Once upon a time, being quiet was the highest value in most libraries. Increasingly, however, libraries are becoming robust focal points for creativity, learning, online access and relationship-building, especially for low-income families and children. "It's always packed until it closes. Everybody goes to the library after school," says 18-year-old Nashville Public Library user Alexis Woodward. That library is one of 24 around that country that's been given a $1.2 million grant to pursue the creation of innovative learning environments for children. "We want to provide teens with spaces to explore learning and digital media they don't have access to in their homes or school," says Nashville Public Library employee Elyse Adler. In Nashville, that money is being spent on the creation of a recording booth, editing bays and a 3-D printer. Amy Eshleman of the Urban Libraries Council says of endeavors like that one, "It's all about engaging [teens] in a space where they can be with peers, unpack their interests and get better at things they care about, and help them find a path from their passions to opportunities in the real world." [cnn.com, 6/2/14]
The number of teen births in the United States fell to a historic low in 2013, dropping 10% in a single year. In fact, the 274,641 births from mothers ages 15 to 19 in 2013 were the fewest since the National Center for Health Statistics began tracking pregnancy rates in 1933. The peak, by way of comparison, came in 1970, when 644,708 teen moms gave birth. Bill Albert, chief program officer at the National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy, says of the trend, "The historic decline has been driven by the magic formula of less sex and more contraception." [usatoday.com, 5/29/14 stats]
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has released its latest bi-annual report about risky teen behavior. On the good news side of the ledger, fewer teens reported drinking alcohol. About 35% said they had consumed alcohol in the previous month, down from 39% in 2011. And 15.7% of teens smoked a cigarette in the previous month—the lowest level since the government began conducting the survey back in 1991, when the rate was more than 27%. The proportion of teens who had sex in the previous three months held steady at about 34%, while teen fights at school fell by half in the past 20 years. On the not-so-positive side of things, however, is the percentage of teens who text while driving. A whopping 41% say they've texted or emailed behind the wheel in the previous month. Another big jump is in the percentage of adolescents who spent three or more hours during school days on recreational screen time (watching videos, playing video games or using a computer or smartphone for something other than schoolwork). That number rose to 41%, up from 31% in 2011. [nbcnews.com, 6/12/14 stats]
An unnamed Ohio mother says her 13-year-old daughter was inspired to stab her by the online horror character known as Slender Man: "I came home one night from work and she was in the kitchen waiting for me and she was wearing a mask, a white mask. She was someone else during the attack." The woman suffered multiple minor injuries, including a puncture wound on her back. She also reports that her daughter had become obsessed with Slender Man before the stabbing. "We found things that she had written, and she made references to Slender Man," the mother told local news station WLWT. "She also made references to killing." The story comes on the heels of a similar tale of violence involving two 12-year-old Wisconsin girls who stabbed a friend 19 times, reportedly an attempt to please and pacify the fictional Slender Man. [foxnews.com, 6/9/14 c&e]
There's a surge of family- and faith-friendly programming hitting the television airwaves, according to Variety magazine. Channels such as UP, Aspire, INSP, TV One, Bounce TV and Hallmark are all seeking wholesome programming, shows and movies the whole family can watch together. "We've hit a watershed moment in the faith film arena," says Cindy Bond, co-founder of Mission Pictures International. "This audience isn't a fluke any more. For the longest time, Hollywood has been going toward fare that is not right for this market. The next step for us is to raise the bar in terms of quality, because this audience deserves it." Barbara Fisher, now UP's senior vice president of original programming, says there's a growing demand for uplifting television movies, too. "There are a lot of very talented people who are anxious to work, and love telling stories in this two-hour form," she says. "It may sound cornball to some people, but we are recognizing that there's a big country out there that hungers for programming that makes them feel hopeful. I'm seeing a new kind of respect for this programming. It doesn't have to be schlocky or subpar."
Eli Lehrer, senior vice president of nonfiction programming for Lifetime, believes that the Christian audience is a niche that is ripe for more programming. "The African-American audience was underserved and underrepresented on TV, and as cable channels in particular have worked on producing for that audience, we've had great ratings success with that. I feel like the faith-based audience could be a similar trajectory, where there are tens of millions of people out there who hold these beliefs, but they're not particularly represented on TV these days." One benefit of all that faith-based programming? "I think people are starting to see Christianity as normal thanks to all these shows. If we're going to expose the world to every other aspect of life, why not expose it to Christian life when you're not at church?" says Tina Campbell, star of WE TV's reality show Mary Mary. [variety.com, 6/11/14]
What interests do fathers share with their children? When it comes to television shows, you might be surprised. Facebook combed through its database of 1.28 billion monthly active users and found that many fathers and their kids "liked" the same television shows. When it came to dads and daughters, the top five mutually liked shows were NCIS, Teen Mom, The Ellen DeGeneres Show, Grey's Anatomy and Duck Dynasty. When it came to fathers and sons, Seth MacFarlane's Family Guy reigned supreme, followed by SportsCenter, Mythbusters, Tosh.0 and South Park. [time.com, 6/12/14 stats]
"I love the idea that it'll all be over. It's just a relief, really. I'm scared to die, but I want to die."
—indie singer-songwriter Lana Del Ray, in an interview with The New York Times about the video for her song "Born to Die," which concludes with her boyfriend (in the video) holding Del Ray's bloody, apparently lifeless body [nytimes.com, 6/12/14]
"The O.J. Simpson trial was for legal TV what Wrestlemania was for sports entertainment. It engaged millions of people across the globe. It jump-started the careers of many legal correspondents, and as a producer, it was one of the most exciting times in history to be working in television. … People were so interested in O.J. Everybody was watching Court TV and other affiliated shows 24 hours a day. It was O.J. all day every day."
—Mark Goldman, a former producer for Court TV Radio, reflecting on the cultural significance of O.J. Simpson's infamous freeway chase and subsequent murder trial. Fox News Channel host Greta Van Susteren, who worked as a legal analyst for CNN during Simpson's 1994-95 trial, said of the story, "You didn't dare turn away. Everybody was watching it, live, wondering if O.J. was going to blow his brains out. That's when the hook was set for everything that followed. … It was a freak event in television." [foxnews.com, 6/12/14]
"Now people remember the show in a whole different reality than it really was. Which I think is funny because they remember it being this sweet, lovey show—and I remember people giving us trouble for, you know, being all about sex and free sex. 'Cause it was about free sex. Julie never actually had any but she tried to hook people up three and four times a cruise if possible. I mean, that was her—my—job."
—actress Cynthia Lauren Tewes, who played cruise director Julie McCoy on The Love Boat, which aired on ABC from 1977 through 1986 [today.com, 6/2/14]
"Every time I see you, you don't have to be naked. … We became the biggest girl selling group of all time with our clothes on and that says a lot."
—TLC member Tionne "T-Boz" Watkins, in an interview on Australia's Sunrise 7 show. Watkins was commenting on Rihanna's see-through and braless outfit at the 2014 Council of Fashion Designers Awards show. [nydailynews.com, 6/6/14]