Sunday, March 04, 2007

The Nation magazine goes in search of America's youth

A funny thing happened at The Nation as they began to grasp how out of touch with and hated by some (we'd say "many") left students they are on campuses across the . . . well, nation. They decided it was time to do The Student Nation and, like so much of the half-assed crap they do so poorly these days, it started off weak and sputtered out quickly. How quickly?

Wednesday, February 28th, they sent out their announcement full of . . . semi-life?

They told you a former intern/assistant had blown the whistle on the underrepresentation of voices of youth in the media. Putting aside the fact that this point has been made repeatedly (and about The Nation) here and at The Common Ills, we were curious what an Alexander Cockburn hating priss could do with the topic?

Not real much. In fact, the "article" is actually a blog post for The Notion (The Nation's cutesy blog) and all the ex-intern/assistant did was string together a bunch of observations made by others. (While -- get this -- having the nerve to link to a Katha Pollitt column from 2005 about the underrepresentation of opinion pieces written by women. The Nation, an opinion journal, has been running approximately four pieces by males to every one by a female since the year started. The crashng sound you hear is the magazine's own glass walls collapsing.)

So little to offer that the ex-intern/assistant can't even note "Help Me, Harlan!" (One of the more popular advice columns around.) But possibly the folks at TAPPED hadn't already done the work for him on that?

If this is their lead for students, no wonder the e-mails complaining to this site and The Common Ills started arriving. One, a 21-year-old, noted the 'study' quoted in the brief (passing for an article) and wrote, "I've never been polled about my age and whether I read 'progressive' websites. Have any of you?" Nope. Never. But there's a link so, good God, it must be true! (That's called sarcasm.)

Same "author" has a video that the site's been running (on their main page) for some time. He has another article where he's so daft he's quoting Howard Zinn. (That's not an insult to Zinn. That is noting that Zinn has not joined the "BRING THE MARINES HOME! AND SEND THEM TO DARFUR!" movement.) That "article" was eight days old when the magazine made their "Come to The Student Nation invitation."

We especially enjoyed this (we're disabling links, FYI):

Check out the StudentNation page daily to see what's on student's minds. We highlight five new student articles each day in our student newsfeed. Today, we're featuring pieces from The Arizona Web Devil, The Brown Daily Herald, Youth Outlook, The Michigan Daily, and The Daily Reveille. Read them all. Then, click here to submit suggested articles. The only rule is that it has to be written by a student.

Wow! Students will finally have some sort of a voice! Well . . . not exactly.

Let's address what Eddie noted first but others quickly e-mailed to complain about as well. In the "invited" you're told to "click here to submit suggested articles" and "here" is a link. Where does it go? To The Student Nation where . . . you will find no feature that allows you to submit a suggestion for an article. And don't bother contacting the site's web master, as Eddie can tell you, he doesn't apply. (We're saying "he" because they say "master" and not "mistress.")

So that's real cute. Tell the youth of America they can make suggestions -- because you really, really want to hear from them -- and give them nowhere to make them. Silenced and insulted.

"Today," the invite proclaimed on 2-28, they were featuring five new stories on their "feed" and they would be changing that every day. Well that was February 28th. The next day, March 1st, they did feature five more stories. March 2nd, they featured the same five stories. March 3rd, they featured the same five same stories. March 4th, they're featuring the same five stories. Daily? They've had the same five stories up since Thursday.

Now you might think -- The Student Nation and all -- that the magazine that insults students and student movements (in fact, all movements -- "BE HONEST!") would use those five articles by students (from other publications) to highlight things that concern students, things that impact their lives?

You would be wrong. Eddie submitted (via the web master) a column by a student about Ehren Watada. No surprise, as Eddie noted, the magazine, that works really hard to seem part of the peace movement but really isn't, never featured it. So what have they featured instead (for every day since Thursday)?

