Opinion: Our Attention to the News is Selective


Media by Liza Cooper via Apple News

Most of the popular stories in my News app should not be trending. A story about a celebrity wedding is never going to be more important than reporting on the war crimes being committed in Ukraine.

As a journalist, I believe news should be relevant, timely and unbiased. But most of all, I believe news must be important. 

Opening the News app on my phone usually disappoints me. The most popular stories most likely contain information concerning celebrities, internet trends or lists of funny memes or tweets.

Sure, reading quick articles about Kim Kardashian’s latest fashion look or the current top Tiktok trend has a certain appeal: it is something to read without thinking too hard. Since just being an American comes with some of the highest stress levels in the world, fun distractors from our everyday lives, like these articles, are embraced.

But that news isn’t important. Important news moves people and inspires them to do something. 

One of the biggest problems facing our planet today is the atrocious war crimes being committed by Russia against Ukraine. TV broadcasts, news podcasts and articles convey the pain of the people of Ukraine and the unendurable suffering they are experiencing.

Yet, most of us turn a blind eye, which is made possible by our past actions. Consistently reading or watching the same type of stories on social media can set up echo chambers, or environments where a person only sees information that reflects their own opinions or preferences. So if a person continues to gravitate towards mindless, entertaining “news”, that is most likely what they will view when they open their social media accounts.

I get that it can be hard to see, hear and think about topics like war and death. But it has to be done. Journalism is a major way people connect, and if we don’t pay attention to what’s important, we sever that connection.

By not watching and reading stories about significant events in our local and global communities, we are isolating those in need. The more attention a dire situation receives, the more help, whether it be financial or emotional, the people in that situation receive as well. 

The people in Ukraine need our help. They are hungry and tired and have probably seen things that no one should ever see. Even though we are oceans apart, just watching and listening to their stories is one of the most crucial things we could do for them. If they just knew how many people are heartbroken with them and cheering them on, it would make a world of difference.

But we can’t do that if we only concentrate on news that is not important. Putting up a mental shield against things that bother us can be convenient, but it is not the right thing to do.