My Life as a Media-Savvy Teen

Or, how I became the voice for my generation

But the ones who didn't volunteer any responses were the ones he really went after. It was magical to watch him work, actually. After several questions, he nodded at the girl next to me. "You," he said. "What do you think?" She didn't say anything for a few seconds, but then, glancing back at Feldman's reassuring gaze, something seemed to click inside her. It was like watching a robot boot up. Vzznnnn. Once she started talking, he could get anything he wanted: every one-sentence explanation for Dylan Klebold and Eric Harris, every hackneyed pop-psychology theory, everything. All of that got into the final cut.

I wondered if this is how it usually goes for the ones who represent everybody else on TV. I wondered if I had been manipulated as much as the rest. I wondered if I were as much a pawn as Feldman, Cary, the other CNN boobs, and all the people who would watch the broadcast that evening.

After the interview was over, they had us sit still and "look serious" while they took filler shots. They had each of us spell our names and give our grade. And that was it. They began putting away their stuff, and Feldman asked if we had any questions. He seemed a little surprised when I asked again how he thought the media affects society. He seemed unable to answer without calling vaguely upon nameless studies and half-remembered experiments that "seem to give evidence" that the media lead us to be more violent.

I asked them all what they thought about the coverage of the Columbine High School tragedy. Cary told me he thought it was overdone, that there were more media people there than he had ever seen, but that he would cover it if they asked him to. He had covered O.J. Simpson, too, he said. It was awful, he said, but he did it. And, he reminded us, he does it, is commanded to do it, only because that's what we want to watch. Oh.

Then Feldman reminded us of what we must never forget: all forms of mass media—print, radio and television—have been developed and proliferated with one purpose: to sell ads. News, entertainment and all other programming are just there to keep the audience watching through to the next commercial. Oh.

That evening, I watched myself and my classmates on TV. The woman introducing the story noted with an air of significance that my school is "40 miles south of Hollywood, 40 miles south of the image factories that year after year pump out movies that some say are too violent." I've never been to Hollywood. I go to LA three or four times per year. Just before they cut to Feldman, she said, "No generation is more media-savvy than today's teens." That was nice of her, but I wonder if savvy always feels like this.

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