Thomas Friedman! Certainly there is no bigger issue on campuses than Thomas Friedman. Right? No? Hmm. Well it is celebrity journalism and, if you haven't caught on from all the useless candidate puffrey (heaven forbid, the magazine find its way back to writing about issues), that's what Mike has called The Weak Ass Nation is all about these days.

One of the five pieces is a slideshow and, while we have nothing against visual journalism, we will note that the invite specifically stated "written".

The invite also told you that you could turn over your own photography to the magazine and, demonstrating more of the same Piss-On-The-Youth attitude, they'll give you a free t-shirt. Worse, the free t-shirt is a Nation t-shirt. (Which would being the laughing stock on campus where ever serious activists gather.) (Maybe, a la, Kurt Cobain, you could 'improve' it with a slogan like: Media Consolidation Still Sucks Even When It's In Indymedia -- or are we still supposed to not ask about their new "sister" magazine?)

So turn over the finest of your photos and get the cloth equivalent of peanuts from the magazine which actually reminds Jim of when he was in high school, stopped a railroad track for a train and an elderly woman rammed into his car. The whole rear was caved in. She told him the damage didn't look "that bad" but "I know how you kids like to have a little spending money" so she attempted to hand him 20 bucks (and make a fast getaway -- the arrival of the police prevented that). It really is that insulting. Now, yes, Ross did get a t-shirt from Playboy on the episode of Friends where he probably stole Chandler's joke, but he also got a check for $100. It's a really shame when the skin magazine is less of a skinflint.

Then they tell you to contact them "if you'd like free copies of The Nation" (can they not even give it away these days?) "to distribute on campus" which apparently assumes that you're really attempting to destroy your rep on campus. "Extra! Extra! Free Nations! Read all the insulting stories on the south! Read all the non-stop election coverage! Read all about 'student activsm' which, for the rag means big monied backed, so-called student groups! Read article after article after article by men, White men! Lose your self-respect, grab a copy!"

Then they're off plugging themselves (but never their own gas bags, sadly). You can read the laughable praise of a really suck-fest PBS miniseries (which Rory O'Connor rightly called out). It's "terrific!" the rag's Tony the Tiger tells you which clues you in that he's watched a great deal of Saturday morning cartoons even if his skills at media evaluation are lacking. Then you can read "Black Voters Like Obama" which appears to be missing an exclamation point. Three African-Americans are participating in the writing of this piece and they note that they weren't polled nor was anyone in their family -- but hey, one poll said so and isn't that all that's needed?

No, it's not and for a political magazine, the lack of political science knowledge is rather embarrassing. So is this sentence from the last paragraph: " Of course, like most early presidential polling, these numbers are pretty meaningless -- and probably misleading." Yeah, probably meaningless and probably misleading, just the like the junk paragraphs that preceeded it. But, hey, it beats writing about something real like the Iraq war, right?

Remember that? The Iraq war? Not Student Nation. They have a section called "Historical Articles." And, since the nation is in another major, illegal war, one might think they could dig through the archives for some thing from Vietnam. Student Nation chooses to go another way by offering the "historical" year of 1999. Woah, dudes and dude-ettes, that's so ooooold!!!!!!!!!!!! OMG!

It's that sort of insulting attitude, parading throughout Student Nation, that makes the effort to skew young demographically (and attempt to salvage some sort of future circulation for a magazine's whose own demographics trend Baby Boom and up) so laughable.

So February 28th, the invite went out and students R.S.V.P.ed in the negative. (For good reason.) Not only that, 19-year-old Heather asked us to pass on to The Nation this about her own campus:

But you you're not allowed
You're uninvited
An unfortunate slight

That's from Alanis Morissette 1998 hit "Uninvited." 1998? Perhaps we should have just said "historic"?


Student Nation, like the magazine itself, can't seem to find student activists when they show up at the front door (truly). So let's take a moment to note that what The Nation won't do (it's not a "can't," it's a "won't"), Mother Jones could and you can check out Samantha M. Shapiro's "Are You There, George? It's Me, Ava" to read about a student who cares passionately about the illegal war.
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