Today’s news was not good. To be honest, watching the news is never a happy affair but the news of another mass shooting in the US was on loop on breakfast TV this morning and the grief, incomprehension and pain was almost palpable.
To be honest I’m not a fan of watching the news – I find it all a bit force fed, very subjective and never really very relevant….
For example a couple of weeks ago I switched on the TV and caught a tragic story on the National News about a young girl who had been killed by her horse near Sydney. It was so sad and must have been absolutely devastating to her family and friends. But it got me to wondering why this had made national news, why the poor girl’s family home was surrounded by press and reporters and why it was considered headline material. It was a terrible accident and it seems to me that no amount of reporting of what happened could help heal the family or prevent something similar happening again. Parading the grief and awfulness of the situation seemed to have no purpose – and this happens daily, if not hourly on our TV and computer screens.
The top results of a simple google search for ‘news’ brings up an almost ridiculous mix of tragic accidents, gutter scandal pieces and breaking celebrity style shockers (she did NOT wear that on TV?) with very little to be very happy about. Although our boys are still way too young to understand what is being said, I’m in no doubt that they understand the images, the body language and the emotions evoked through TV reporting. And as they get older it’s going to be a topic that worries me more and more. Of course I want them to be educated about what is happening in the world and the important issues of the day, but I’m getting more and more convinced this isn’t what is getting delivered through our media.
Sensationalism seems to replace sense on a daily basis but as a society we’ve probably only got ourselves to blame. We are addicted to reality TV shows where people are thrust into unrealistic settings so we can watch them have overemotional reactions to outrageous scenarios. Somehow the ‘out of the ordinary’ lifestyle has become the coveted experience and we are addicted to window shopping in other people’s (really fake) lives. And it’s the same TV channels that air these shows that are also responsible for reporting our news – we can’t really blame them for thinking they know what we want to watch – I suppose ratings not refinement is their main game.
There seems to have evolved a very uneasy global and local feeling in our society – people are scared to travel, to fly, to go out after dark, to talk to strangers. And yet I wonder if we pulled statistics on this kind of thing would these fears be at all rational? I fear not.
We need to raise our kids in a culture where they see a stranger as an ally and not a threat. 99.9% of strangers are people like me and you – our closest friends, partners and neighbours were all once strangers and there’s many more out there worth meeting. Is it any wonder that our kids are becoming reclusive screen hoggers – limited socially not only in their personalities but also in their physical reach – when we are telling them consciously and sub-consciously on a daily basis that the world is a very scary place. Is it really that bad? I say no – and we need to make changes in what we want to see and hear.
Yes the iPad is probably a safer option than riding your bike round the neighbourhood and living in a padded cell is probably a safer option than travelling the world but is it really living? It also seems like one of those self perpetuating problems – increasing ‘safe’ screen time for our kids is also increasing their exposure to these ‘real life’ news stories which have very little representation of the lives they are likely to experience. Is it any wonder that 3 million Australians are living with depression and anxiety? (source – Beyond Blue website). If we subscribed to what matters on our local news reports then tragedy and devastation are just around the corner. I’m of course not saying that this is the reason for the enormous mental health issues we are seeing worldwide today – it is a hugely complex issue with no simple answers, but you can’t help but wonder what effect our exposure to all this bad news has on our collective emotional soul.
So what can we do? I would LOVE to switch on the news and hear real stories from our community. Real stories about real life and the really good things that happen to people on a daily basis. Real things that are kids can aspire to and stories that should be important to everyone but somehow get forgotten about. Real life things that will sound boring and completely un-newsworthy as we have become used to taking them for granted. Tell me how many beautiful babies were born this week at our local hospital to start their amazing journey in our wonderful world. I want to hear who got married, who adopted a baby, who just started fostering children, who adopted a stray animal from the shelter, what random act of goodness did someone do today for one of those dangerous strangers? Show me day to day developments in this amazing town and country that we live in – there’s a new swimming pool, a new entertainment complex, a new theatre – fill our screens with pictures of their progress and get our community excited about their completion. Show work from our local artists. Play us a piece on the local news of one of our school’s bands or local musicians. The possibilities are endless.
I’m not really daft enough to think this could ever happen but there’s no reason we can’t do it in our own lives. So today my 9 o’clock news will consist of the following:
- In breaking news the whole household slept for 7 hours straight last night – a mammoth achievement – well done to everyone involved
- We made a grand total of 14 sandcastles at the park today – a new family record
- For lunch we ate homegrown pumpkin – how bloody lucky are we that we live not only in a country where food is fresh and affordable but we also have the perfect conditions to grow our own
- We made the invitations to little man’s 1st birthday party today – it’s going to be a fabulous party and we get to celebrate one whole year of fun times
- In exciting International and National news – both sets of grandparents have booked trips for their next visits – the countdown begins!
These are the fundamental things that matter. Family. Health. Community. Fun. Let’s teach our kids to be grateful and excited about the everyday, the mundane, yes – the boring – and hopefully they will learn to love, and not fear, this big, beautiful, wonderful world that we live in.
What will your 9 O’Clock news be today?