The news is hardly about
giving information anymore.
It is about selling clicks.
This is the insight that hit me a few years ago. Back when people paid for paper newspapers, news publications could reasonably provide good content to their paying customers.
The internet, however, changed everything.
Ads are now the primary revenue for news publications. Ads are generated by clicks. And clicks are generated by asking the question “How do we get as many people to click this as possible?”
In light of this, the last decade has been a self-defeating cycle of our society’s relationship with the news. Where all this clicking is creating a culture of toxicity that is divisive, contrarian, and vindictive. It has occurred to me, (and happened in me as well) that our relationship with the news has made me LESS like Jesus, not more, LESS loving and not more, and therefore LESS empowered to change the world around me.
As a result, I believe reading the news with a discerning mind, therefore, is one of the most important skills a Christian should have in their arsenal.
I wanted to take the first stab at answering the question, “How to read the news with a discerning mind”. It has been burning on my heart and mind for some time and I hope this empowers you next time you are scrolling through and want to not be reactive but to be a leader of your own soul.
1. “What emotions is this article trying to evoke?”
Whether we like it or not, the news no longer functions as just distributors of information. Since news moved from paper to the internet, the primary way news publications make money is through ad revenue. Ad revenue is generated by clicks. And clicks are generated by how emotive they can make their articles.
Headlines are not haphazardly generated. On the contrary, they are carefully honed and crafted. If you’ve ever worked in marketing, you will know that potent marketing tactics are to tap into the basest of human emotions.
Fear, worry, flight, anger, interest, survival, instant success, etc. If you scan the headlines of news articles, these are all common emotions targeted by writers of articles in order to generate more clicks. There are entire guides about how to use specific words to evoke into the deepest human emotions to provoke a reaction from readers.
If you have ever felt angry, fearful, sad, even enraged after reading the news. understand that it is done on purpose. Us being triggered is, unfortunately, part of a larger monetization scheme. And it costs you the health of your soul.
Jesus said to guard the eye of our temple. In other words, what we choose to see influences the state of our inner life. To read with a discerning mind, we must ask ourselves, “What emotions is this article trying to evoke?” You cannot guard what you do not understand. Understanding that will prepare you to not be triggered and fall prey to the emotive-ad-revenue tactics that all publications now employ.
2. “What enemies are being made through this article?”
A way that publications generate more clicks is to evoke a sense of tribalism. To convey something as newsworthy, many times articles will name “the other side” as enemies. Whether it’s the president, the other political parties, etc, if you’ve ever felt angry or judgmental at a particular group of people after reading the news, understand that it was done on purpose.
Regardless of what side of anything you stand on, this will be prevalent.
As Christians, we cannot operate on this binary plane of making enemies of “the other”. When reading the news, ask “what enemies are this article trying to create in my heart?” Instead of judging them, see the intention of the division lay there and resist it. Most likely than not, they are not your enemy.
Once published, the writer would have (intentionally or unintentionally) created a thousand enemies of “the other”. Not so with you.
3. “Is the subject of what I’m reading within the area of faithfulness for me?”
When everything is important, nothing is important.
As urgent as the news makes itself out to be, chances are, most of the time, they don’t have much to do with the specific areas of faithfulness that God has called us to.
In fact, being caught up in the news cycle, more often than not, distracts us from the areas of faithfulness God has called each of us to. We are always to hold the larger world in our periphery. But the urgent and emotive news cycle often takes our eyes away from the areas of faithfulness we are actually called to in our families, communities, neighborhoods, etc.
In other words, don’t let the larger scope drown where you have little control over drown out the possibilities of change where you do have control over.
Having seen the intent of the news, how do these questions help you live more faithfully? Let me know in the comments below!