The Failure of News

I found myself thinking today, “Why is every news platform so whiny and scared about a movie?” Article after article, I watched most mainstream news channels let their writers publish blogs about how “dangerous” an upcoming movie is, and how shameful it is for a large cinema company to allow the screening of it. Excuse me, but last I heard, there have been hundreds of R-rated movies allowed in theatres, so what makes this any different? I answered myself before finishing my sentence–it’s because it doesn’t promote the mainstream view. Because the movie has an opposing perspective on a “hot” topic, it is deemed “dangerous” by news outlets. This is ridiculous, because opposing perspectives are natural and make us challenge our preconceptions and think differently. If we’re not allowed to view material that challenges the mainstream view, isn’t that kind of brainwashing?

Also, why is there so much attention focused on a movie that’s only going to be screened for a few days, in a few theatres, when there are wars, sex trafficking, violence, poverty, all kinds of real injustice happening in the world right now? But a huge focus this week has been on a movie that might “offend” some people. How about we allow people the chance to see it if they want to and judge for themselves. (For real reviews from actual people who saw the movie, click here.)

News is supposed to be objective, not biased, emotionally charged, and written to evoke a certain belief. People should be able to read the news, have safe conversations with each other, and make up their own minds about where they stand. Almost every time I see a news article online about a political or social topic, it’s full of keywords that aren’t meant to share the truth, but help the company get more views and rank higher on Google than their competitors, while they’re all writing the same story. It’s hotter to write about controversial topics than what’s actually happening in the world, but we’re basically being fed garbage so news companies can make more money. As a result, this biased news nonsense makes us see anyone who disagrees with us as our enemy. It’s shaping the way we think and turning people against each other. Entertainment news is poison.

Frankly, I’m ashamed of where journalism has turned and I’m tired of the lazy, one-sided news and negativity. I’m also annoyed that I cannot escape these messages because social media has found purpose (and profit) in sharing these posts and causes despite my disinterest. Who decides what is acceptable and what isn’t? Isn’t tolerance, by definition, the ability and willingness to consider other ideas or actions that we don’t agree with? Or, does that only go one way?

On the bright side, there are other sources of news. International news may prove to be less biased and shed light on what’s happening outside of our bubble. Sources like the Good News Network has made it their mission to share encouraging, positive, uplifting stories.

News isn’t all bad, but there’s a lot of trash getting published online. My encouragement is for us to take a step back every time we read something online, and think, “What perspective is this story coming from? Does this article have bias? Does it reflect my personal views or someone I know? Is it genuine and true? Does it matter in the grand scheme of things?” Or, we can shrug our shoulders, close the tab, and move on.

A Speech to Millenials, From a Millenial, About Social Media

I’m going to talk a lot today. #SorryNotSorry

It’s clear the world has lost its way. People are upset, angry, frustrated, exasperated, disappointed, distraught, oppressed, offended, wounded, hurting, apathetic, passionate, etc. Something is wrong. When social media became an outlet for news, everything went downhill. I was a Journalism student so I know how effective social media is for spreading ideas and stories. In fact, I’m about to use it now just to tell you what I think. (The irony…)

Before Twitter, YouTube, Facebook, Instagram and Tumblr we had two main ways to find out about world issues: newspapers and broadcasts (either on television or radio). Most news, if not all, was thoroughly investigated before it was published, and journalists tried to sift through the opinions and biases to share what goes on objectively. But lately, that’s not what people see the most. News is spreading through hashtags and viral video rants, which get people riled up instead of informed on current issues. Additionally, even the media is paid to feature certain stories that get people riled up about certain causes or specific events happening in the world. It’s nearly unavoidable. As soon as I turn on the news, I’m already getting heartbroken over what I hear. And maybe I should be upset, but social media takes it to another level, causing more division and hate than spreading awareness.

I’m not saying social media itself is bad. Thanks to Facebook I get to talk to my grandma every day. Thanks to Instagram I get to see pictures of places around the world I would like to visit someday. Thanks to Twitter I get to see updates from my favourite bands. Thanks to YouTube I learned how to appreciate and take care of my curly hair. Social media itself isn’t bad; it’s the abuse of it to amplify bad news and encourage us to take biased positions. The barrage of posts online is overloading us with one-sided ideas and social media operates to make us see posts like the ones we’re interested in, and that further hinders our objectivity.

This information overload also has the opposite effect on us by desensitizing us. We hear so many things that stories often lose their impact or we choose not to care. There’s too much information. Scroll down Facebook for just two minutes and you’ll experience the dull hum of apathy. If you hate a post you’ll skip it or write a comment. If you like it you’ll… like it. And then move on. Too easy. We are complacent because we know too much. And we don’t care enough because our attention spans are shorter than that of a goldfish. And we don’t know the truth because we only hear opinions.

We need to start with ourselves. We are the current and upcoming generation of parents, educators, scientists, leaders, journalists, inventors, public speakers, filmmakers, musicians and politicians. It’s our job to make things better for the next generation. It’s our job to care. Unfortunately there’s an overwhelming amount of 20-something year olds who aren’t focused on developing their character for the responsibilities that are necessary in adulthood. It shocks me to see that people are still engrossed in celebrity gossip and Internet trends instead of paying attention to what is happening our world. We should be listening. People older than us despise our carelessness and people younger than us don’t respect us. This should deeply concern us.

The problems in this world are too tremendous for us to understand or deal with by using the Internet, and maybe it’s not our job to set fires to get people over-stimulated. Look at what it’s already done. Maybe our job is to comfort those who have been treated unjustly. Maybe our job is to take on positions where we can influence people to be more sensitive, understanding, considerate. Maybe a compassionate approach is more effective than an aggressive one. This isn’t possible if we’re watching the world through a palm-sized screen.

We have to put down our phones, have a conversation, talk to each other, build face-to-face relationships and understand each other’s concerns so we can comfort each other. And when we do raise our voices it should come from a place of concern and love as we stand up for the voiceless and the ignored, not from a place of deeply rooted hatred, revenge and disgust.

So what do you think? Should we repeat the same mistakes for another hundred years?

When we’re united we’ll be deeply saddened when we hear about every death.
It’ll cause us to have mututal respect.
It’ll cause us to seek the real issues at hand because the right to live is always more important than the right to bear arms.
It’ll cause us to keep those in power accountable, and well-trained.
It’ll cause us to be more patient and give more grace to the whole group when a select few are viscious and unkind.
It’ll cause us to forgive instead of seeking revenge and causing a chain reaction.
And one by one we’ll make the world a better place.

If we change how we think and teach others to do the same, it’ll be a rainy evening one day in 2030 and we’ll be driving home listening to the news and smile as we hear about the good things happening in the world. Because we stopped to care.