wall street depravity
June 6th, 2011
I’m not even going to talk about that ridonculous piece in the Wall Street Journal about depraved YA and the woeful lack of choice for today’s upstanding parents. You can read it if you want. You can read all about it over the Internets. You can read the awesome response on Twitter under the hashtag #YASaves.
What I am going to talk about, because I have experience in this matter, is crappy journalism, and the dangers of bullying loudmouths setting the agenda.
The reason the silly piece in the Journal deserves no debunking is because it’s a fake piece. A made-up trend piece. Trust me, I’ve written enough of them to know how they happen. Here is how it goes: Editors decide that they need a fresh take on something that they’ve covered before (and let’s give the Journal props for at least covering YA often, albeit schizophrenically; I’m always amazed at the Journal‘s coverage but then I remember that WSJ is a business newspaper and YA is a thriving business so it makes sense). Anywho, editors want a fresh take. Someone calls out an idea, like “Have you seen how dark YA is getting these days?” By the way, it’s not. It’s always been that way. But that’s besides the point. And because the Journal already did a piece a few years back that looked at the trend of dark YA (and did so positively, IF I STAY was in this roundup) and just did a piece about dystopian YA (ditto on the positive) some genius probably thought it was time to do something PROBING. “How about we do something about how bad this is for kids?” the genius asked, thinking it was the new, new story, when of course it was the old, old story.
So maybe it was the editor’s idea. Or maybe it was the columnist’s own opinion that she put forth as societal trend, in which case, weird to do it as a reported piece instead of an opinion piece but it’s the Journal, and that’s journalism. So, she goes out, canvasses bookstores, finds one unhappy mom, and poof, a Big Story is born. (The offshoot of this is when something happened to the editor-in-chief or her best friend and she thinks it means it’s a trend so the story is assigned to a reporter who must hunt down people who fit into this trend, even if there are only five of them in the entire country. You can see why I left journalism?)
Except the trend story is no more true than trend stories about teenagers all having oral sex in study hall, which occasionally pops up on newsmagazine shows and is similarly scandalous and totally bogus in terms of actually having any reportable veracity beyond one or two cases. One or two cases does not a trend make. Whatevs. We Americans seem to have an endless appetite for worrying about teens going to hell in handbaskets. Which is ironic, given that we have all been teens in our lives. Except for Ron Paul. I don’t think he was ever a teenager.
The parental worrying about books is just crap though. And that crap is proven by the numbers. Sales of hardcover YA books jumped more than 30 percent in 2009, according to the Association of American Publishers. Now, I’m sure some of that is teens buying their own books, but the majority is, I’d guess, parents buying books for their kids, parents delighted about the beautiful buffet of serious and silly YA out there, parents delighted that their children are reading (and parents reading these books themselves, ahem).
But here’s the problem. Let’s say ninety-five percent of parents out there are groovin’ and happy with the awesome selection of books that gets their kids reading. And five percent have issues. Somehow, that five percent gets to set the agenda. Gets to ban books. Because they are loud and they are bullies, if you ask me.
But this is the trend. Obama’s Healthcare plan has death panels? No it doesn’t and most Americans wanted healthcare reform, but it nearly got derailed (still might) because bullies shouted lies and set the agenda. Teachers are to blame for everything wrong in society. Most people disagree with that, but they stay silent and the loudmouth bullies set the agenda and so teachers are on the firing lines, figuratively and literally. YA is corrupting our kids and should be cleaned up. Ridonculous to anyone who has actually picked up one of these “questionable” books, or even seen their child totally engaged in one of them. But that reality won’t matter if we let the bullies set the agenda.
It was just a crappy non-news story. It shouldn’t matter. It only matters if we let the loudmouth bullies decide the agenda. The YASaves was a great response, but this is a larger problem. It’s time for the rational silent majority of this country to speak up. Loudly, firmly, smartly, and nicely. Because as any reader of YA knows, the only way to defang a bully is to stand up to them, but never, ever lose your cool.
Not that we would. We are YA. We ooze cool. It’s a byproduct of all that depravity.
If you do not understand the reference in the above picture, or why I’m calling a book a machine, or why I’m DEFACING a book, you need to know this awesome Woody Guthrie photo: