By Diana Diamond
Why you may not read this columnUploaded: May 10, 2021
Only 10 percent (+ or –2%) of American adults get their daily news from either a newspaper or a TV news show. That means the rest of us don’t. And many under-40 Americans are more interested in having fun and being entertained than concerning themselves about global or local news.
This according to Stanford Prof. Morris Fiorina, professor of political science and a senior fellow of the Hoover Institution, who recently gave a talk to the Rotary Club of Palo Alto.
Indeed, in addition to his study, the NYT also recently reported that two-thirds of American get their news from social media, including fake news and implanted Russian reports. Many others in our country don’t know what’s going on in the world – or even around their town.
Good news for our times?
Fiorina brought up several interesting points:
• According to a 2016 Voter Study Group survey, the five issues most important to Americans are a) the economy, b) health care, c) jobs, d) terrorism and e) Medicare. And surprisingly to me, the five least important issues are a) gay rights, b) gender equality, c) climate change, d) abortion and e) racial equality. Granted this survey reflects American attitudes five years ago, but they may not have changed that much. It’s interesting that our political parties focus on talking about the bottom five.
• Fiorina also reported a 2021 survey that showed what the 240 million adult public watch and read:
Evening news (ABC, CBS, NBC) 21 million
Wall Street Journal 3.1
New York Times 5.5
Rachel Maddow 3. 6
Fox News (primetime) 2.4
MSNBC (primetime) 1.8
ABC 360 (primetime) 1.6
Sunday Night Football 23.6
Big Bang Theory 18.3
The Masked Singer 8.3
Well, entertainment wins!
I’m not sure what this says about the public’s interests today, but it does explain why newspapers are having problems, if social media is the dominant news and social viewing source.
According to Fiorina, a Facebook study of “ideological silos” shows that on the Internet:
• 14% had clicked on 10 or more news articles in 90 days, and
• 96% had read 0 or 1 opinion column in 90 days.
So why do I say many people may not be reading my opinion column? Because the numbers show not many are reading newspapers, much less columnists. The national numbers are paltry, at best.
Alas, that doesn’t make my day!
A proposed $18 per-person fee to visit the renovated Palo Alto Junior Museum and Zoo is under consideration by the city council. I will join the expanding chorus of infuriated residents who are loudly complaining about this outrageous fee. That would mean $74 for one visit by a family of four. Admission previously was free, although zoo-goers were invited to donate $5. No one complained.
Kristen O’Kane, the director of the Community and Services Department recommended this !18 entry fee to the council; the Finance Committee by a 2-1 vote (Pat Burt opposing) agreed to the charge -- and the outcries began.
This was supposed to be a friendly little zoo for kids to visit and revisit. It won’t be because many families will find it way too expensive. Sarcastically speaking, the staff has so kindly agreed that those 1 and under will not be charged to enter. But if you are 2, get out your wallet.
I also hope the museum and zoo will be really exciting for kids when it reopens in October. But so far, I’ve seen animals featured include a picture a big Salcata tortoise, who slowly moves along, ibises (large bird with a long neck and long legs), and flamingoes, which do make a pretty pink statement. There will be raccoons and insects (both are seen occasionally in my backyard).
I want it to be a nice, entertaining place for kids to visit. I understand it will cost the city more money to operate daily, but the city knew that before it began this remodeling expansion.
At the very least, make it free for kids under 16.
Thank you, Palo Alto resident Miriam Green, for filing a lawsuit against the city’s annual transfer of about $21 million from the Utilities Department to the city’s general fund. The Santa Clara Municipal Court has ruled the transfer is legal, but said the city illegally taxed its residents when it raised gas taxes in 2012, 2014 and 2016. The possible result: an $8 .4 million budget hole for each of the next four years, and $4 million in future years.
That $8.4 million represents the taxes we residents paid in addition to our usage charges for our gas utilities in those three years.
I always thought it was unfair for the Utilities to charge us higher rates each month just so it has enough money to give $21 million back to the city each year. The city is arguing it started the Utilities Department, and therefore, deserves a “finder’s fee,” as many new businesses must pay. I still think it is unfair for our city. I want to pay for the gas I use, and not be charged more just so my money can be donated to the city’s general fund. And the city is us – it gets its money through our sales taxes, property taxes, fees, etc.
Green has steadfastly stayed with her suit for several years, and now will have to undergo an appeal. I admire her for sticking with it for us!