Earlier this week I started listening to one of my favourite podcasts ever, This American Life, https://www.thisamericanlife.org/, and I was rather intrigued by the discussion at hand. The episode titled “621: Fear and Loathing in Homer and Rockville” {https://www.thisamericanlife.org/radio-archives/episode/621/transcript}

The synopsis for it was “Two towns where people got really upset about undocumented immigrants, even though in both places, that did not seem to be the most important thing happening at all. One of the towns, a small town in Alaska, has no undocumented immigrants at all, but the possibility of them arriving put the whole town at each other’s throats.” Over the last 6 months, anyone who watches the news has seen the public discourse in the USA become more polarizing, divisive and deceitful than it’s ever been. New words like alternative facts have been added to the lexicon and the whole thing quite frankly looks like a circus, except it is real life. Because I am one to get really heated up about causes and things I am passionate about, I will admit that I barely made it through the first half of the podcast. I could barely believe my ears when an adult admitted that he was not much of a “news person” and only got interested when faced with a potential acceptance of immigrants: refugees and otherwise. In addition to not being a news person, this same person decided during the course of his research that the mainstream sites were not credible sources, and instead leaned towards Breitbart and other conservative think tanks. This got me thinking and looking back on my own experience.

As an avid consumer of news, I have had to tone my consumption for the last year as a lot of the headlines trigger my anxiety. However, I have found that I can never stay away for too long, maybe FOMO or maybe just my lifelong obsession with the news. From the time I turned 5 I have always read the news. My dad brought the local papers daily, and I looked forward to the English papers on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays. My mom provided weekly copies of Newsweek and the International Herald Tribune, which initially were for us to read the comics but I eventually started reading the articles. My primary school also encouraged us to watch the news and share the stories at morning assembly, but I was too shy to join in. With all this background, you can imagine my shock when I heard an adult say he is not a news person. The news matters, it keeps us engaged in national and international discourse, it keeps us aware. If you are an adult and you take pride in not reading the news, please stop right now. I get it, there are so many things coming at you daily from different angles and it’s information overload but youhave to fight the good fight. Admittedly it’s a little more convoluted than it was 20 years ago, but take some time and research. And if you’re ever in doubt about something you read, the good people at Snopes got you covered! It is also imperative to teach our kids to watch and read the news. Encourage discussions at dinner time or during car rides. Some of my fondest memories involve my mom and I discussing the Newsweek tribute to Jackie O, or my dad discussing Nelson Mandela’s release from Robben Island. A lot of my views about the world and my homeland, Cameroon were shaped by the news. In the early 90s when there were ghost towns, I remembered hearing folks marching outside and getting scared. Later that evening we watched the news and recognized locations around my home. We had a conversation and my dad tried to explain to his scared toddler what was going on and to this day we constantly discuss current events and knowing what’s happening in the world has influenced my world views and enabled me to be able to carry discussions with people I meet.

So again all I say is, stay informed and don’t let anyone convince you that the media is fake. It might a necessary evil, but it is well worth it. I’ll end with a quote by Denzel Washington “If you don’t read the newspaper, you’re uninformed. If you do read it, you’re misinformed,”. I say better take a chance on misinformation as there are several avenues for fact checking these days. Stay informed my friends

And get on twitter

“Be kinder than necessary, for everyone you meet is fighting some kind of battle.”

JM Barrie