Hi everyone! Today we are going to talk about… The News!
For many, maaany years the first thing I would do after waking up would be to check the news. My idea of a well-informed and wise person was of the one, who always follows the current situation of the world. My perception has changed dramatically when I entered my second year of university studies.
Let’s start with the fact that most of the news is not new. In the past, the newspapers were the only sources of new information. People would buy them daily to get a snapshot of what’s happening not only in the world, but also around their neighbourhood. Because the pages and columns were so ‘precious’ at the time, the editors could not allow themselves to sell unattractive, badly written articles. Nowadays, the news have a completely different function to what used to be an informative mean of communication – it is to manipulate. In 2018, we are bombarded with information with no mercy. Radio news every hour, multiple newspapers, news apps in our phones and TV channels with news presented non-stop.
Have you ever noticed the order of the news presented to us? We are being shown the saddest events, such as murder of a child or a drastic car accident first, followed by some political news. Why? Firstly, to make us think, that the everyday life is miserable and fragile. Then (when our minds are still mourning the deaths of the people who we have never met), we are being given a daily catch up on world’s politics. The party leaders arguing with each other become less of a problem, when our perception of our existence is under consideration.
Children get killed or die because of health problems in all countries, under different circumstances practically all the time. Being reminded about it will not help either us or the affected people. What media should actually do is show us statistics (a real piece of evidence, without drastic details impacting our imagination) and educate us on what to do to avoid these things happening. We shall be educated on what to do when we are witnessing child’s abuse (in a shop or in our neighbourhood) and where go to report it. This is an example of a good journalism, not trying to make salad out of old lettuce.
Accidents, crashes, catastrophes. All of these are our favourites. People love catastrophes. They happened in the past, they are happening now and will definitely happen in future. We read about the details of them only to get more scared of flying or driving. What’s more useful, we would rather know how to behave in the moments of danger. Or even more likely, how to avoid danger in first place. The emotional hole which is left inside us after finding out about another tragic car crash is not filled with mindfulness and eagerness to drive safer. It leaves us confused and not able to understand the rest of the news correctly, because we will always compare the next piece news with the most emotional one.
Have you ever had this painful feeling of pure sadness after watching evening/morning news? This is not a good start (or end) of the day. Especially, when the people tragically affected are not related to us.
The people responsible for publishing the news, know very well the psychology of our minds. They are aware of the fact that they manipulate us in order to get more clicks or views and what follows – money. Our brains will follow the next plane crash like flies attracted to a bulb. It requires a lot of self-control to stop reading the top tragic stories.
The main problem of the news is that they dump on us tonnes of information every day. Without filtration and (which concerns me the most) without any sort of digestion of the topic. We face the information without the explanation of what is the impact of the event or what is the outcome – unable to learn anything from it.
If journalists could connect the current news with the philosophical aspects of human behaviour, historical background, technical facts and grasps of logic, we would be having completely different first pages of the newspapers.
And no, we do not need to become a more clever society to read better news. Our base level is high enough to digest the information with a guidance of a journalist. What is more difficult, is the creation of our own point of view, which comes after the article is presented. This is a skill to be learnt.
The correct way of presenting and understanding the news:
facts, evidences -> discussion -> conclusions -> our own judgement
Currently, we are given the news in reverse order. First comes a prepared already judgement (the journalist’s viewpoint), then the information itself. At the end, often omitted, comes the ‘digestion’ or a discussion part of the story. This is what makes us a passive reader.
Is isolating myself from the news a good idea? Not necessarily. Obviously, the news is needed. We want to know the weather forecast, the traffic information, the new laws established by the government etc., so we cannot easily escape the whole emotional wrapping surrounding these pieces of information. What we can do is try to control our greed for tragedy by skipping the manipulative news. Try not to follow every story which hits us. Respect ourselves as the audience and filter the incoming waves of the information.
Being informed does not mean knowing everything. Having much of workload at uni already, I realised that additional information was cluttering my mind. I was carrying the thoughts of a stabbed teenager with me to the lecture theatre losing the focus on what I meant to learn on my course. At that point I started separating myself from the daily news habit and to my surprise I became more focused and happier.
R e c o m e n d a t i o n
If you would like to find out more about what news do to our brains, one of the best books describing my today’s topic is “The News: A User’s Manual” by Alain De Botton. The author, together with his team used to create very thoughtful reports on basis of philosophical and educational context of the current news. The website still exists http://thephilosophersmail.com/ , nevertheless some time ago it was replaced by their new project – The School of Life.