Opinion » Ted Rall

Rise of the Codgers

AKA, return of the generation gap


DAYTON, OHIO--One topic towers over all others in my circle of friends: the future of journalism. Print media is in trouble; online media is ascendant. But consumers don't pay for online content, and online advertisers pay much less for readers online than in print. As NBC CEO Jeff Zucker famously warned last year, the media is "trading analog dollars for digital pennies."

But not everyone is worried. Many aspiring journalists and cartoonists in their 20s have embraced the Web. They don't dread a future without print. "Considering most political journalism is editorializing disguised as reporting, what would be the big deal," asks Shawn Mallow, a blogger at wizbang.com. "Does anyone have any illusions as to which way The New York Times leans in its political reporting?"

At techcrunch.com, Erick Schonfeld adds low quality to the list of old media sins: "The newspaper industry wants to go back to the world before the Web, when each newspaper was a small media bundle packed with stories, 80 percent of which sucked."

Remember the "generation gap"--the cultural chasm between rock 'n' roll-loving hippie Baby Boomers and their stodgy Lawrence Welk-watching parents? It came back in the 1990s, when snotty 20-somethings derided their Boomer elders.

Generational detente has prevailed since then. Gen Xers are now in their 40s and get along with Gen Y types, who are roughly 25 to 35 years old. We're both cynical, distrusting of authority, pessimistic about our economic prospects, and dig a lot of the same music and movies. Generation gap? We're too cool for that.

But here come the Millennials, whom generational demographic gurus William Strauss and Neil Howe define as Americans born after 1982. They're challenging Xers, and the generation gap is back.

This generation gap is the opposite of previous versions, in which young insurgents attacked their elders for being too arch and moralistic. Millennials desperately want to believe: their leaders, their government, their corporate executives. And they really want to believe in technology. In my little world of journos, they toil on blogs like the Huffington Post for pennies or nothing at all, perfectly happy because they're sure it will pay off someday. How? They don't know, but someone is bound to figure it all out.

A recent blog post at dailycartoonist.com brought it home for me. "I'm starting to not comprehend Ted Rall's politics at all," wrote Jesse Levin, almost certainly under age 27. "His current slate of strips basically targets Obama's lefty ineffectuality. His blog rails against Bush ...Things may not be black and white, but where on Earth do ya stand as a political cartoonist? Unless you're just an independent spraying hateful buckshot at all authority figures, I think Ted's logic centers are failing on several levels."

"An independent spraying hateful buckshot at all authority figures." Sounds like the perfect definition of a Gen X pundit to me. And perfectly calibrated to piss off up-and-coming Millennials.