Shatter Your Tv [Worldview]: Grab A Newspaper

What’s going on in the world?

It may seem hard to keep up with today’s saturated media landscape, yet that’s precisely why we need more intelligent, informed individuals.

News consumers have more responsibility than ever before.

The Elements of Journalism by Bill Kovach and Tom Rosenstiel outlines ten elements needed to produce a given piece of journalism. The last element states, “Citizens, too, have rights and responsibilities when it comes to news.”

Never once have I heard that obligation prior to pursuing higher education. Reflecting on that fact, I couldn’t feel stronger about the need for newspapers to be incorporated in the education process.

It was Aristotle who once said, “We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit.” There’s definite merit here, which requires us to reexamine the habits of our society.

Clay Shirky, an academic studying the effects of the internet on society, analyzed societal habits noting Americans watch roughly two hundred billion hours of TV each year.

“Underinvesting in relational activities means spending less time with friends and family, precisely because watching a lot of TV leads us to shift more energy to material satisfaction and less to social satisfaction,” Shirky wrote in his book Cognitive Surplus.

TV offers a one-way medium of communication, which requires minimal effort. The low threshold of involvement is part of the appeal. Shirky points out that the three most common activities in the developed world are work, sleep and watching TV.

A central question in Shirky’s book: How could society be different if we applied our cognitive surplus to more participatory, relational efforts as opposed to an isolated activity such as watching TV?

Imagine the possibilities.

Digital technology has brought us back to a participatory culture, and newspapers have been adapting to engage with audiences more than ever. News is transitioning from a lecture to a conversation, and it’s essential for youth and teens to take part.

“To participate is to act as if your presence matters, as if, when you see something or hear something, your response is part of the event,” Shirky wrote.

Dan Gillmor, professor at Arizona State University’s Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication, outlines the modern principles of media consumption in his book Mediactive. The five principles are as follows: be skeptical, exercise judgement, open your mind, keep asking questions and learn media techniques.

Adopting these five principles at a young age will help empower individuals, which will ultimately improve society in the long-run. This type of critical thinking, independent of corporate and institutional influence, is needed now more than ever.

I often contemplate how sound our foundation of knowledge truly is even. Just this past December Randy Schekman, a Nobel prize winning scientist, declared he would boycott the biggest-name scientific journals including Science, Nature and Cell on the grounds that they distort scientific evidence. Students should be aware of these sort of things.

How about history, what perspective are we teaching our children? Howard Zinn’s A People’s History of the United States offers an alternative account of history. And if there are skeptics of Zinn’s work, one can read Voices of a People’s History of the United States, a book containing primary sources of the former.

The first element of journalism states, “Journalism’s first obligation is to the truth.” No other form of communication is bound by truth. Advertisers, content marketers, filmmakers and even our school systems play a role in distorting the truth.

It’s our responsibility to help students understand the complex nature of information flow, and newspapers offer a great starting point.

Photo Credit: Flickr/velkr0



The Elements of Journalism
Cognitive Surplus
The Guardian: Nobel winner declares boycott of top science journals


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