Monday, July 17, 2006

The Times They Aren't A-Changing

This month it seems that my longtime love-hate relationship with the New York Times is definitely tilting toward hate. Why? Because they've run yet another in-depth story on how teens use the Internet that hightlights criminal behavior. A few months ago they ran a six-part video series on Justin Berry and an accompanying article, "Through a Webcam, A Boy Joins Sordid Online World" about a middle-class teen who used his webcam to operate an online pornography business. Then this month they ran a three-part video series on Shiva Brent Sharma, another teen whose Internet experiences were turned to nefarious ends, who went from seemingly innocuous file-sharing to being a hardcore identity thief, as explained in "Identity Thief Finds Easy Money Hard to Resist." In other words, there's a simple message: give a bright, curious teen a computer and some digital knowhow, and he (or she) is likely to use it A) to crank out kiddie porn or B) to steal the identities of unwary oldsters.

I have kids who use computers with an Internet connection. Here are some of the activities that they've used them for this month at our house: creating a claymation movie that was entered in the school talent show, sharing their original audio and video remixes with friends via MySpace and YouTube (from Creative Commons material) , and making their own videogames for the neighbor kids to play from Quest Creator. As a parent, I'd love to think that they were really brilliant and remarkable, except I know that their friends are doing it too.

Why doesn't a major newspaper run a six-part or even a three-part exposé about that?

(Here I'll insert a little romantic note to my local Los Angeles Times, which all you East Coasters and Heartland residents can just ignore. Even after the greatest prose stylist of all time, sportswriter Jim Murray, met his maker, I still stayed loyal. I didn't cancel my subscription when the "Faster Format LA Times" became the norm, which was lauded by that creep Archbishop Roger Mahoney. I was true to my hometown paper even after I could no longer lose myself in the "Great White Whale" in which you could be reading a story where you could get to the fourth jump before you realized that the article that you were reading was actually about a woman stealing a baby by cutting another woman open with a car key rather than just leisurely narrating the two parallel tracks of these women's separate lives and their nicknames and high school activities and such.

Now that you are little more than a page covered with titles, I still love you LA Times. Why? 1) You still have clever punny titles that no self-respecting search engine would ever pick up like "Soccer Team Throws a Hail Mary Mass." 2) During California's recall election, you labeled the Republican challenger "Actor" rather than "Schwarzenegger" to save column space. 3) You continue to call the Bush policy "Domestic Spying" right in the title rather than "Terrorism Surveillance." That wimpy New York Times won't go any further than "Domestic Surveillance.")



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