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?

 

 

What Motivates You?

To help you make the most of your life, it is helpful to know several things about yourself. One of the most important is: What motivates you?

Understanding your motivations can help you become more clear and directed when it comes to acting on what is important to you. It can also help you avoid efforts by others to manipulate you into taking action when you otherwise wouldn’t.

For example, let’s think about click-bait. As you surf the web, you may see an ad for something that tries to appeal to your motivation. “Learn this one trick to lose weight” could be a sample advertisement, that targets two different motivations: curiosity (what is the one trick?) and fear (I’m too fat).

There are many different types of motivations possible. In the example above, we saw curiosity and fear, which are prime motivators for many people.


Related: Listen to an episode of the Intellectual Roundtable Podcast, where Lee and Michael discuss this question: ‘How much of our thoughts are our own?’ We discuss another question as well, ‘How much is enough?’


We are a naturally curious species, which for the most part has allowed us to ascend, for better or worse, to the place we now inhabit in the ecosystem. Being curious about how the world works has spurred a remarkable series of advances in science and technology.

But fear is also motivates us. We are often afraid of what we don’t know, plus we can fear rejection from society. There are many organizations that rely on these fears to manipulate and control you.

On opposite ends of the motivation spectrum, we are also motivated by anger or by love. What other motivations can you think of?

Related questions: What is important? What deserves your attention? How much of our thoughts are our own? How does media manipulate you? What five ideals are most important to you? How can we turn ideas into actions?

How Can You Change Your Attitude?

There are times when, to overcome an obstacle of some sort, all you need to do is change your attitude. But how can this be done?

Some common emotions, like frustration or anger, don’t actually accomplish much. Typically, they don’t help you to arrive at a solution any sooner. They can even make thinking other thoughts difficult.

A change of attitude is called for. If, instead of anger, you approach a situation with curiosity, better results may occur. Or empathy, or determination, or even no thoughts at all.


Related: Listen to an episode of the Intellectual Roundtable Podcast, where Lee and Michael discuss this question: ‘How can we maintain wonder?’ We discuss another question as well, ‘How do you think others see you?’


But this is easier said than done. Negative emotions can be overwhelming. drowning out everything else. They can also be counterproductive, going so far as to sabotage positive, or helpful thoughts.

So what tricks or coping mechanisms have you found to help you change your approach? How can you change your attitude?

Related questions: How can we turn sadness into constructive action? Why do we hate? What is the right amount of emotion? How can we turn ideas into actions?

How Does Media Manipulate You?

It is easy to imagine how someone you disagree with might be manipulated by the media they consume. But how does your media manipulate you?

Frequently, I see people referred to as sheep. The implication is that they blindly follow whatever they hear. The person using the word “sheep”, however, would never fall for such obvious tricks. Or so they believe.


Related: Listen to the Intellectual Roundtable podcast where Michael and Lee discuss the question, ‘How much of our thoughts are our own?’ Stay tuned for a bonus question, ‘How much is enough?’


In reality, all news, opinion, and entertainment programs use many methods to get you to believe what they want you to believe. That might include word choice, music, on-screen text, sharing only one side of an argument, or even outright lies.

While it is easy to notice these flaws in the media outlets that don’t share your worldview, it is much harder to be critical of the media — newspaper articles, cable news, web sites, and so on — that you consume on a regular basis, and that you agree with.


Related: Here is a podcast episode with the question, ‘What beliefs do you have that might be wrong?’ We also discuss a second question, ‘What makes a place feel like home?’


Are you familiar with the rhetorical methods that are used to persuade? Do you recognize some of the behaviors that you condemn in others in your own choice of news? Can you recognize, in what you read or watch, an agenda being driven, even if you agree with that agenda? How does media manipulate you?

Related questions: How much of our thoughts are our own? How does your vocabulary influence how you think? What beliefs do you have that might be wrong? What deserves your attention?