Here’s a good one, an article in the New Statesman that links the “trolling” treatment of video games on mainstream news (although Channel 4 would like to think its news isn’t all that mainstream) with the representation (in both senses of the word) of people under 30 in the traditional media.
To be fair, Jon Snow was clearly on a bit of a mission to troll Brooker, but the fact that they could even have this kind of ‘wacky’ segment on a prime time news show speaks volumes; not just about gaming but the huge cultural disconnect that’s growing between the virtual world of traditional media and the real life Britain it claims to represent.
At 42 years old, Charlie Brooker is settling into his middle age, but in the world of current affairs, where few male presenters under 50 occupy top jobs, he’s basically a small angry child. At 66, Jon Snow is far closer to the likes of John Humphrys (70) and James Naughtie (62) at the Todayprogramme, Jeremy Paxman (63) at Newsnight, Andrew Neil (64) at This Week and the Sunday Politics, or Question Time‘s 75-year old David Dimbleby. The few female presenters on these shows are allowed – compelled even – to be under 50, but current affairs output remains dominated by 50- to 70-something white men.
There’s another good line further down. Newspapers may not be dying, writes Martin Robbins (they are, though, Martin), but their readers are getting on a bit:
many of their readers are only a sharp winter or two short of their final edition. Research in the US by Pew shows that the bulk of newspaper readers are in that same over-50s bracket. The average age of a Daily Mailprint edition reader is creeping toward 60.
That last link takes us to journalism.co.uk, which reveals:
The Mail Online and the Daily Mail have two different demographics. The average age of a Mail Online browser is 32, while the average age of a reader of the print edition is 58, he said.
So the next generation of curtain twitchers are coming along, but they’re not going to be reading the print edition.
The New Statesman one is an interesting article, but we have to remember a couple of things. First, anyone working in print media (which the New Statesman currently still is) can hardly dare to be objective about the future of print. Secondly, Charlie Booker, as the article acknowledges is hardly a young whippersnapper. He’s even older than Ryan Giggs, and is nevertheless probably a fair representative of the average gamer. As he reveals in this Guardian interview, he regularly drops £50 on games of which he then only completes 25%. How many of the 16-25 demographic can afford to buy that many £50 games and then not even bother to play them? As this article from Wired points out,
In a blow to stereotype fans everywhere, a study of 2,000 gamers has shown that rather than being a 12-year-old male shut-in the average gamer is actually 35 years old with a job, a family and a habit of taking four weeks to finish a title.
All of which is not to say that the traditional media doesn’t misrepresent games and gaming, but they do so in the same way that they’ve always attacked rival media platforms. The reports of “panic” following Orson Welles’ famous 1938 broadcast of The War of the Worlds were cooked up by newspapers who wanted to exaggerate the threat of the new medium of radio. In the movies, television is always portrayed as either a threat or a brainsucking box of dumb. In today’s beleaguered newspaper industry, the “threats” come from Facebook, Twitter, games, the BBC, and anything else that might potentially distract or occupy their former readers.
So Jon Snow disses games because if people are playing games, they’re not sitting on the couch watching the news. That said, there are too many over-50 males in news and current affairs; it is more or less compulsory for women to be under 40 and attractive. Frankly, Dimbleby at 75 should probably retire and let someone else have a chance at a job. The biggest problem in the media industry is that (at the entry level) people are expected to work for peanuts or nothing and at the top end, nobody ever retires. Unless they’re arrested by the Yewtree cops.
- How Jon Snow dissing the PlayStation 4 explains why no one cares you can’t afford a house (newstatesman.com)
- Charlie Brooker interview: Why are there no computer game TV shows? (digitalspy.co.uk)
The BBC’s controller of drama commissioning, Ben Stephenson, said Saturday\’s episode, the culmination of a week of programmes around the Saturday teatime series, was a celebration not just of Doctor Who but of the BBC itself.
The corporation has long been targeted by the Tory party whose chairman, Grant Shapps, warned last month that it could lose some of the licence fee, the first shots in a debate about the future of the BBC ahead of the renewal of its royal charter in 2016.
But it has also come under fire from one of its most respected presenters, Question Time host David Dimbleby, who this week suggested it was \”too powerful for its own good\”, echoing concerns of its former executive and Olympics supremo Roger Mosey, who earlier this month questioned the need for BBC3 and BBC4.
For all its faults, journalism is an exciting place to be. Amid the trivia, there are big stories – climate change, demographic change, the shift of power from West to East, the debate in and about Islam, the Middle East, inequality between and within nations, food security, water security, energy, terrorism, the advance of technology. Journalism has a vital role to play in all these debates. A lot of it happening in specialist, often academic circles, often on the web, rather than in what we call the mass media. But as the balance between mass media and new media continues to shift, the debate can improve. See what I mean about optimism?
This week, University College London student union (UCLU) took the unusual step of banning a single song, Robin Thicke\’s Blurred Lines. It joins around 20 other UK student unions to do so. This is the latest development in the story of how the biggest song of the year became the most controversial of the decade: an unprecedented achievement, though not one that fills Thicke with pride.
Here’s an article suggesting that teenagers are turning away from Facebook. I’ve said it before: you can trace the success of social networks, from FriendsReunited and MySpace, Bebo, through Facebook and Twitter, based on chat. Teenagers follow the chat. If all their friends are chatting on Twitter, they join Twitter. If all their friends are on Snapchat, they use that, or WhatsApp. Chat is where it’s at.
