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Are we consumers or connoisseurs?

We may be voracious readers, but is 'consume' the right word for what we do to 'media'?

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Advertisers know how to flatter us. This pitch just came in from the publisher of one of my favorite magazines:

"You're the type," it began, "who's always first in line for a movie or play on opening night. Your iPod is filled with underground music, political podcasts, and clips of your favorite moments in sports." Well, not quite, but hey, I'm flattered that they think of me that way.

Here's where they lost me, though: "You are a cultural junkie who consumes media constantly."

Come again? ("Dear, next time we go to the museum, let's consume some 19th-century lithographs.")

If "consumes media constantly" means "plays continually with mobile devices," it probably is a useful phrase for people in the technology business to use about other people, in their capacity as buyers of such devices.

But would those whom the publisher is looking to sign up describe themselves as "consuming media constantly"? They might say, "I always have the radio on at work," or "I always listen to audiobooks while I work out," or even, "The train got stuck in the tunnel on my way in today and I got to watch a whole movie on my iPod." But would any of them say, "I was consuming media all day today"?

Here's another example of "media consumers" used pejoratively: Tom Shales of The Washington Post going after PBS for having displaced thoughtful veteran journalist Bill Moyers in favor of a new "multiple platform" program meant to be a "source of current-affairs coverage for today's media consumers."


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