The News, and How to Read it

Today I was listening to Morning Edition on NPR, an interview with an outgoing UN Minister whose job it is to oversee the UN’s humanitarian missions. Mostly, the interview was about conditions in Darfur, but at one point the reporter asked whether the minister ever felt that he was doing a hopeless job, given what was going on there. The Minister (whose name I never heard) replied that no, having discussed it with his staff, he felt that the world is a much better place in 2006 than in 2003.

I thought, how could that be? – thinking of course of all that we read in the news about Iraq, Iran, Israel, Palestine, Lebanon, etc. He went on to explain, describing how much conditions had improved in many African countries and giving a wide variety of examples. Then he said that where the UN had failed in its mission to protect the people was mainly in Iraq, Afghanistan, and Darfur – in which conditions had gotten much worse. I pondered this and realized that he had a much more global vision of the world than I did from our media. And from his perspective, many areas were improving. Many times I have heard that the US media treats certain Middle East issues as the be-all and end-all of world news, when to many other countries there is much more going on of interest.

I say this partly because the Iraqi situation is so disheartening and there seems no good solution. Every day we hear on the radio and read on the newspaper of the horrific attacks that constantly occur. Similarly, the Afghani president was moved to tears in trying to explain to the world community about all the children that are dying there due to insurgents and military action. This is all, ALL, we hear about – and we are helpless to prevent it, short of voting all the idiots out of office – and it may be far too late for that to really help.

So what is this post really about? First, that there is more to the news than what we constantly get barraged with. Listen to NPR, get an Internet feed from an international newspaper of good repute, and see what the rest of the world is talking about and preoccupied with. You might be surprised at how it’s not all about the Middle East (and it makes you wonder how we ever got in the position of our news BEING all about the Middle East).

Second, when life gets difficult and the news gets overwhelming, I like to play a little game with the newspaper. This is about putting things in balance. I think our media adds a lot of stress to our lives in ways that are subliminal – we constantly hear about all kinds of horrible things we can’t affect. Like much of the rest of life, we need to become more aware of the good things all around us. When even the UN commissioner in charge of humanitarian missions sees the world in a more positive way than most Americans, something is wrong.

So, here is the challenge – go through today’s newspaper and find three good things reported on. Post them here in a comment for everyone to see. They could be local, state, global, personal, anything at all. First you will see how hard it is to find anything – media bias in reporting, anyone? That just means we have to work all the harder to balance the constant barrage of negative images with some positive light. Not as a way of burying our heads in the sand, but to reduce the stress and realize that there are good things going on out there – and we could do more to support them.

Here are mine for the day (Tacoma News Tribune, Dec 12, 2006):

– Front page reporting on a community pilot project in Tacoma pairing at-risk communities, police officers and code inspectors to shut down drug houses, enforce code violations, clean up messes and eyesores, reduce violent crime and burglary, increase street lighting, and improve community morale. Four areas of the city were selected for the pilot project, which was by all accounts very successful – so much so that the city is planning to extend it into more neighborhoods next year.

– Republicans left a variety of spending bills unfinished in Congress this year, and the incoming chairmen in both the House and Senate are busily stripping out every single earmarked “pork” projects from the spending bills in preparation for passing them early next year. Finally, some common sense. Not that I think one party is any better at this than the other, but thankfully someone’s taking a stand on this, in spite of the fact that it will make many, many congressmen unhappy to lose their pet projects.

– I continue to be very happy with our Washington State governor, Chris Gregoire. We’ve had large budget surpluses recently, and her priorities for spending it have been the environment, improving math and science education, and changing the state constitution to set aside a large proportion of it for years when the economy is not so good (something the current financial structure does not allow for). And she came down hard on local pharmacies that refused to carry the morning after pill, canceling state purchasing contracts with those groceries and pushing the state pharmacy board to require pharmacists to fill all legally written prescriptions. Go Chris!

Let’s see what you’ve got!!

(this will be a little test to see if anyone actually reads a blog this long!)

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5 thoughts on “The News, and How to Read it

  1. Judith B says:

    Yes, I read your blog . . . but I quit reading newspapers years ago! Will see what I can find over the next couple days.

  2. Coppermoon says:

    Our tiny local, once a week paper doesn’t deal at all with national or world issues – this makes it very refreshing and fun to read.

    1. The Tour of Homes went well.
    2. Food boxes have been packed for the Angel Tree
    3. Patrons can bring canned food instead of paying fines for overdue library books

    … if the government has us in a state of constant fear, we won’t do anything important like questioning their motives.
    I love your blog, in particular this post –

  3. Moonchild says:

    I should not even write here, because I could rant for days! I haven’t read more than a handful of newspapers in the past decade. Well, I used to pick up USA Today for the football news, but I don’t commute past that newstand anymore.
    You say go through today’s paper, so I’m trying to decide which paper, and I’m going to go and look.
    OK–NZZ–Neue Zurcher Zeitung http://www.nzz.ch
    Top three front page stories: 1) Satan on the loose.
    2) Government gives approval for the Zurich electric company to put in fiberoptiks and go into the telecom business.
    3) Swiss handball team lost against Egypt in Cairo.
    Top three in the English window:
    1) Swiss foreign investment surges ahead
    2) Swiss conductor acquitted of sect killings
    3) Tough naturalisation laws come under fire

    Want good news? Try HeroicStories.
    http://www.heroicstories.com

  4. Moonchild says:

    What a coincidence. Look what I just got in my mailbox:
    http://www.freepress.net/conference/

  5. Hey… I like that heroicstories idea – that’s exactly the kind of thing I’m talking about. We need an antidote to the major newspapers. I’m signing up!

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