Does learning about things scare you? In short, I’ve become concerned (very) with people’s relationship with the news.
Before I continue, I write this from a place of wanting better for people and explicitly talking about Black folks, as this is where I spend a majority of time amongst (my peoples).
Yes, there’s biases/mis/disinformation (more on this later) in the news, but being more informed is a part of being more empowered.
I’ve worked as a full-time journalist for nearly three years, and the concern has hit a crescendo. Or maybe I’ve been paying extra attention to how people respond online and in person and what I overhear in public spaces.
The problem is the sentiment: “I don’t read the news because it’s all bad or makes me feel bad.” I hear a very audible: “I don’t want to know about real life.”
I’m sure this blog post will result in people calling me everything but a child of god. But I try to approach this with logic (never-ending work) rather than feelings (very easy).
I continue to teach myself; learn, read news, books, etc, because that shit is uncomfortable. No one will open my eyes. No one is put on game from the jump; we need to unpack. It’s challenging to realize that a lot of what you’re doing is small potatoes and not crucial in the grand scheme of things — but very, very necessary to empower ourselves.
“That’s how things are” is an excellent mental roadblock society wants us to buy into. I’ve had multiple conversations in person and within my community that offer hope. We can and should start with being more informed and go from there — I owe some of this from my family that drove the point of “learn you summin” at a young age.
Hypothetically, why would you be well-versed in celebrity/entertainment news, but when it comes to your residential city/county affairs, you might as well be a stranger? — more on this later
However, as a professional, I can say that “news is bad” is factually incorrect, and yes, it does drive traffic. There is also lighter and happier news for every piece of news that makes people uncomfortable. The reason is that we have multitudes as people functioning within societies.
I’ll use myself and Miami-Dade as an example. Recently, one of our mayors’ finances is in question (again), one of our oldest Black churches is here to stay; data reveals that the police arrested Black youth at higher rates vs any other minors, and one of my favorite theatre acts of the year was two month ago.
The above reminds me of a few things. Firstly, metropolitan areas and cities are not free of inequalities. Miami is often portrayed as this place with all these cool things and yadda yadda. Being a resident here and Black reminds me that people get away with a lot of things here. I owe it to myself to be aware, reject the façade, and embrace that diversity is a tourist ad word.
When news about a problem arises, more people are made aware. This may lead to efforts that will be created to address it. Or demand more and better from their elected officials. These things aren’t new. And we must rely on collective efforts to improve things for ourselves.
But let’s return to the subject of things being bad. I hate to break this to you, but that’s our present. America is not a utopia. It is a violent, biased, oppressive, imperialistic country that runs on inequities to serve those in power.
It’s imperative to learn how your city is discriminating against your community. Be it rent, school funding, local employment, successful unionization efforts, etc. Without knowledge or word of mouth, we’d be in the dark, helpless. Another problem is a lot of people are comfortable with that.
When I return to the words that “the news is bad,” I also think about how people interact with reality.
When these folks receive bad news, how do they respond? What do they do when they hear that a loved one/child/etc is suffering under anything from “bad headlines”? Stick their head in the sand? Plug their ears with their fingers?
I know I sound ridiculous, but why are those the perquisites? I’ll propose why. We in America have a problem; most have to have been made victims and been affected in some way to care about things. We can still learn about important matters and go through our personal lives.
Now, I find people who aren’t journalists plugged into entertainment/hobby/celebs news interesting (earnestly). Because it shows that things of importance do warrant time, nuance to understand, and a bit of work to come to an opinion.
If you can stay informed about the aforementioned, you can do the same for what’s labeled complicated: everything from your local politics and geopolitics. Logically speaking, nothing is complicated; we just aren’t armed with information at the time about said subjects — that’s how things work.
Indeed, there’s a difference between spending 30 minutes on a subject versus years of study on it. Still, we live in an age where we can access news from across the globe — Information that is created and shared visually via audio, video, graphics, etc. It’s information that’s tailored for people of different learning preferences and capabilities.
I’d argue that the biggest point of the news is the drive to understand what the hell is going on.
This comes to mind regarding the assault of Palestinians in Gaza. You have to pause and ask yourself why the president, on live TV, questions reports. In contrast, other (non-western) publications didn’t. You also have to ask yourself why the media coverage is running misinformation (fancy word for lying).
You also have to ask yourself what the hell is going on: when media platforms are running footage by a military force before it goes out to the public. Again, I ask you to apply logic as to why that’s concerning and the ramifications.
Again, congratulations if you’ve navigated the news to understand labor unions, sports, your favorite actress, etc. You do in fact have a solid capacity for news, especially what’s “complicated.”
Now, you may say, well, maybe that’s true. However, your mental health says you can’t and or shouldn’t read the news. Is that a reason or an excuse? I’ve been in therapy for years now. Do you know what I talk about often because of my job? Reality. Reality doesn’t stop.
It has to be said, the other side of “news makes feel bad”? Privilege. It must be great to flex one’s privilege and say, “This would make me think about matters outside myself.”
People don’t understand how much privilege they have until they are victims of reality. I may sound cold, but why do these systems hurt us to take action against them, let alone start thinking about them? This isn’t the case for everyone; a number of people operate on hearing word of mouth and formulating plans.
I’ve seen the thought processes of people struggling with reality, and I earnestly ask myself, how and why have they avoided the news (reality?). As a journalist, writer, and truth seeker, I can only assume people believe that a false sense of security is better than the alternative.
We aren’t discussing a monster, boogeyman, or something that’ll “ruin your brunch”. We are speaking about the matter of real people, humans, hell, yourself, that are experiencing damn near everything under the sun.
Some believe we are living through too much history. Or that we are not meant to know all this news.
I’d argue that point one: if you’ve read history, many events happen year in and year out. Whether someone like me in South Florida knows about it doesn’t matter. It will happen regardless. On the second point, the answer to knowing that too many things happen is to actively not learn about them.
I’m not implying I know everything; who does. Hell, I don’t know everything about the tri-county area. I could certainly try because that’s the least that I could do. Living in an age of readily available information and being clueless is a choice. However, we must reject that because the alternative keeps us dangerous to the status quo.
I’m not gonna toss a newspaper through your window — I know that’s dated as hell, but indulge me — This is all a choice.
We can say, “I only have the energy to work, eat and sleep, and maybe indulge in a hobby.” Society is built to encourage those thoughts of feeling oppressed and powerless — it keeps us powerless.
I’m not saying you don’t deserve comfort, but that is different from knowing about what’s going on. — Remember that the comforts you enjoy today came from people who armed themselves with knowledge and took action.
Our media literacy skills will only get better if we train it. We can’t think about what’s wrong in our present unless we know it.
So what’s the worst that could happen if you read the news and stay informed?
I mean, maybe you get angry. Perhaps you’ll want to form a union. Join a local organization. Go to protests? Reject the current conditions of the present? Hell, you may want to create your own news outlet and give people much-needed information. You know, the things many did before us.