The Common Good

Chasing the wrong age group

Date: February 5, 2006

Observations on broadcast news, business, children's literature, prayer and the intersection of theology and politics:

Former "Nightline" anchor Ted Koppel in The New York Times: In television news these days, the programs are being shaped to attract, most particularly, 18-to-34-year-old viewers. ...

The accusation that television news has a political agenda misses the point. Right now, the main agenda is to give people what they want. It is not partisanship but profitability that shapes what you see. ...

Now, television news should not become a sort of intellectual broccoli to be jammed down our viewers' unwilling throats. ... But there are too many important things happening in the world today to allow the diet to be determined to such a degree by the popular tastes of a relatively narrow and apparently uninterested demographic. ...

Oddly enough, there is a looming demographic reality that could help steer television news back toward its original purpose. There are tens of millions of baby boomers in their 40s and 50s and entering their 60s who have far more spending power than their 18-to-34-year- old counterparts. Television news may be debasing itself before the wrong demographic.

Cyndy Bittinger, executive director of the Calvin Coolidge Memorial Foundation: The business of America is business? This is the most famous misquote of Calvin Coolidge's. ...

The real statement comes from a speech by Calvin Coolidge called "The Press Under a Free Government," which was given before the American Society of Newspaper Editors in Washington, D.C., on Jan. 17 1925. The quote is really: "After all, the chief business of the American people is business." However, Coolidge goes on to say that, "Of course the accumulation of wealth cannot be justified as the chief end of existence."

William Flesch, an English teacher at Brandeis University, in the Boston Globe: Our adult delight in children's literature is not an innocent delight. As adult readers of children's stories, we're aware, as children are not, that their robust confidence in the world, at least while they are enraptured by a story, is ephemeral and fragile, endangered by every step they take toward adulthood. For us, the child becomes almost another character in the story, responding with a wonderfully heedless delight or dismay to things as unreal as the adult world she imagines. But we know what's coming, how evanescent the child's world is -- and we feel for her what she cannot possibly feel for herself.

Jim Wallis in "God's Politics": The real theological problem in America today is no longer the religious right, but the nationalist religion of the Bush administration, one that confuses the identity of the nation with the church, and God's purposes with the mission of American empire. America's foreign policy is more than pre-emptive, it is theologically presumptuous; not only unilateral, but dangerously messianic; not just arrogant, but rather bordering on the idolatrous and blasphemous. ... This is a dangerous mix of bad foreign policy and bad theology.

Corrie ten Boom: Any concern too small to be turned into a prayer is too small to be made into a burden.