Why read the news

It is easy to make fun of journalism as a profession or even claim that “news is bad for you.” But journalists continue working even when the news gets too depressing to cover. They are driven by a purpose, which an editor explained to me in my early days of journalism is to inform and entertain.

To some, however, informing and entertaining are goals that do not provide enough motivation. The right information delivered to the right audience at the right time can be powerful. News can have impact, and to the remaining few journalists it is this “impact” that makes the struggle worthy of the effort.

Such impact, however, is hard to measure. Unless you are working on a story such as the Edward Snowden leaks, it is difficult to find out what kind of impact your story about about jellyfish swimming can have on the real world.

Fortunately, every so often there is a reminder why good journalism is important even if “impact” is not always visible. Consider what Harvard University economist Sendhil Mullainathan wrote in the New York Times on racial bias:

“Even if, in our slow thinking, we work to avoid discrimination, it can easily creep into our fast thinking. Our snap judgments rely on all the associations we have—from fictional television shows to news reports. They use stereotypes, both the accurate and the inaccurate, both those we would want to use and ones we find repulsive.”

We are shaped by the thoughts that surround us. Good journalism plays a vital role in providing those thoughts. So don’t feel too bad about spending some of your time every day reading bite-sized news pieces, even if Mark Zuckerberg would like you to read a book instead. Just make sure that you are selective about the journalism you are reading.

Image credit: pslee999 CC-BY

What one cause do you support?

I never understood the Facebook invites that I get asking me to associate myself to a “cause”. From averting catastrophic climate change to improving women’s plight, there is much to do in this world. But if you truly care about doing something, it helps to focus on a singular cause.

If that cause happens to be pouring more and more money into charity work by being an investment banker, then so be it. But I hope you stick to it.

We all live in a bubble…

…just different ones.

There is only so much information that one can, at any given moment, comprehend and act upon. The inability to appreciate everything around us, along with our human biases, means that all of us end up living in bubbles.

Thus when choosing where you want to be in life, consider which bubble lets you be your best self and allows you to contribute the most to the world. Also, while you are at it, try to always be aware of what bubble you live in.