Why you need to engage with the news

One of my favorite times of the week in my media writing classes is the time when we talk about current events. News knowledge is a mainstay of journalism programs, and even though my students are a mix of all communication disciplines (most NOT headed towards journalism), I’m happy to devote the time. The students follow an event per week (their choice) in 4 different media, write a short paper and come to class prepared to talk about what’s going on. We usually have 10-12 unique items per week to discuss. Highlights this semester have included the events in Ukraine, Ebola, the kidnapping of  UVa student, NFL player abusiveness and more.

We do more than talk about what’s going on – I stress to the students the need to find context for the events. This is the why and how of the news, and it helps you to be an informed citizen if you look for that kind of context around public information.

Tuesday is a special day: It’s National News Engagement Day. The brainchild of the president of the AEJMC (the egghead journalism professor international organization), it’s a time to lean in to the news. I think it of as a reminder of why we need to be informed.

If you live in the USA, you need to be informed because your opinions matter. The entire fabric of your system of government is predicated on an informed electorate. That means not only knowing what people with whom you agree think on a variety of issues, but knowing what people with whom you do not agree think. And why they think those things.

I had my students ask more than 300 people why news is important. Here are some responses:

  • “A well informed person has a better perspective on the world”
  • “News is important because the events taking place in the world effect everybody”
  • “News helps condense a large world into a small world”
  • “Understanding the reality of people all over the world is vital to being caring global citizens”
  • “News still matters because society is formed from people’s thoughts and ideas”
  • “It’s vital for everyone to be informed on current events if we desire change & evolution of society”
  • “Without news we would be even more miserably uninformed than we already are”
  • “Why do you think journalists are executed in Syria? Because news matters”

As our sage respondents noted, news matters, and comes at a cost. If you have time to read this today, you have time to follow the news.

How will you engage with the news today?

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