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Nov 04

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Generation what?

It seems only fitting that an article on the brawl between Generation X and the Millennials would be founded on a series of blog posts. That may have softened the blow of the quality of reporting (or lack there of) I discovered, but then again, maybe not.

Drawn to a story about my own generation, I clicked on Rebecca Greenfield’s article on The Atlantic Wire Web site. The gist of the story: Which generation more rightfully deserves a diploma from the School of Hard Knocks?

Millennials are being thrust into adulthood during a horrible recession, but they’re managing to make the best of it, said Noreen Malone. Generation X-er Mat Honan shot back and said that Millenials’ whining is unprecedented when Generation X members, too, graduated during a recession and faced even gloomier circumstances. Doree Shafrir argued back on behalf of her underrepresented “in-betweener” group: Generation Catalano, a name she created for the babies born between Gen X and the Millennials named for a character on then-popular television show, My So-Called Life.

While I did appreciate the breakdown of each generational group’s individual issues, Greenfield’s regurgitation of quotes from the original blogs left much to be desired. For example, take the first section of text:

Of course Millennials look like a bunch of dead-beats, there are no jobs to be had, explains Malone. “Being young is supposed to mean you have the luxury of time. But in hard times, a few fallow years can become a lifetime drag on what you earn, sort of the opposite of compound interest,” writes Malone. In fact this whole recession will screw Millennials for life, Malone continues. “Because the average person grabs 70 percent of their total pay bumps during their first ten years in the workforce, according to a paper from the National Bureau of Economic Research, having stagnant or nonexistent ­wages during that period means you hit that springboard at a crawl.” Of course other generations  have weathered less-than stellar economic climates, but this ones worse, she argues.

Greenfield virtually failed to quote any sources other than the original bloggers themselves (there were three links into the story that led to sites other than the original posts, but no direct quotes). Her attempt to allow the audience “be the judge” was good, but there was nothing in the story I could have learned without reading the original blogs themselves.

There was no background information in the immediate content of the story. Finishing Greenfield’s article left me grasping for the answers to several questions.

Monica Hesse’s piece in The Washington Post Lifestyle section was much more put together. Hesse’s language managed to capture and focus my Millenial goldfish-like attention span to the end of the piece (this was gauged by how I didn’t digress to checking Facebook or Tumblr in the five to seven minute period I spent reading the story — this is a significant accomplishment). Hesse dove into her own writing and reporting, not a Wikipedia summary of what each blogger said and why it matters.

Hesse picked the brains of some “generational gurus,” which added a nice variety of voices to the complaints of angsty bloggers:

“Think about the sudden change in mood on Pearl Harbor Sunday, depending on whether or not you were old enough to enlist,” says Neil Howe, who, along with William Strauss, wrote the seminal “Generations,” coined the term “millennials” and is considered the foremost expert in the history of generations. When people fret, for example, over whether they are boomers or Xers, he asks them whether they can remember the assassination of John F. Kennedy. It’s the sort of go-to gestalt that can help shape a person’s whole way of being. It’s been going on for centuries, he says.

Approaching the story from this angle really avoided redundancy and made me feel like I learned something.

Overall, while Greenfield made a good attempt to write a story about this newly emerging trend, her piece turned out to be nothing more than slapped-together, copied-and-pasted book report on the subject. Hesse clearly put more effort into her article and provided context for the reader with her expert quotes and background research.

Permanent link to this article: http://thewashingtonjournalismcenter.com/?p=1886

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