It is no secret that the state of U.S. politics is alarming at the best of times. However, we need to be questioning the way that and volume at which international news sources are reporting on this topic, not just the content they are reporting on. When reading a news source, be it a website, newspaper, or magazine, there will be at least one headline about Donald Trump and his bizarre antics.
Of course, this could be because the U.S. is one of the world’s greatest “superpowers,” or it could be because there has been such a dramatic shift in the government’s values and goals over the past year. But, when you consider what most of headlines about the U.S. are about, it almost always leads back to political scandal and misconduct. This begs the question: are people really interested in U.S. politics, or are they more interested in the sensationalized headlines?
That’s not to say that what is happening in U.S. politics is not worth the news coverage. We clearly need to talk about the recurrent White Supremacist rallies, the cuts to Planned Parenthood, the ban of transgender people joining the military, and the many other terrifying changes in policy.
The issue lies more in how these problems become overshadowed by the sensationalized coverage of President Trump’s tweets, his political incorrectness, and his general misconduct. For example, the “covfefe” tweet drew the attention not just of social media users but also of the BBC, The New York Times, the Washington Post, and many other credible news sources — all of who wrote articles on what “covfefe” could mean, and the way the tweet reflected Trump’s already well-documented incompetence.
Though the coverage of this humorous mistake may seem harmless, take into consideration the fact that on the same day the tweet was posted and reported on — May 31, 2017 — 80 people were killed in a terrorist attack in Kabul.
As educated readers, we really need to be asking ourselves why we are more likely to recall the U.S. President fumbling around on social media rather than 80 people being killed in a truck bomb attack in the Middle East. It could be because we live in North America and therefore our news relates more to the events occurring on our continent, or you could make the excuse that attacks occur in the Middle East all the time and so it’s difficult to keep track of one more deadly explosion.
Regardless of the reason why we remember some news stories more than others, we need to be more critical about what news stories draw our attention. The “covfefe” tweet is just one example in which Trump’s lack of filter has overshadowed more important matters. On a domestic scale, the actual problems the U.S. is facing — such as gun violence and the opiate crisis — seemingly become buried behind the President’s reputation.
If we focus solely on U.S. news, we also run the risk of isolating ourselves from the rest of the world. As a result, our opinions and knowledge about the state of international relations are more likely to be biased or misinformed.
In a world that relies so heavily on globalization, it is our responsibility as individuals to educate ourselves about what is happening around the world. However, it is also the responsibility of international news outlets to cover pressing stories from all countries equally — not just based on how entertaining or shocking a story is, but also the long term impacts an event will have on international relations.
Though it is tempting to follow U.S. politics closely, we cannot ignore the problems other countries are facing. In the past few weeks alone, Zimbabwe’s military took control of the country, forcing the old president out of power and inaugurating a new president. In Egypt, 300 people were killed in an attack at a mosque. In Syria, 23 people were killed by attacks carried out by the Syrian government. These are only a handful of stories largely overshadowed by the immense coverage of Donald Trump.
Although what the media covers is largely out of our control, we can take steps to educate ourselves and think more critically about what we are reading. Checking multiple news sources will provide you with various perspectives on a story and more in-depth information. It’s important that we develop our evaluation skills when reading the news so we retain the facts that really matter.
Though it may be tempting to focus on news that is entertaining in the moment, try to keep in mind that what is news today could make history tomorrow.