News Delivers Hope and Warning

Pay attention to the news

Is it news if it’s old? It doesn’t seem that it is anymore. As time ticks away, the validity of news – even if it can be called that – slips away. Global changes occur 24/7 and now, with the advances of technology, time can mean everything.

Last week I admonished everyone to, “Pay attention!” I was especially pointing to our nation’s political news as it unfolds day by day, hour by hour. The news tells us that our House of Representatives will impeach Trump. New pundits weigh in with their predictions of what the Senate will do. Facts, opinions, slants, hyperbole, influence (political and financial), and historical lessons are drawn together to form narratives. What truths will survive the news?

Alan Rusbridger, former editor of The Guardian, published a book last year. It’s entitled, Breaking News: The Remaking of Journalism and Why it Matters Now.

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Rusbridger refers to the educator, John Dewey, by noting:

… Dewey believed that the press played a crucial role in creating an educated public and that a better-informed public would, in turn, make better decisions about elected representatives. That process would, in turn, create a better democracy.

Was John Dewey correct? Journalism is certainly being tested in our nation’s capital. Global news, too, is strained as it reflects events and narratives foreign to our basic understanding. Will the news help us be more aware and comprehend at deeper and broader levels? Or will we simply become more data rich and information poor?

Journalism has matured over recent times, but will we?

Jill Abramson, former Executive Editor of The New York Times, penned a book entitled: Merchants of Truth. One of the reviewers noted:

News is all the news these days. What is news? These days whether traditional, “fake,” print, or digital, the contest is about how news is rooted out, reported, sourced, delivered, and paid for. It is about depth, commitment, scoops, click bait, advertising, mobile, video, and entertainment. It is about expertise, investment, and the ever-popular leak.

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Both authors step the reader through the challenges of journalism giving way to digital formats amidst the tried and true print media. Their narratives express their existential angst as the media withstood the buffeting global recessions imposed. Sprinkle in the dangers of individual journalists faced (life and death situations) to bring us the news from front lines and of corruption. It all gets messy and competitive. We must ask, “What do we believe is true?”

Pay attention to multiple news services

Jon Meacham’s article in The Time magazine entitled, “A National Test,” channels the advice of former First Lady, Eleanor Roosevelt by saying:

If Mrs. Roosevelt were writing today, she might put it this way: don’t let any single cable network or Twitter feed tell you what to think.

So, the admonishment becomes to not only pay attention, but also be diverse in your taste for news. If you close yourself off by listening to, or reading of, or watching only one news source, you’re shorting yourself. You will run the risk of coming away with a distorted view of reality, not really understanding the news.

The risk of ignoring the news

Can we afford the risk of being misinformed? We live in the computer age wherein we’re all familiar with GIGO: Garbage In, Garbage Out. If we allow our minds (and hearts and visceral reactions) to be guided by a singular news source, can we truly say we’re informed? Can we really exercise critical thinking?

The near future of our nation is at risk. Power, as it plays out in our representative democracy, comes from an informed populace, as Dewey suggested. If we the people choose to remain uninformed, ignorant of our nation’s history, the nuances of the law, and the facts as they’re exposed, we risk our future. It’s easy to blame politicians for missteps. However, it’s incumbent upon all of us to be informed. Now is not the time to ignore the news.

As we watch history (current news) play out before us throughout the coming year, news may change our minds. As we learn more, process more, and come to terms with an ever-growing and complex world, our roles and responsibilities mature. Let’s hope we learn our lessons well.

Thanksgiving gratitude for journalism

It’s time to recognize the critical role that journalism plays as it gathers and delivers the news. As the aforementioned books point out, recent global and technological changes have challenged the discipline enormously. Stalwart journalism is emerging as a critical fourth estate that can deliver hope as it metes out warnings if we ignore the news. Gratitude for their journalistic service and guidance is yet another element to consider this Thanksgiving.

Rusbridger concludes Breaking News with sage advice:

Trust me, we do not want a world without news.

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By Jerry Spriggs and the Equal Voice Voting Team