Does the public need a guide to the news?

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Image (C) Ryan Ebert
 
If you share the same mindset as staff at this particular award-winning PR agency then chances are you’re something of a news hound, meaning from print to broadcast any source of information is of interest, even if it’s only for a few minutes before realising that specific outlet isn’t really worth spending much  time on. As such you’ll already understand the meaning of data overload.
It’s a subject that has been dwelled on for some time- what is the impact of instant information, from an endless number of sources, on our brain function and perspective? Is it possible to form reasonable opinions and truly educate yourself when there are innumerable 24-hour rolling news channels screaming out at once? And how are people expected to navigate the endless wilderness of online when national, regional, local, hyper local, niche, specialist, consumer, B2B, fan or enthusiast-run titles all vie for attention across a saturated landscape made possible thanks to the comparatively low digital publishing overheads?
According to modern philosopher and author Alain de Botton, the problem warrants a full manual to prevent consumers from falling foul of the potential pitfalls. News- A User’s Guide is the latest book from the acclaimed (not to mention best-selling scribe), and (amongst other things) proposes that the news should be more opinionated in order for people to grasp what’s actually going on. So, rather than simply attempting to convey statistical evidence and leaving it up to the masses to interpret those how they see fit, we should be given an insight on how the media outlet feels about the subject.
The work picked up a mixed review in The Guardian’s literary pages as a result. A subject such as the media, and how to analyse and dissect the media successfully so as not to wind up believing Britain purchased a one way ticket to hell at some point in its history, requires evidence and fact. Editors look for those assets when attempting to compile the ‘list of what people should know’, meaning we need the same in order to disarm and better understand the context of those figures.
In contrast de Botton punts for a more philosophical, mused route to the conclusions, which is unsurprising given his background but perhaps not fit for purpose. Ultimately, though, it does bring about a more serious issue in terms of media education. Once maligned as a subject, from a public relations perspective it seems abundantly clear that there are numerous benefits in helping people digest and form opinions based on the information they are fed. We constantly look to work alongside media outlets in order to secure client coverage, and as such have an insider’s view on how things work, and refresh our knowledge on a daily basis. Were it not for this, though, the media landscape would be far less mapped out, and the minor details- wherein the proverbial devil so frequently hides- may not be quite so apparent. In short, although we’re unconvinced by the aforementioned approach, nobody will be shocked to learn we advocate some form of guidance when it comes to understanding the media, not to mention dealing with its many guises. After all, it’s our job.