As an aspiring journalist, I’m a little dissatisfied with the current state of the journalism industry. Not as much as some critics, who are pretty angry with the journalists running the game. It’s a tough industry, and the rapid pace in which the world is changing these days makes it exponentially harder. We’re living in the beginning of a new era of almost complete connectedness with more people than previously fathomable. We all hear so many different perspectives and opinions and see so many faces in one day, it’s hard to wade through all the bullshit and find what is important and what is not. What is important to one may not be important to another.
What, then, do you cover in your news output? Seeking out every opinion on any given topic is a horribly daunting and exhausting task in any case. Who’s got time to gather all of that information when you have to beat Twitter to the punch to break the news? It’s a pretty sound and possibly valid argument in a normative description (what it is) kind of way. However, in a prescriptive sense (what it should be), it seems lazy and uncaring.
What is important, as a journalist, is to give people information on what is going on in the world around them. The scope of that “world around them” can be a range of millions of different levels of proximity. Some news outlets choose bigger scopes, and some choose smaller ones. Neither can claim to be more important than the other, it’s just how you define important. However, it’s not surprising to find that if you’re reading and writing solely about the things happening in your 20-mile radius that you might start to become self-centered. Don’t get me wrong; I’m not calling for the eradication of hometown newspapers. All I’m saying is that I think this and this are related.
Of course local journalism still has its place, it’s important for people to know what’s going on in their communities as those issues have a direct impact on their lives. But there is room for improvement in media practice when a whole series of 30-minute news broadcasts neglects to mention, “What happened in the world today?” Five o’clock news, six o’clock news, nine and ten o’clock news: all segments rarely produce coverage of world events. And for what? “Two Men Arrested During WalMart Robbery.” Sure, that’s an acceptable news story. It’s a pretty unusual and a scary moment for those involved. But what benefit do viewers walk away with after having been told that story? A decent portion of the viewers will think, “Yeesh. There are some crazy people out there. One more reason not to go out. I can’t be hurt if I only worry about myself.”
This is where I find a problem with the journalism industry. The media that focus purely on local issues give said viewers a skewed perspective of the world. This often leads them to inaccurate conclusions, and they decide that people are bad; that all of their intrinsic values and motivations are evil. Viewers then carry these negative perceptions with them when they have a say in society’s decisions. Therefore, it is not surprising to find that often times, people vote purely out of personal interest and preservation. If everybody in the American individualist society is looking out for themselves and themselves only, how are we to function as one united nation?
What could possibly be scarier than a robbery at WalMart in which nobody was injured? I don’t know, maybe the fact that North Korea followed through with its nuclear weapons threat and restarted a nuclear reactor with no sign of stopping, or that military officials are more ambivalent than ever about staying in Afghanistan, given that war has been a major cause of government spending and economic recession. Or how about the fact that two new fracking sites have been approved in the UK despite the research showing major negative sides effects on both the environment and local residents. These might not sound like captivating topics, but I guarantee that if these stories proceed in a bad way, you will not enjoy the outcomes. Understanding that the boring news talk involving other nations and people is important to you is a characteristic of good citizens of the world.
What I ask of you, dear reader that somehow made it this far into my self-righteous revolution speech, is to explore! Explore when you hear of global news that you’re told is important! Go beyond the 4-minute blurb the television gives you on the topic and research. I know you might not want to burden yourself with keeping up-to-date with current events, maybe because you might not feel like you, by yourself, can make a difference. That’s a valid point. However, if we all start doing this, we can make as much damn difference as we want to. It is not glorious, I am aware of that. But often the heroic thing to do is not the most glorious. American soldiers don’t join for the glory. They do it because they know it is right and good to serve and stand up for your country. We must break this egocentric mold of doing valuable things just to receive the praise that follows.
And all it starts with widening our perspective a little bit.
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