Why You Shouldn’t Just Watch The News

So I’ve had my first troll. My first blog fight. And yes, after months of writing about judgemental parents and nut allergies and anti-vaccination nutjobs and the EDL the thing that got someone’s goat up enough to create a special troll ID and email account was the M4.

Look at the tiny candle. IGNORE THE ENORMOUS FIRE!

I don’t make any apology for publishing the comments or being exceptionally rude in dealing with them. I’m sure other bloggers would have handled it in a totally different way. However I mainly write in a sarcastic, sweary and exaggerated voice. I don’t think it’s then right to become Mary Poppins when I get a heckler.

Still I’m grateful to them for something. Their ridiculous user name and the Aaron Sorkin drama The Newsroom have got me thinking. And when I think I write.

The Newsroom has been panned by many critics and commented on here by real British newsroom veterans but I found parts of it enjoyable and entertaining. The opening rant, delivered by Jeff Daniels’ character, may be classic Toby from The West Wing (i.e. Sorkin ranting through a character), and I suspect the on/off romance between him and his new Executive Producer will grate, but there are plenty of interesting and pithy points about how news is delivered and I like a lot of the minor characters.

My commenter called him or her self ‘Someone Who Has Watched The News’ and this grated on me because I have never thought that just watching the news is enough. I think you have to watch, understand and, at times challenge the news.

News today is delivered by many different mediums with many different agendas. The news on Fox will be different to the news on the BBC which will be different to the news on ITV which will be different to Al Jazeera. Each EP, each writer and presenter will, quite naturally, have their own take and spin on a story.  Each organization will have a target audience or remit in mind (in the case of the BBC it’s neutrality, in the case of Fox it’s Republicans). It is inevitable that some information in some cases is held back by the security services because it’s important and necessary and possible that in other cases they hold it back because they can.

Breaking News is the worst. Being first with a story seems to be more and more imperative but as The Newsroom makes clear (and should be obvious anyway) being first with the correct story should be what you’re aiming for. It’s increasingly difficult in the always on, digital, social media world.

I have made 2 huge fuck ups on my twitter account in the 9 months I’ve had it. I accused a website of removing comments that it hadn’t (they just didn’t show on the mobile version of the site which I was reading). I also prematurely killed Clive James. I saw a tweet that said he had lost his battle with cancer and assumed it meant died. He hadn’t he’d just been everywhere that morning saying he could no longer beat the disease. I’d been out and I didn’t check before I tweeted. Stupid.

I hope I’ve learned my lesson from this. I would imagine that a journalist also only does this once but I bet most have them have done it once. Been first to a tweet or a story because they didn’t check it out properly. To be honest I trust ‘Breaking News’ as much as I’d trust John Terry with my new model girlfriend.

You can over-challenge of course. It’s a short but significant journey from ‘question what you’re watching’ to ‘compile conspiracy theories and only get your information from unverified websites’. Think but perhaps not too freely.

Does this have anything to do with parenting? Not much. But I do hope we raise our children to not only watch and read the news but to understand it and to set reasonable challenges. To rationalise information in their head and be sure of it before committing it anywhere. To watch more than one source. To read and follow people you disagree with as well as those you agree with.

You watch the news? Congratulations, so do millions of other people. You understand the news? Getting there.

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