The Opinion of the Smoke Signal Editorial Board
When we tune into the media today, we’re often greeted by a deluge of headlines ranging from the latest COVID-19 developments to obituaries of domestic terrorism’s latest victims. With the Internet at our fingertips and rapid news cycles publishing stories at magnitudes we’ve never seen before, it is easy to become desensitized to news that matters. Stories with human consequences like natural disasters and mass shootings become diluted over time and begin turning into mere headlines and numbers. Simultaneously, it becomes increasingly taxing to constantly keep up with the news. Eventually, we may begin to dismiss the significance of events that don’t directly relate to us, although they may have far-reaching implications.
Desensitization to tragedies isn’t something that happens overnight: it’s a byproduct of years of media consumption, which means there’s no quick and easy solution to reverse the impacts it has had on us. However, this reversal is necessary in helping us become less complacent and more action-oriented towards positive change in response to devastating news. If we take steps towards humanizing these tragedies, we can become more aware of the severity of worldwide issues and channel our energy into combating them.
As readers, we have a responsibility to seek news that dives deeper than just the statistics and bare-bone facts of an event or issue. By actively looking for sources that bring the event or issue to life through discussions with experts in the field, interviews with actual victims of the situation, and pictures of the issue, we can gain a more qualitative understanding of the news’ impact. This practice will help us empathize with victims, making us more likely to not just stop at the story but sign petitions, donate to the cause, or take other helpful action for tangible change. We must investigate beyond the short blurbs we see on social media or on news apps and take to Google to find more in-depth sources. These sources can vary based on the issue at hand, but in general, National Geographic and the In News series by BBC News are platforms to find relevant photographs and the Associated Press has detailed articles that reference experts and primary sources.
We also have a responsibility to expand our horizons beyond news that directly impacts us — this means engaging with news from across the country and world. When news sites observe that fewer readers interact with news not related to the US, they tend to cut these articles to the bare facts, which reduces disasters, strikes, and deaths to mere statistics. This in turn makes it harder for readers to empathize with the people affected and makes it less likely that they’ll engage with international news, creating a vicious cycle where important world happenings drift out of view. To end this cycle, we must start taking time to look beyond our city, county, and even country, increasing engagement with diverse coverages and pushing media to properly cover international news.
By being more active and engaged readers, we can begin to resensitize ourselves to tragedies in the media and push news sources to increase the depth for such coverages.
As a news organization, the Smoke Signal recognizes the need for community-driven news. From nuanced local story angles to human interest pieces, our mission is to serve our readership and community. If anything, we hope that our work helps you reconnect with the stories you care about.