How does the multiplicity of blogs help finding the truth? At least with large establishments, there's a finacial benefit to publishing accurate reports, but in a world filled with blogs, where is the accountability? Trusting in the masses isn't very reassureing to me.

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