Reading the news is bad for you

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newspaper

According to an article in yesterday’s Guardian, the writer Rolf Dobelli believes we would be better off not reading the newspapers or engaging with the news at all. He claims that it is actually “bad for you” and asks if anything we have seen on the news has changed any decision we’ve made over the last twelve months. What he is effectively saying is that the way the news is told to us we are too focussed on the human interest and not on the true story behind it – which I can see his point in. But do without news?

In the article – part of a wider essay he lays out his beliefs to why it is not a good thing (read the article here http://www.guardian.co.uk/media/2013/apr/12/news-is-bad-rolf-dobelli) but I would argue that he has missed the point of news. While the day-to-day mundane news is largely unimportant there are things that we need to know as individuals, as a country and as a species. To claim otherwise is naïve. We live in a society where there is more information available to us than ever before but we appear to have as many ignorant and downright stupid people  as ever – if not more.

Take this week’s events surrounding Thatcher. The “Chart Battle” between a song that has nothing to do with her “Ding Dong the witch is dead”, and a song that is a satire on her “I love Margaret Thatcher” is a mundane and ultimately pointless story – but the politics and reality behind the move isn’t. To look at the influence of one person on a country and have an honest retrospective on achievements or otherwise is essential for us to take stock of where we are and consider how best to progress. John Prescott’s piece in today’s Mirror is a great example of opinion in a newspaper (http://www.mirror.co.uk/news/uk-news/john-prescott-margaret-thatcher-deserves-1829090) and shows how news can be a discussion point.

Then there are stories that effect people directly – look at the Government’s benefit changes that have been rolled out over the first two weeks of April. If this was not reported in the news people would not be aware of the overall or personal situation they would find themselves in. I am not directly involved in the story, but as a voter I need to be aware of this. I need to know that my taxes are being spent wisely and if not I can then use my democratic vote to change things. To ignore news in all its forms is like closing your eyes and getting behind the wheel of a car. While Dobelli is questioning the way in which news is moving in its presentation he cannot justify the idea that ignoring it will make us happier – it will make us ill-informed, isolated and ignorant and there’s enough of that about as it is. While I agree presentation style is moving towards the American opinion based news broadcasts at time and the over reliance of the “human interest pov” in a story I am struggling to understand how in an all or nothing option, nothing is better for us.

News allows us to connect, to understand and the engage. We are becoming a more politicised world – not through Parties anymore but on issues. Look at the rise of the online petitions, the power of the social media outlets to allow the masses to express opinion and influence decisions. Look at how through good journalism we discovered the issues raised at the Leveson Enquiry, MPs fiddling expenses and look at how the police now use TV to help catch killers and inform the public about missing children. I strongly believe that knowledge is power and the more we understand the world and are educated in its ways the better we become as a species. To ignore it and live in a bubble may seem like a great idea because we’ll never hear the bad news or the problems facing society, but lack of knowledge is a more dangerous thing in my opinion.

We all know the news is rarely a happy show or publication with rainbows and bunnies and kittens, but news is not and should never be about entertainment – it should inform and include us. News is a necessity regardless of its message; it must be honest, accurate and real. To say that news restricts creativity is nonsense, to say it is wasting my time is an insult to my intelligence and news does have an effect on me. Perhaps next time Rolf don’t use a newspaper to promote the idea that news is bad for us – you’re barking up the wrong tree on that count.

JD

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