Exposure to a variety of news is important for our understanding of the world

Beauty is in the eye of the beholder, but should we shy away from what is ugly and uncomfortable to watch?

In an era where news is constantly available, we can choose what to watch or read. But should it always be ‘pretty’?

The idea of news apps such as ‘Flipboard‘ is very resourceful. It gathers news from different sources and brings you a more ‘balanced’ view of the world. I suppose the idea is simple, but it has a rather underlying message.

It assumes that people who consume news from different sources have a healthier understanding of the world they live in

A study conducted by the MIT Media Lab called the ‘Electome project‘ tells a fascinating story. The study analyses the American elections and its different supporters on Twitter. It illustrates how Trump and Clinton supporters isolate each other in many ways. Even though news is more accessible today, we still see clusters of ‘like-minded’ people.

What becomes apparent is that just because the ability to access different news is there, it does not mean that people prefer it. As humans we are not always willing to take criticism or challenge ourselves. It is easier to consume news that we agree with, or discuss an issue with people who are like-minded. It is human nature.

The reason why opposing supporters on Twitter do not exchange information or associate with each other could be simple: confrontation is not always desired. And even if it is, it takes up a lot of energy. Clinton supporters not only proved to be more exposed to various news sources, according to the study they were also discussing more varied issues (such as racial issues) and were more connected to verified journalists. This says a lot about the way we consume news today.

But clustering is also true in other scenarios. Today for example when looking through my Twitter, it occurred to me how little news I consume from Al Jazeera. As I clicked on a post named something like ‘our top stories’, I realised how little I know about much that is happening. There are so many news that I never see because of my lack of exposure to that part of the world. Even though I have the Flipboard app on my phone.

It was then that it occurred to me that it is also a form of protection. If I try to keep up with all the news every day, how much do I have time or fortitude to take in? It is not about prioritising, because we get world news in our domestic news too. But finding out about everything that happens in the world is a big task, and often conflicting. On the one hand I want to know because I care, but at the same time it gives me a feeling of powerlessness.

I am incapable of doing something about the inequalities that I read about, which makes me feel powerless

The same goes for domestic news. The world I live in is not perfect and equal. But the news I consume are less about fundamental human rights and more about the failure of delivering such rights.

As my father said after asking me ‘who’ the state is, the answer should always be ‘us’, the people. We choose our leaders and they work for us, not the other way around. They are there to administrate and coordinate what the population would have trouble doing on their own. It a simple idea, but sometimes it gets lost in politics and self-interest.

Not exposing yourself to everyday crimes against human rights is a good sign. It means the society you live in is rather fair. It is not perfect, but it deals with issues beyond your fundamental rights as a human. It is not a perfect world, because crimes happen and some people still live under oppression or threats. But in some countries we can hold the state responsible for not acting against these crimes and in others we cannot.

Being exposed to other news sources like Al Jazeera and reading about crimes against humanity is not a bad thing, even if it can be challenging. It exposes us to things we take for granted, but it leaves us with a feeling of misery. Sometimes it has another negative side effect as well, one that leads us to believe that we have all the answers by creating an ‘us against them’ mentality.

But for better or for worse, we remain exposed to other news

Even if it brings up bad feelings we should try to expose ourselves more. Only then can we be more informed about other people’s context as well as our own. Even if we cannot spend endless time reading news from all over the world, we have to try, especially if politics interests us.

I should watch news from other sources because it keeps me informed. As the MIT study shows, clusters exist and we need to break them when it comes to information. We need to remain exposed. And as much as we can, we should engage with people who have opposite views, even if it makes us uncomfortable or leads to endless debate. That is what politics is all about and we need that.

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2 thoughts on “Exposure to a variety of news is important for our understanding of the world

  1. Hi, I am a journalism student and was researching Australian political blogs for an assignment. I accidentally landed on your page. I am glad I did 🙂

    Totally agree about being exposed to multiple news sources and viewpoints. That is a cornerstone of democracy – to express ideas without fear and debate opposing opinions in a non violent and civilised manner. As you said, It is very dangerous to be siloed on a particular viewpoint or news source. Another good example of how dangerous it can be is the ‘Pizzagate conspiracy theory’ and the subsequent shooting of innocent people. The shooter, Edgar Welch, believed that there was a child sex trafficking ring run from a pizza shop by Hillary Clinton and shot at the restaurant with many innocent customers eating pizza. I don’t remember where I read this but Edgar told police that he got the sex trafficking ring information from ‘all over the internet’. Turned out – he was an avid reader of fringe right wing blogs and facebook tracked his browsing habits and constantly reinforced his biased and incorrect viewpoints by showing ‘ads’ from other right wing news websites. The result – he shot at innocent people 😦

    But do you think just consuming news from multiple sources would solve that problem? When Yassmin Abdel-Magied wrote the ‘lest we forget’ tweet and then deleted it when she found it offensive, she was virtually lynched for expressing her opinion. When Yassmin’s program was axed by the ABC, all the right wing websites celebrated ‘their victory’. Don’t get me wrong, I am not saying that only left wing people are victims. When Margaret Court expressed that she won’t fly Qantas because of their support to same sex marriage, she was subjected to some inhumane treatment by the ‘left wingers’. Even though I do not agree with Margaret’s vies, I strongly believe, and will defend, her right to express her views without fear of retribution at their reputations and careers. Obviously the people who attacked both these women were consuming opposing viewpoints, but chose to attack these women rather than accept that other people have different opinions, and that is ok in a democracy..

    This is not a problem for just women. Duncan Lewis, the head of ASIO, was subjected to the same vitriolic treatment when he said to Senator Pauline Hanson that ‘he does not have evidence linking refugees with terrorism in Australia’. If a straight white male, a highly decorated military officer with numerous conspicuous awards and stellar reputation can be trashed.. What hope do people with not so fortunate backgrounds have 😥

    Critical thinking, aided by a good education, might solve the problem. But Australia already has a good education system. I guess stupid people will always remain stupid 😀

    Looking forward to more of your articles. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Thanks for your reply Ziva and I am happy you enjoy my blog. Consuming news from different sources is certainly the beginning, but critical thinking comes from education and discussion. Both at home with your family and in society with friends and classmates.

    The way I see the right for free speech is that even in a democracy there are limits. Just because we have free speech it does not mean we have to constantly use it and say whatever we want without expecting consequences. If we all said what we think all the time there would be many unnecessary conflicts. Responsibility and consideration is important in a democracy, even though we are able to say what we want.

    If you are able to say something and stand for it then power to you, it seems like Yassmin Abdel-Magied could not stand up for what she said in the long run and that is ok. We are human and we are allowed to change our minds.

    Thanks for writing and hopefully you will enjoy my future posts as well 🙂

    Like

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