When is something newsworthy? The definition has broadened as the media has. Once upon a time, newsreaders would announce that ‘there is no news today’. Imagine. Unthinkable.
Two stories this week made me wonder. They were both small tragedies: the deaths of two people in mundane circumstances – one doing their job, another walking down a street.
Do I need to know?
The knee-jerk reaction to the idea that these deaths might be irrelevant to me is to call me callous. How can you not care? Are you so numb to the world that you can’t empathise with another’s pain? No.
I can empathise. I can fully inhabit the horror of what those close to these tragedies must feel in their own selves. If I turn my mind to it, these stories can cause me pain. Compassion is alive. But what is the function of these stories?
News to make you care
Is news there just to help us to care? Is that why we read it, in order to improve our empathy? I’m not absolutely sure. I suspect there is a compulsive quality to being informed of all the tragedy in the world.
Some tragedies no doubt have wider relevance. Terrorism reveals political and social conflict. Major accidents might reveal organizational chaos. Huge natural phenomena are significant beyond the destruction they cause.
But much of our news is now filled by stories of everyday tragedy. It tells of people suffering terrible losses that are, nonetheless, common ones. Tragedy strikes every day, somewhere on Earth.
All adults understand this
We have the capacity to know and accept that the world is full of good events and bad ones. Is it really necessary to pore over every single bad one that occurs?
Talking of new media we don’t need, Are You A Smartphone Addict?