Breaking News is breaking news
With this more consistent plug-in to news have come a series of negatives and thoughts that I’d like
Continuing on this trend of habit-building in 2019, I’ve adopted the simple goal of reading more news. Usually this is accomplished with a scroll through the Washington Post in the morning and throughout the day. Combine that with the recent addition of multiple news sources on my twitter feed, copious podcasts throughout the day (Shoutout to The Daily and BBC Global News Podcast ❤), and daily newsletters, I genuinely have felt more knowledgeable about current events. It’s definitely a good feeling — I’ve always struggled with a sense of imposter syndrome when it comes to global affairs and staying aware has been a goal for a long time. However, with this more consistent plug-in to news have come a series of negatives and thoughts that I’d like to share.
Firstly, I think it’s important to recognize the nature of news as we see it today. The overwhelming majority of what I read is negative. That isn’t meant to be some attack on news networks and sensationalized stories, it just works like that. Crises, tragedies, and problems garner more attention than success stories (for the most part), and thus, the headlines we read reflect society’s issues far more often than its successes.
As I’ve immersed myself further into news, I’ve realized that, put simply, news is overwhelming. There is a constant stream of updates pouring in at all times from all sectors and all parts of the world. Take for instance, an abridged list of this week’s’ events (As of February 19th, 2019):
- A suicide bomber in Kashmir attacked Indian military, killing 44 soldiers. Tensions between India and Pakistan, both nuclear powers, have escalated to a precipice.
- U.S. Humanitarian Aid has landed in Colombia and is ready for import into Venezuela, the only barrier being Maduro’s isolationist policy.
- Nigeria is preparing for one of the most important elections in its history, and violence is already creeping up between political factions.
- President Donald Trump has declared a U.S. State of Emergency to fund a border wall with Mexico to prevent illegal immigration.
- American Foreign Policy received little/no support at a recent European Security Conference, particularly in regards to Middle-East policy
Phew. One week. This is by no means an exhaustive list either, these were just the first things that came to mind (imagine how much I’m still missing!) It feels almost inconceivable how fast these things move, and how many parts are moving at the same time, as if the world was one large Rube Goldberg Machine with a million interconnected pieces spilling into one another. At times, it’s certainly interesting, as watching an ongoing situation unfold can be genuinely captivating. I felt this firsthand recently with Guaidó’s claim to Venezuelan presidency against Maduro, and the ensuing international support he received. I found myself reading and listening to updates with full interest, while making my own personal predictions. However, the vast and constant stream of news that I mentioned earlier has primarily led to two negatives, issues that I’m working hard to resolve and reconcile.
The first is the issue of my memory. An example: the U.S. Government shutdown (the longest in history) ended on January 25th, 2019. Three weeks ago. Three weeks! Yet in my mind, it feels like months have passed. The shutdown has been relegated to a position of history in my brain and has quickly been replaced by the next slew of updates. My other example of Guaidó’s claim to Venezuelan Presidency feels the same way, as though the news broke several months ago rather than just a few weeks. How are such major events in global history slipping from my memory? Why are they fading into a place of lesser importance so quickly?
The next problem is in part a reason for the issue above, but is its own issue as well. Desensitization. News updates at a breakneck pace and the media cycle is quick to move off an issue once the public has absorbed it. Tragedies are quickly replaced with the next story, then the next, and then the next. I’m left wondering if I fully understand the depth of what’s going on around me, or if it’s just been turned into a series of twitter headlines and articles. (This isn’t meant to self pity either, just genuine thoughts that I want to resolve).
In search of answers to these two issues, I’ve re-evaluated why I want to stay updated with news. A few reasons come to mind. Firstly, there’s value to just being aware of world events — I view it as a fundamental quality to global citizenry. Secondly, I’m most likely going to be pursuing some sort of political science/international relations/economics field of study in college, and being well-versed in global politics will be imperative. I don’t want to come into college behind the curve amongst students who are vastly more knowledgeable than me. Lastly, and perhaps most importantly, I find it interesting. I love reading about what’s going on around the world and the solution-finding process that entails.
However, I soon realized that all 3 of these reasons are limited in scope to myself. They go no further than satisfying an intellectual curiosity and fulfilling a quality that I believe is important. I haven’t focused on the deeper implications and reasonings behind keeping up to date with foreign events because I’ve been so focused on personal improvement. I’ve begun to realize that the path around desensitization is to hone in on the deeper meaning behind news, on the selflessness of it.
One shift I’d like to make in my mindset is to forge connections that run deeper than just intellectual. There lies a fundamental issue in viewing global crises and situations as mere intellectual exercises, when there are real people being affected. Venezuela’s crisis is not an interesting case of political challenges in a sovereign state, it could be the difference between life and death for millions of citizens. The same applies for everything that goes on around the world, it boils down to real peoples’ lives. Perhaps by focusing on that aspect of the equation, I can better understand the depth of what I’m reading. It won’t slip my mind so easily, and it’ll touch me deeper than just my intellectual curiosities. In terms of actually implementing that change, all that comes to mind is deeper reflection throughout the reading process and discussing these events with others. But frankly, that’s where I feel the largest missing piece, and where I’m still searching for solutions.
I may feel more intelligent and more aware, but I don’t feel as much as I think I should. As the title of this piece says: Breaking News is breaking news. The torrential cycle of news updates is breaking what news should really be about: reporting the issues that people face. If I ever want to change the world, I need to read news as a means of understanding the issues that other people face. It’s deeper than checking something off on a to-do list, I want it to be part of my lifestyle. We’ll see where that goes.
This article was originally published by Atharv gupta on medium.