my500words day 15 : The News

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The News

One of my first jobs was as a Paper Boy. Early every morning, six days a week, I delivered the Daily Papers before grabbing breakfast and going to school.

I remember the bag growing lighter as I delivered each paper, and how it really motivated me to finish as quickly as possible. I also remember the bad weather days when it was cold, raining, or snowing. These have always been unwelcome features of the great British weather.

At home, the newspaper rarely dropped daily through our letterbox as my parents couldn’t afford it, but I was too busy with growing up to take much notice of it anyway.

We didn’t have a television set either, and my Dad only listened to the radio to catch the news bulletins and the weather. He seemed to have an inbuilt timer and at one minute to the hour he would turn on the radio and then all distractions were forbidden and silence reigned throughout the house while he listened avidly.

He was a sticker for routines, my Dad, and this particular routine persevered, as far as I know, until he passed away.

Perhaps this helps to explains why I am often obsessed with my own routines.

He always complained of course.

He would gripe about all the bad news and complain that the journalists rarely wrote or talked about anything positive or uplifting.

I didn’t often agree with my Dad but I freely admit that he was right, papers have never really been overly concerned with the feel good factor.

Of course the Press has always been a financial and not a philanthropical institution and exists to make money and influence opinion.

It does that by augmenting our levels of stress and by playing with our emotions, making us outraged, angry or sad.

Articles are filled with conflict and scandal, indignation and despondency.

The reach of journalism has exploded over the years. From the written word, it has expanded to radio, television and now the internet, where you can get your news whenever you want. No more waiting for the daily paper or the next news bulletin, you are, instead, exposed to news twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week.

Whereas with newspapers you might have a day to reflect and ponder, digest and decide, the information onslaught in the Twenty First century is persistent.

Rather than simply relating the facts however, the evolution has been towards creating events that play on our sense of urgency and involvement. The news is stated, repeated, analysed by correspondents and editors and sometimes, in the absence of words, the story is related in images and in videos.

This often happens for events where the journalist doesn’t appear to have a clue as to what is happening but his or her opinion or judgement is served, commented and analysed with a certainty that I constantly find upsetting unless I’m given a moment or two to catch my breath.

There is little news in the absence of journalists and sometimes I wonder why so many journalists are sent to the same event rather than be spread out around the globe to inform us of what is happening elsewhere. So much is happening in the world but because we spend so much time on relatively few events we never really obtain what is considered to be news from elsewhere in the world.

I find it interesting to compare sources when reading or viewing the facts. Don’t you find it strange that exactly the same event is often portrayed with a completely different political bias or opinion? Indeed, opinion often appears to hold more importance than fact. As for facts we are already living in a dystopian world where different truths cohabit and are all defended with equal vigour.

The recent turmoil leading to Great Britain’s decision to exit the European Union, illustrates why following the news in this case probably had an adverse effect on opinions which led inevitably to vast numbers of the population casting a protest vote convinced that the UK would never vote in their majority to actually leave.

In my opinion many of us woke up worse for wear and with thumping headaches on the 24th of June.

Using this as an example, I would advise you to cultivate discernment and pay close, detached, attention to the news you are served every day and if you read a headline, make sure you read the accompanying article because it often describes a different story.

To be continued.

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