New Statesman on Jon Snow’s “trolling” of Charlie Booker

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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.

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