Over the last few days, a number of people on social media have complained we didn't hear about the bombing in Beirut. We did, or at least some of us did. There were actually plenty of news reports about it, however, depending on the news you seek out, you may not have seen it. I want to talk about our responsibility, one that we've let slip.
Somehow we have lost our way. Somehow we decided news needed to be entertaining and we lost interest in being informed. We decided we didn't need to pay for quality news coverage. We forced the mainstream news to compete with celebrity news and clickbait articles. We dumbed ourselves down. And now we complain that world news gets hidden in small Reuters paragraphs at the back of the news section of the actual newspaper, that we neither purchase nor read.
David Carr, in the movie Page One (on the New York Times) said 'The New York Times has dozens of bureaus all over the world and people are going to toss that out and see what Facebook turns up'. A lot of people did just that. And social media feeds are tailored to us, so we aren't going to see what we aren't 'interested' in. We may not even see what's true. If that is how you get your news (and I'm ashamed to say most days it's how I get my news), then you can't complain that you don't know what's going on in the world.
I have written before that I believe it's our responsibility to demand unbiased news, and be well informed, so we can be contributing participants on this planet. That may cost us a little money. It will cost us a little time (to read all the articles).
We can not blame the media for not covering something if we don't make it financially viable for them to cover it. Good news coverage costs.
For those that haven't seen it, the opening scene of the Newsroom sums it up well (on America no longer being the greatest country in the world, and it applies to us all):
"We sure used to be. We stood up for what was right! We fought for moral reasons, we passed and struck down laws for moral reasons. We waged wars on poverty, not poor people. We sacrificed, we cared about our neighbors, we put our money where our mouths were....We aspired to intelligence; we didn't belittle it; it didn't make us feel inferior. We didn't identify ourselves by who we voted for in the last election, and we didn't scare so easy. And we were able to be all these things and do all these things because we were informed...The first step in solving any problem is recognizing there is one."
I was in Bali after the school massacre in Pakistan and the newspaper there was full of letters to the editor complaining that Muslim Governments needed to do more than publicly condemn the actions of the terrorists with mere words. My news feed at home had not even shown there had been any condemnation, and it covered little more than the horror of the attack. So who's at fault? My media source? I would say yes, as I just get emailed clickbait headlines trying to lure me in to the website.
Really though, it's me. I'm the culprit that has demanded lessor coverage. I have said 'I won't click on this global political story but I will click on this Bachelor update', and I want you to somehow find me news stories for free. I have forced a change, and it's a change for the worse.
In view of global terror, I'm now complaining about what I've created, as if I'm not somehow at fault for my ignorance.
I believe it's up to us to change this. If we don't like the coverage, we need to go back to news that funds reporters to report, to dig out the stories we need to know. We need to tailor our news stream to cover real news, not scandals and gossip. We need to make sure we are receiving broader coverage, global coverage. We need to be the adults of yesterday. We probably need to pay for it too.
We recognize the problem now, so let's solve it. No news is not necessarily good news. Not now.
Linking with #WWU and #TIK
Both the movie and series mentioned above are worth a watch (in my opinion) - available here (the links are to JBHIFI but not for any reason, that's just who I thought of - it's not a special or anything) Page One and Newsroom (there are 3 seasons)