Generation NeXt

TUPAC SHAKUR, a wealthy, semi-famous 23-year-old rap singer, was shot, wounded, and robbed Wednesday morning outside a recording studio in New York City. What made the incident worthy of the front page of at least one prominent daily newspaper may have been that Mr. Shakur himself is on trial for a crime, accused of sexually assaulting a woman. Though saying he is innocent of the charges, he says he's just living in the fashion of the streets that he grew up in. His life is ``beyond good and evil,'' he has said. ``It's just what it is. It's a thug life.''

The last 20-something-year-old American to receive a similar amount of news coverage may have been rock singer Kurt Cobain, whose suicide brought widespread press reports earlier this year.

Thus there was a kind of irony in the fact that only the day before Shakur was wounded, and a few hundred miles to the west, students at the University of Rochester (N.Y.) released a study showing how their generation was both misreported and underreported in the news media. After analyzing a month of coverage of the so-called ``Generation X'' in five major newspapers and three national news magazines, the study found that the media generally write about young Americans only when they have engaged in crime or violence or if they are popular figures involved in music or sports. Little was said about the accomplishments of the generation or on topics that they found of interest, such as the quality and affordability of education or the job market.

The study's title, ``Press Images of Generation NeXt,'' suggests that the ``next'' generation is a better way to describe young adults than with an ``X.'' ``X stands for a void,'' says Christine Megliola, one of the students who conducted the study. ``We're vibrant, we're out there, we're doing things. There's a lot of diversity and individuality in our generation.''

Even granting that the greatest accomplishments of people in their 20s may lie ahead of them, the study's point is well taken. The print media, in particular, are in a fret about how to attract younger readers. Humorist Dave Barry caught the panic well in a recent column when he noted that efforts so far have consisted mostly of `` `with-it' headlines designed to appeal to today's young people, like PANEL NIXES TRADE PACT, DUDE.''

So, we promise to try to do better at covering Generation NeXt. It's an effort that's been, like, lame.

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