It is worth noting that, with so many of these apps getting into games, stickers and now music sharing, it is becoming harder to define them as messaging services. “I think there is some misunderstanding here in how we categorise these apps,” says Pavel Durov, who founded Russia’s version of Facebook, VK.com, and recently launched a mobile messaging service called Telegram. “They are social networks. You have a social graph there; a newsfeed; you have profile pages. Many things that are related to social networks by definition.” Social chat apps is another way to define them, says Gartner mobile analyst Brian Blau. “People are sometimes using three or four of these apps.”
I have mixed feelings about this. Obviously, when the message is weighted with loaded adjectives like “soft”, one has to consider the source. In the goldfish bowl of politics and media, the media themselves don’t want any kind of scrutiny, at any level, and the academic discipline of Media Studies has always been their black beast. God forbid young people should be educated in media literacy. They might see through the veil.
I have never believed Media was a soft subject. It’s certainly an odd mixture of the academic and the creative, which makes it a very challenging subject on many levels. Students need to be both creative and analytical to do well in it, which is why it’s statistically harder to get an A in Media at A Level than it is many other subjects. Media has an image problem because it wasn’t available as a subject when our current crop of senior politicians and university dons were at school. Furthermore, it wasn’t taught at those fee-paying schools that so many politicians and BBC journalists attended. And of course it’s not taught at Universities like Oxford and Cambridge, where so many politicians and BBC journalists went to network and study Philosophy, Politics and Economics (PPE).
But I do have a problem with the GCSE. When I started teaching, the school that recruited me (out of my previous career in sales and marketing) had already decided to use the AQA specification. I taught this for three years, until the specification was reformed, at which point (since I was going to have to adopt a new spec anyway), I took the opportunity to switch boards. Having taught three cohorts of very mixed ability students, I’d identified a couple of things. First of all, that the analytical and creative students were often held back by the disruptive behaviour of the non-creative and less academic students. As a trainee teacher and then an NQT, I had a torrid couple of years. This gave me a jaundiced view of the GCSE. I felt that it attracted a disproportionate number of students who were not interested in anything, and had selected Media as a least-worst option from a clutch of GCSEs in their option blocks.
This is a real problem. The school (and many other, similar schools, I’m sure) simply doesn’t have the staffing budget, the facilities, or the physical space required to offer a broader range of options. God knows, we’ve tried. Media ends up being a third choice for students who have tried to avoid, at all costs, the academic route (now known as the ebacc route). Well, as a teacher, “least worst” doesn’t cut it for me, and I found myself endlessly frustrated at having to deal with 9-10 students in a class who didn’t want to be there, didn’t get it, weren’t interested, and had had all the creativity knocked out of them at an early age. I certainly sympathised with them, but felt I was essentially babysitting them for two years so they weren’t disrupting Geography, History, or indeed Law lessons.
Every now and then, I’d have 5-6 really switched-on students who were both academically able and creatively gifted, and we would have some fun. If I was lucky enough to take those students through to A Level, we would have two more years of fun and success. Still, I switched away from AQA Media to Journalism and Moving Image Arts, two different options. This offered two distinct routes: one very much based around factual media and writing and one based around visual storytelling and practical skills. I still had the same problem, though, of babysitting 6-10 students who would have been better off doing a vocational college course.
Then the CCEA Board announced that, because of the growing differences between Gove’s English GCSEs and their Northern Ireland GCSEs, they would no longer support English centres. And I was thrown back into the arms of AQA. Bugger.
One of the reasons I abandoned AQA in 2009 was that I didn’t like the smell of their double award. I’m suspicious of double GCSEs. I’m no Tory, and I hate the Daily Mail, but double GCSEs stink of gaming the system. The problem with the GCSE double award is that the single award is just coursework, more coursework, some coursework, and then some more coursework under exam conditions. (I know it’s not called coursework, but that’s a game, too.) Now, I like the third paper of the double award, but I don’t want to teach a double award. Either that would mean squeezing extra work out of students in the standard 3 contact hours per week, which would feel like endlessly stamping on the toothpaste tube and not having space to think and, you know, teach and enthuse and engage. Or it would mean more contact hours, which I can’t manage, because I teach so many A Level subjects (three, since you ask). I think I could do the double award with 4 hours per week, but I already teach five subjects across three GCSE and four A Level option blocks and there isn’t enough of me to go around.
So I am frustrated at single award GCSE Media. There just isn’t enough of a focus on the industry, its ownership, the way its regulated, and the influence it has on society. All of this stuff can be implicit in a really excellent piece of coursework, especially in the research and planning, but I would much rather have this kind of knowledge and understanding explicitly tested in a proper exam similar to the Unit 3 exam for the double award. And, anyway, there are still too many people who choose Media because they think they will be watching telly instead of working.
So, given that my timetable would remain quite full if I was just teaching A Level (and I love teaching A Level Media – it’s what gets me up in the morning), I wouldn’t be terribly sad if OFQAL abolished the GCSE.
What they should do is reform it so it ends up being something like a combination of Unit 2 and Unit 3 of the current AQA double award. Preferably, the Unit 3 exam would be reformed too, so it’s less repetitive and has a couple of longer answers in it – the current question 15 and one more.
But that won’t happen, so I’m left in the position of wondering if the GCSE will be abolished altogether and feeling slightly guilty that I won’t mind very much.
- Axeing of soft GCSEs to hit PE and drama (schoolsimprovement.net)