Let me start at the outset of this blog by admitting that I don’t watch any television news programmes, I don’t listen to radio news, I don’t read newspapers, I don’t log into news websites and I don’t click on links to stories shared by my friends on social media. Because of this, there are people who would accuse me of being disconnected from the world or disinterested in the concerns and tragedies that befall many millions of my fellow human beings on a daily basis. They might call me blinkered, or naive, or any one of several unrepeatable insults. I might be accused simply of not wanting to know.
But for all that I avoid the ‘news’ as we are fed by the media, it’s not all news I want to avoid. If a friend or relative has news of heartbreak in their lives or news of political machinations that are affecting them personally, I am here as I always have been to listen and support and, where it’s invited, give my opinion. So in a very real way I still get ‘news’. The difference is that the news I get is of deep personal interest, and it’s news that I can react to in a personal and immediate way.
Why do so many people watch, or read, or listen to, the media version of ‘news’, but are unable to start a conversation with the people they live next door to? Why does the tragedy befalling people thousands of miles away engage people and provoke debate, letters & comment, but the pain experienced by the family two streets over from our own pass most of us by? Why is it that only news that is ‘television-worthy’ is classed as news worth any of our attention?
I want to engage with news that affects me personally. I want to hear news that enables me to share situations directly and to offer empathy, or sympathy, or advice, or a cuppa, with the people involved. I want to get involved with campaigns that will change something for the better for me or for friends or friends of friends. I want to know that I can do something about the news I hear – even if it’s just popping a card through a letterbox.
News that serves no purpose except to raise anxieties, or trigger anger, or provoke frustration, or create a sort of ‘immunity’ to human suffering, is, I believe, not ‘real’ news at all. It is more like the 21st century equivalent of the old circus side-shows than real news. The stories that are told seem to be dressed specifically to titillate, to create an uncertain climate, to distract people from what’s really happening and the things they really should be concerned about. Many people I’m sure will agree with me that some stories aren’t newsworthy at all – they are dressed up in order to make them appear so. And some news stories seem to be manufactured for no other reason than to control those who hear them.
Perhaps it’s an anarchic way of thinking. It certainly is an archaic way of thinking, to most people’s minds at any rate. But I believe that if news is important I’ll hear it from the most important people in my life – my friends and acquaintances. If news is important, it’ll be news that directly affects me and that, more importantly, news I can do something about here and now.
There’s an old wisdom story I remember reading once, about passing anything you know through three sieves…. the first is ‘truth’, the second is ‘goodness’, and the third is ‘necessity’. What it teaches is that if you’re not sure how true the news you have is, and if it’s not good news, and if it isn’t entirely necessary for a person to hear that piece of news, then you shouldn’t speak of what you know (or think you know), but instead should quietly forget it.
Thus the news I share will always be the truth as I know it, and if it’s not good news it will at the very least be necessary. And wouldn’t the world be a better place if all the media outlets used the same three sieves? But until they do, I think we’d all be very wise to treat the commercial news machine with a very large pinch of salt, and strive to be as connected as we are able with the best and truest source of news we have access to – our friends.