I finally had some time to fully review the wonderful annual Mindset List put out by Beloit College. For those unfamiliar with the tradition, it’s basically a list of a few dozen facts about the worldview of incoming college class. Many of these touch on pop culture and media. Here’s the list for the freshman/class of 2015, and a few of my favorites related to media.
- There has always been an Internet ramp onto the information highway.
- “Don’t touch that dial!”….what dial?
- Dial-up is soooooooooo last century!
- Music has always been available via free downloads.
- They’ve grown up with George Stephanopoulos as the Dick Clark of political analysts.
- They won’t go near a retailer that lacks a website.
- The New York Times and the Boston Globe have never been rival newspapers.
It’s funny because for the list for my intended graduation year (I should have been part of the class of 2007, but I graduated early), there were items that reminded me of media. Such as No. 22, “They have never gotten excited over a telegram, a long distance call, or a fax.” And for the class of 2006 (the year I actually graduated), there were a few more media related ones that already seem quaint when you consider today’s media landscape:
- Weather reports have always been available 24-hours a day on television.
- Cyberspace has always existed.
- Peter Jennings, Dan Rather and Tom Brokaw have always anchored the evening news.
So as I was perusing the list, I came up with a few media-related items my children (when I have them) won’t experience. I thought it’d be fun to share them:
Waiting through the newscast for school closings/weather
I grew up in a city within the market of another larger city. The “local” TV stations were from the larger city. On blustery winter mornings when the snow drift from our porch to the street was a few feet high or higher, I’d eagerly flip through the local channels trying to find one showing the local weather forecast, so I could see just how cold it was. I knew unless the windchill had a negative sign in front of it, I was heading to school. But that didn’t stop me from watching the agonizingly slow ticker of school closings crawling across the bottom. There must have been a few hundred districts and schools reporting, because it would take a good 10 minutes or so to loop back to the A’s where my district was located. When a snow day hangs in the balance, that time seems impossibly slower. Today those tickers seem a waste of screen real estate. Many school districts will text students and parents — often the night before — to inform them school’s closed. And if they didn’t get a message, the school or local news outlets will post the closing/delay online. No waiting. Likewise, if the child wants to know just how frigid it is outside — you know, so they can complain to friends when they don’t get the day off — they can pull it up on their smart phone, or on their computer, or if they’re somehow not within reach of a computer, go directly to the weather radar or channel.
Comics in print
To many children, the comics are the newspaper. As a child, I know before I could really read and certainly before I understood the concept of news articles, I used to rummage through the Sunday newspaper for the colorful comics insert. I’d spend a good half hour poring over Dennis the Menace, Peanuts, and the gang. I felt smart reading the paper like a grown up. And I’d clip out the funniest ones to save for later. Today, the Internet gives anyone access to a plethora of great comics on a daily basis, which makes the curated list in the shrunken comics section of the paper seem. Instead of relying on an increasingly rare daily newspaper or Sunday section to make it my home, I build my own customized comic list and follow those artists via RSS. I don’t have to parse out the boring comics that never made sense to me, and I can add some quirky small-time artists to the mix. Something tells me, children of the future will consider a limited comic menu passé.
The TV guide
As a young girl, I used to eagerly anticipate these guidebooks as they gave me an outline of what was on TV and when. It was also handy as a reference for what channel Nickelodeon or MTV was. In fact, I used to take these inserts from both local Sunday newspapers so I could compare the books. Today? Who needs a guidebook when you have DVR and a menu that tells you what’s coming on and when for the next several weeks, and even if you don’t have that access, there’s the TV guide channel, which at least in my area comes over the air. A month or so ago, my local newspaper included a notice that they were going to start charging customers extra for the weekly TV programming book. Personally? I’m glad for less waste and less space taken up in my recycling bin. In fact, I didn’t even realize there was a TV book in my newspaper.
Paper mâché and other paper crafts
In elementary and middle school, I was heavily involved in a program called Odyssey of the Mind. It’s an annual competition where a school-based team of 5-7 students is given a “problem” and has to produce a short skit that addresses the problem and incorporates a number of technical/theatrical feats. It’s hard to explain if you’re not familiar, but the point is, we created props and costumes. And we used a lot of paper mâché, which for those who don’t know is typically made with some flour, water and strips of newspaper molded around an object. While you can use other papers for the projects, newspapers are traditionally used because they’re cheap and plentiful. Not so much anymore. Along with an increased cost to create piñatas and paper masks, you can add newspaper hats, hand-cut ransom letters, fire kindling and free/cheap gift wrap to the list of endangered craft species.
Magazines arriving by mail/finding them on the newsstand
While grocery checkouts still feature magazines with coverlines screaming for attention, something tells me my children won’t enjoy the joy of anticipating and receiving a Highlights magazine or Seventeen in the mail each month or learning about a new culture from National Geographic. I used to devour those magazines and look forward to the next month’s installment. Now, kids have apps on their phones or iPads or laptops that offer the same diversions. Magazines can be downloaded instantaneously without the postal lag and with way more features. They won’t just read about new music, they’ll sample it. They won’t use crayon’s to circle the hidden objects, they’ll click on them. Their letters to the editor will be in the forms of Tweets and Facebook posts. While I confess to having more magazine subscriptions than I can handle, I’ll admit these new features entice me.
While all of those come off nostalgic, the truth is, I’m excited about the opportunities children today and in the future will have to interact with media on another level. News stories will come alive in ways printed pages couldn’t make them. While part of me will miss the opportunity to read the comics section together or the importance of knowing today’s A1 news, another part of me looks forward to downloading the latest children’s series on the Kindle and reading together (rather than waiting for a midnight release — I’m looking at you Harry Potter).
I’m sure there are many, many more than I came up with. (The evening news? Commercials on TV? Waiting for film to develop? Getting their name/photo in the newspaper and clipping it out for their scrapbook?) And I’m sure some folks older than me can weigh in on things my generation missed out on as well. Please feel free to weigh in below and on Twitter with your ideas and feelings.