I’m a guy who likes reading the news. Most of the time.
Now that I’m a Dad with a newborn, I spend a lot of time at home with news on in the background. I’m obscenely up to date with matters that aren’t really any of my business.
But I think there’s a lot that the news doesn’t do particularly well.
This was clear to me during the last federal election. Many people in my community – smart, educated, well-intentioned people – had switched off completely from the news and vital political issues that would directly affect them. The 24 hours news cycle was too much. It was overwhelming and depressing. They couldn’t be bothered keeping up. They consciously disconnected to save themselves.
This was in the same year that Brexit happened. And Trump. And we ended up with an Australian Senate with more extreme voices than anyone had ever really expected.
I think there’s a link. People are simultaneously overwhelmed and unsatisfied. They want change. They like being righteous on social media, but they don’t know where else to put their energy.
Plus, the real issues are usually too inscrutable, and it’s embarrassing to admit that you don’t know what a Medicare levy is, or where North Korea is on a map, or why a plebiscite isn’t a medical cream.
There’s a 24 hour news cycle. But I don’t think you have to stay up to date with it to be an informed citizen. In fact, the thing that makes headlines on Monday might not matter on a Friday. But it’s hard to know what really matters if you only tune in once every couple of days. If you do that often enough, it’s too easy to become overwhelmed, and convince yourself that armageddon is just around the corner.
I was lucky. I was an angry young man and I found the right mentor at the right time. My friend Michael Gurr handed me an issue of The Monthly and told me to read it. He taught me a lot about politics. He told me that being angry was good, but being informed and angry is better. In fact, in the long-term, nothing beats the people who are reasonably informed. That’s what the democratic process is built upon.
In 2017, Michael passed away. In many ways, this blog is for him.
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I believe most people are rational and smart. If you communicate a story in a straight-forward, compelling way, you empower the reader to take action – even if it’s just voting with more knowledge at the next election. The success of Western civilisation in the 21st century will be measured by how we used the internet as a tool to educate and empower. Slow News Weekly exists to help inform citizens who want to know about the world in practical, clear terms. I hope it’s of some service.
–David Burton, August 2017