There are two primary reasons why "The Graduates" is different from the other Times blogs: first, it's written by eight students who (to my knowledge) are not employed or paid by The Times; second, it's written by eight people presumably under age 25. This combination of citizen journalism and classic MSM journalism is highly unusual for the Gray Lady, but very cool nonetheless.
Not surprisingly, all eight graduates
So when I read Ms. Mathias's first post yesterday, in which she proclaimed that she was "magically reporting for a not-student-run news organization from the trenches" of her last semester at Dartmouth and mentioned that "on June 10th this [safe, town-sized] bubble is scheduled to burst, at which point, along with (most of) the class of 2007, [she] will be catapulted into adulthood," I couldn't help but think:
Since when aren't you an adult? Don't you have real concerns?
Are you really running around Hanover as a child with an Ivy diaper?
I imagine Ms. Mathias is not, but something still struck me as odd about her post: Though written eloquently, the content was not at all telling of her fears. In fact, there weren't really any hard facts or anecdotes in the whole thing. Ms. Mathias, it seems, was merely a self-appointed mouthpiece for her class and generation, worried about who will be president and what we're going to do with our lives.
"What color is your parachute?"
"I don't know, I'm too busy crushing for Barack Obama."
So what, then, was the point of this blog? Tell me about the kid who struggled through Dartmouth because he didn't get enough financial aid. Tell me about the kid whose parents divorced months before his graduation. Tell me about the kid who is $10,000 in credit card debt and $100,000 in debt from Sallie Mae federal loans. Tell me about the kid who is scrambling to get her sprained knee and three cavities taken care of because his Mom just lost her job and she's without medical or dental insurance upon graduation.
You can tell me about the dreams of a college graduate, but tell me some reality, too. Otherwise, what's the point?
Though there are only two posts on the blog so far - Ms. Mathias's and today's post by Mr. Mitchell - both convey a less-than-grounded approach to breaking out and actually working as a journalist (or anything else, for that matter). In her post, Ms. Mathias concerns herself with a childhood game she used to play that would "forecast" what life she was destined to live. Mr. Mitchell's post is equally as rose-tinted, as if it were written by an elementary school child with a fantastic grasp of vocabulary. Though many of their sentences start of with a wide-sweeping negative proclamation like "only a few will be prepared" or "if my classmates and I are going to live forever," there isn't any real discussion of the real difficulties each student will have when they graduate.
Trust fund babies as an exception - and they should be, even if it is The Times - what about health insurance? How about a job? Are you going to move out of your collegiate city for another, or stay? How is your journalism/communications degree helping or hurting you? Have you found an apartment yet? What about the psychological aspects of being a legal independent? Living on your own? Doing your own taxes? Paying for graduate school - alone?
In my opinion, "The Graduates" is a stellar opportunity for not only these eight seniors, but all of the class of 2007 and beyond - yet I fear the opportunity will be wasted on writings of high-flying dreams, hopes and aspirations. Not that those aren't important - they're what get you through the day and are worth living for, believe me - but I think some real tough-love posts are due on this new blog. Otherwise, what's there to be scared of? The next president?
To boot, the blog is only available on TimesSelect, and though The Times has recently made the service free for those with a ".edu" address, few know about it and fewer know how to activate it (I did only recently, and I consider myself 'in the know'). Plus, TimesSelect expires when you graduate - so all eight of these seniors won't be able to read their own blog writing after May.
Additionally, it's nearly impossible to find, and isn't yet listed in The Times' own blogroll.
In the end, I think "The Graduates" misses the mark by not practicing what it's assumedly preaching. You can find real honesty and worries buried in message boards all over the Internet - why can't that reality be pushed into the spotlight?
A better way to do it? Select some students who aren't afraid to write honestly. Journalism students might be good writers, but writing for The Times, they're far too concerned with how they appear under such a masthead. Get the word out to major colleges and universities that the blog exists (since apparently, "no young people read the newspaper anymore") and let the comments build. But most importantly, just get the word out - it's not like students don't want to speak about their problems. (And those problems are not about whether Family Vacation or Animal House is a better movie, either.)
In the end, make sure everyone of every age reads it - because the Class of 2007 is sick of reading about how they're burdened by debt, job prospects and politics from people who are old enough to be their parents.
Let them speak for themselves. And let them speak the truth.