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Trading Endless Headlines for Timeless Ideas
Turning off irrelevant news and focusing on active content consumption for better decision-making
When entering journalism school, I had the noble wish to help people make the best decisions for themselves. That’s the goal of media, right? Distributing information to citizens for informed and sound decision-making.
Instead, I entered a clickbait universe full of sensationalist content that leaves withdrawal symptoms: anxiety, severe confusion, and agitation. All while your body craves the numbness most useless and addictive information supplies. So… not what I had in mind.
Despite not working in media, people assume because of my profession, I have the tv on 24/7 and can recite the daily news as if it were the latest Taylor Swift song.
But I refuse to use my time contributing to spam.
That’s how I became a journalist who doesn’t read media news.
Through my skepticism of the media, I realized that keeping up with the news is not the same as staying informed, being a good citizen, and contributing to society.
Sensationalism in the Face of Crisis
My disenchantment with media outlets started in December with big fires that set a Chilean city ablaze.
Television reporters worked hard to harass families to get a first-person statement. Most were given amidst tears.
When learning about the ongoing catastrophe, I turned on the tv to watch the news. Instead, I was met with a soap opera. Every channel focused on narrating detailed family tragedies: lost children, families hugging each other with the debris of their house on the side, kids grieving their pets, and other similarly heartbreaking scenes.
The catastrophe happened a few days before Christmas when I visited my grandma. We sat at the table watching a woman embracing her brother as they lost their house to the flames. The scenes faded into the background noise of our evening tea.
TV channels, newspapers, and online portals showed many heart-wrenching images and stories, but not one distributed clear information about ways to donate or support those affected.
They were not helping anyone; they were using people in a crisis to make “good” television.
From Advocacy to Entertainment
Clark Kent is a reporter for the Daily Planet, bringing truth to the forefront and fighting for those with no voice. He is also Superman. It’s no coincidence that our most culturally popular superhero had a day job as a journalist. Media, and therefore reporters, have a capacity for advocacy and an implicit ability to frame societal and political issues. That’s why they are called the Fourth Power1.
But our system is broken.
Instead of helping citizens, many media companies are putting all their effort into entertainment2. They may get more clicks or ratings, but that does not indicate good-quality journalism. Instead, they are an accomplice in maintaining an ignorant society.
From Passive to Active Content Consumption: Choosing Timeless Ideas Over Endless News
Media companies have gotten us hooked on pop quizzes.
They’re delighted that we strive to stay informed on the latest gossip, trends, and political fights, yet we do nothing with this information.
We’ve become passive consumers, stuck in a race.
To combat this, we need to awaken, become active players in our content diets, and harness the ideas that will endure through time. The system’s not doomed, but it needs improvement.
I hope journalism has a new life with platforms that put journalists and their ideas at the center; that way, we don’t depend on media companies and their contracts with advertisers. For now, Substack seems a suitable alternative. It lets people follow writers (journalists) and, therefore, curate the kind of content they wish to consume. And, unlike Twitter, it is (still) free of spam.
The responsibility falls on news consumers to curate a diet of content with unbiased updates mixed with timeless information.
People are aware the standard lacks quality but still lean towards the conventional. There are possibilities, don’t go with the traditional one and curate your content diet.
Information is freedom. Choose your sources wisely.
Fourth Estate or Fourth Power refers to the press and news media. The Constitution created three branches of government, but we also have the Fourth Estate, which refers to the media's role in keeping citizens informed about what the government is doing and holding it accountable.
Incentives are off in the current system. Media companies optimize according to ratings to grow the business. But by focusing on viral content and keeping rates, they lean towards irrelevant information, becoming accomplices for societal ignorance.