The New York Times is delivered directly to our dorms, along with several other student publications that cater specifically to students, this publication included.
Additionally, we are bombarded with 24/7 cable news outlets, twitter feeds, blogs and all sorts of online news mediums. It is very easy to want to turn our heads and ignore the daily bombardment of news. It is overwhelming, it makes us anxious and it often shows us things to which we would rather be ignorant.
Even when we choose not to ignore the news, we tend to passively absorb it or pass it off by way of email, retweets or Facebook shares. Though sharing news that is important to us can help generate more awareness around a particular issue, it is not actively engaging the news. So, what does ‘actively engaging’ actually mean?
If something in the news captures your interest, do further research. A news article is a brief overview of the pertinent facts, but reporters can never tell the whole story in a few hundred words.
Finding additional stories and sources will provide alternate perspectives on whatever issue you are reading about, which is especially important when it comes to hotly-debated issues. Readers are quick to complain about bias in the news without being willing to do the research to determine their own opinions.
Once you have a nuanced understanding of a current event that you feel strongly about, do something to either support it or change it. If you are concerned about housing shortages and homelessness issues in New York, take action. You can address the immediate symptoms of the housing crisis by helping out at a homeless shelter. You can work for an advocacy group that lobbies for housing reform and affordable rent as a way to address underlying issues. Finding an issue that you are passionate about, following it in the news and taking action is arguably what being a college student is all about.
Perhaps one of the most powerful, but least used methods of engaging the news is through government. Debating politics with your friends may be stimulating, but it does nothing to change the issues about which you are arguing. If you are upset about Washington’s neglect of immigration reform, call your local representative or email your senator. Congressmen and Congresswomen take voters who are clearly educated on current issues seriously, and your time spent contacting them may have far more power than you think.
In addition to lobbying officials that are already in office, you should engage the news before casting your vote in the upcoming midterm elections. This does not mean just reading about the campaigns themselves — the slanderous campaign ads, the astronomical budgets and the staged press opportunities. It means taking those issues in the news that interest or anger you, and researching the candidates’ voting records on them.
Actively engaging the news is more than reading and goes further than comprehending. It takes obtaining a nuanced understanding, taking action and allowing it to impact your daily life and activities to truly say you are engaged with the news. Reading the news is important, but engaging it is what really matters.