This is what happens when we stop paying for quality journalism
The American bubble has burst.
You don’t live in a bubble, you say? If you’re shocked, as I am, by the Presidential election result, you live in a bubble. If you feel OK and wonder why people are overreacting, you live in a bubble. If you’re jubilant right now, you live in a bubble.
I’m not judging you or your voting choice. It happens that my candidate lost, but had she won, my point would be the same. Division in America exists apart from the candidates. The Presidential race hardened that division and brought it into the naked light of day, but it has been there all along.
It no longer matters who you voted for. We’ve made our choice. Your job now is to step outside of whatever bubble you live in and educate yourself.
Pay for quality journalism.
We all know that newspapers and editorial staffs have been gutted by the Internet and our insatiable thirst for free news. Guess what, America? Paying for news — investing in quality journalism and a free and open press — is what allows us to maintain our democracy.
It’s not a coincidence that despots like censorship and the Holocaust was preceded by book burning. Authoritarian governments choke off access to information. By abandoning quality news sources, we’ve already done much of that work ourselves.
Is the media biased? Of course it is! So is every history book you’ve ever read. It’s our job to have the critical thinking skills and historical context to notice, engage, and respond. That’s what an educated electorate does in a democracy. That’s why freedom of the press and free speech go together.
Some suggestions if you’re not sure where to start.
Stop getting your news from Facebook.
Facebook is many things, but it’s not a news source. Facebook’s job is to keep you clicking, and it does that by tweaking your newsfeed so you only see what you want to see. Go to Facebook to talk to friends, but go elsewhere for your news.
Subscribe to your local newspaper.
This is important. I don’t care how crappy your local paper is, subscribe. Don’t blame hardworking journalists for the fact that their newspapers’ business models have crumbled. Those reporters are going to city council meetings, school board meetings, and your state Capitol, and they’re reporting back to you. Without that check, a few bad local government eggs can run wild, worsening the corruption problem we’re supposedly sick of. Fewer media watchdogs = more corruption.
While you’re at it, become a member of your public radio station, too.
Subscribe to a national newspaper
Same goes for national reporters. They’re watching and reporting. Be skeptical (that is, don’t take everything at face value) but be informed. Democracy works better when we can at least agree on the facts.
By the way, digital newspaper subscriptions are fine. I’m suggesting we support journalism, not necessarily printing on dead trees.
Read at least one news source that doesn’t reflect your political view.
For me, that’s Fox News. For you, it might be the Washington Post or the New York Times. We MUST start listening to diverse points of view so we can develop a common vocabulary.
Note: I need a better quality source for conservative-leaning journalism — suggestions welcome in the comments.
Read one news source devoted to international news.
The US is not an island. Read what other countries are saying and experiencing. Understand that assuming we’re “the greatest country on Earth” means taking on the responsibility of educating yourself about our flaws, our role in the world, and the day-to-day lives of people elsewhere. Understand the privilege of democracy, and what it means to live without one.
Learn to identify fake news.
Propaganda isn’t news. Its only intent is to persuade, not inform. Think of a peer-reviewed, double-blind scientific study versus “research” funded by a corporation. Which would you trust? Do your homework and never confuse the two.
Connect with your local community in person.
Social media and being “too busy” has given us an excuse to stop talking to each other. Invite your neighbors for monthly potlucks and living room conversations. Volunteer at your school or local organization. Listen without trying to convince. Educate yourself through conversation.
Commit to everyday kindness.
A guy motioned me to go ahead of him in line. The kindness in his eyes made me cry. Granted, everything’s raw right now. Many people are terrified, enraged, and deeply disillusioned. You may not feel that way, but you must acknowledge that others do, for legitimate reason. Look into peoples’ eyes. Tip an extra dollar. Thank people. These tiny acts matter and will give us faith to pick up and listen to each other so we can move on to the work that must be done.
It’s time to pay up, America. We all benefit when we raise the level of national conversation. Consider a paid subscription to a reputable news source a campaign contribution to democracy.