Should We Pay Attention To The News?

Sometimes it seems that trust with our journalistic enterprises is at an al-time low. Should we even pay attention to the news?

One problem with the way we consume our news is that it is becoming ever more partisan. Whatever your political beliefs may be, there is a cable channel, website, or newspaper that will reinforce that view. Other sources are, of course, “fake news” and must be lying.

In addition, the way the news is currently being reported is hyper-sensationalized. If it bleeds, it leads, as the saying goes. Whatever gets ratings or clicks is what tends to drive news cycles these days.

So that seems like a problem with how the news is presented, not with the news itself. If we could simply supply some journalistic standards, maybe we could fix the current problem of divisive, misleading  coverage that oftentimes spills over into overt propaganda.

Listen to a podcast where Michael and Lee discuss the related question: ‘How much of our thoughts are our own?’ We also discuss a bonus question: ‘How much is enough?’

But even politically neutral, factual reporting creates a problem: a distorted view of reality. Negative stories tend to be more noteworthy than positive ones. A child being abused is news, but 10,000 children not being being abused isn’t.

If you hear a constant drumbeat of negative news stories, your natural inclination is to think the world is worse than it actually is. To illustrate, violence has been falling in the U.S. for decades now, and yet many Americans think crime is worse than it has ever been.

And yet, in order to have a functioning democracy, you need to have a well-informed electorate. How can we, as a society, be well-informed without reporters reporting on that society?

Is there a way to tune out the news and yet stay informed? Is there a way to fix the current broken system to make it work better for us? Should we pay attention to the news, or ignore it for our own well-being?

Related questions: What news from the last year made you optimistic? How can we encourage debate? How do you know who to trust? What is the greatest problem facing humanity?



1 thought on “Should We Pay Attention To The News?”

  1. Yes. Of course, we should pay attention to the news. An educated citizenry requires it. We should even pay attention to editorializing about current events. Why shouldn’t we read the arguments of experts as well as respected, partisan opinion leaders regarding pressing issues of the day? In fact, as responsible citizens, we would do ourselves a service by consuming some news that tilts conservative, some that leans liberal, and that which gets pegged as mainstream coverage.

    As that last sentence should make clear, I disagree with the statement in the context for this question that partisan news is the problem. Non-factual news is a major problem. News sources demonizing those who disagree with a certain point of view is downright dangerous. And a populace untrained in how to be demanding of news and editorializing threatens the fostering of a well-informed citizenry that our democracy requires.

    Again, partisan news is not the problem. There is not some mythical, truth-based center where all the answers lie. Without a critical left, there’d be no talk about the benefits of a universal, single-payer healthcare system, for instance. Or, without a critical right, there’d be much less debate regarding what level of government (i.e., federal, state, or local) should answer issues only solved communally.

    There are many problems with a number of news outlets today. They sensationalize. They fail to cover systemic issues well. They try to beat the competition in breaking news, to the detriment of getting things right or getting multiple perspectives properly weighing in on a topic.

    But let’s not let these problems excuse us for tuning out or demanding better. Everything from climate change to local housing zoning debates could use your informed voice.

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