Casual followers of the news could be forgiven for thinking that Donald Trump’s 3 a.m. tweets were the most important event of the day. But with this evaluation, they’d be forgetting three separate famines, insurrection in Turkey, a civil war in South Sudan, and a new charter for Hamas, just to name a few recent events. And yes, we did have to look some of that up, not because we have our heads buried in the sand, but because on any given day, the vast majority of the media we consume is directly related to the U.S., and, more often than not, our president, Donald Trump.
Media outlets blur the lines between news and entertainment, covering attention-grabbing politics instead of global events as they struggle to survive in an increasingly competitive market. No wonder there’s so much coverage of Trump’s administration when, as Trump says of Press Secretary Sean Spicer, “I’m not firing Sean Spicer. That guy gets great ratings.” Of course, covering the actions of one of the leading world powers’ administrations is warranted. However, when news outlets neglect major world events in favor of covering their president’s every whim, they contribute to the lack of awareness American citizens have of the rest of the world.
Yet the media alone can not be blamed for their narrow coverage of many world affairs. Americans themselves must shoulder their part of the responsibility. For the most part, we don’t click on stories that aren’t directly important to our everyday lives. Financially vulnerable news outlets tailor their information to those willing to subscribe and generate advertising revenue in hopes of increasing revenue. The result is a vicious cycle that leads to the media under-reporting international events and Americans finding themselves disconnected from the rest of the world.
We’re a democracy, and this means that individual citizens do impact international issues, albeit on a smaller scale. The decisions we make on and off the ballot play a tremendous role in global affairs, and without the geographical and sociopolitical context that thorough coverage of world news provides us, we are unable to make the informed decisions that are necessary to recognize our role as citizens of a world power.
The solution can’t just be to read more news: we have to read news differently. Following Trump’s election, The New York Times saw a surge in subscriptions. That’s a great start, because it shows that the public does want to be informed. However, that desire hasn’t carried beyond our own nation and personal politics.
We are consumers of journalism, and as consumers we have power to choose what stories are covered. If we start showing more interest in news stories that don’t concern the U.S., those events will be covered more often. As the youth of our society, we should challenge the stereotype of being self-centered Americans and start the trend of making it a priority to be concerned about world issues. By gaining another level of knowledge about world issues, we can contribute to our global community and participate with our opinions about these international affairs.
By tuning into international broadcasts or reading websites such as NPR’s Goats and Soda that inform us about issues unrelated to the U.S., we can end the vicious cycle. Americans who are aware of the important issues in the world, regardless of where those issues take place, will be much better suited to live in an increasingly interconnected planet.
Trump will always have high entertainment value that’s not going to change anytime soon. But news isn’t, or shouldn’t be, solely about entertainment. Sure, get a kick out of Trump’s constant tweets, feuds, and gaffes. Then turn around and take the time to read about something that, though it may be boring and long and not easy to make fun of, will ultimately broaden your understanding of the world and hopefully contribute to global discussions.