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Adrian: Public Media Killed The Video Star

Here’s an existential question: If video killed the radio star, then what killed the video star? The surprising answer may be public media.

Generation X — or Gen Xers as they’re commonly called — comprise a demographic born roughly between the mid to early '60s and the early '80s. The dates differ according to demographer. As a child born in December, 1969, while barely squeaking into the '60s, I fall smack in the middle of the Xers.

Author Douglas Coupland is generally credited with coining the term Generation X, from his 1991 novel named Generation X: Tales for an Accelerated Culture.

We like to think of ourselves as a generation defined by our coming of age years in the '70s and '80s: of MTV and Lollapalooza; Dungeons and Dragons and Space Invaders. We’re identified by our affinity for Seinfeld and Friends and shows about nothing and hanging-out. Movies that defined us when we were younger were the early 90s films Slacker and Swingers.

Now we’re aging – still sandwiched between two more-populous generations: the Baby Boomers and the Millennials. And we’re still trying to find our place in the world.

The very youngest Boomers are now in their mid-50s. There’s no expectation in the work place that they’ve kept abreast of all the latest technologies, and although many of them have, most — if not all — will be able to retire if they want to, without ever having fully mastered the technology that surrounds us.

Millennials are of course digital natives. The very oldest are now in their mid-30s and likely have a hard time remembering the dark times before the Internet. While the youngest, now in their mid-teens, probably can’t remember the pre-history before touch screens. Using technology for them is generally seamless and organic.

Generation X isn’t old enough to have a valid — or at least plausible — excuse for a less-than-full embrace of technology, and not young enough to remember when technology wasn’t always part of life.

Maybe that’s why a recent Nielsen rating demonstrates that Gen Xers are helping fuel a surge in public media consumption.

Maybe we’re re-embracing the basics and looking for more assurance and stability.

Or maybe – to borrow a line from the movie Reservoir Dogs – like the Stealers Wheel's “Dylanesque, pop, bubble-gum favorite from April of 1974” we’re just - "Stuck in the Middle…"

Ed Adrian is an attorney at the law firm Monaghan Safar Ducham PLLC. He previously served on the Burlington City Council for five years and currently sits on the Burlington Library Commission.
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