Are you playing a game of hide-and-seek with the news right now? Do you find yourself scrolling past the posts put up by news agencies across social media? If so, this might be the read for you. This article is issued in public interest, to let you know that you aren’t alone.
2020 has been a strange year for so many different reasons. While work/study-from-home has become the norm right now and we sometimes ‘forget’ to take our masks along when we go out, we cannot pretend that anything is normal around here.
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2020 started with a bang – which is now known as COVID-192020 started with a bang – which is now known as COVID-19. I guess this name is more familiar to us than our President’s (it’s Ram Nath Kovind, by the way). Following that, we have been receiving unpleasant news one after the other. To rewind to January: we saw forest fires, a possible breakout of WWIII, riots in the capital, and whatnot. Back then, ‘Corona’ was a deadly virus wiping out China’s population.
The point is that all that was just the calm before the storm. Since then, we have been getting depressing news almost every day. Sorry for reminding you, but we saw many celebrity deaths, a plane crash, the devastations caused by Covid-19, migrant deaths, floods, and so on. Our energy and general mental health have been taking constant bludgeoning, with empaths taking a harder hit.
Our beloved media channels have been hvaing a field day (year) with the sea of content that is now available. The ugly face of ‘sensationalism’ has been thrust upon our faces.
The definition for sensationalism given by the Oxford Learner’s Dictionary is – a way of getting people’s interest by using words that are intended to shock you or by presenting facts and events as worse or more shocking than they really are. Ring any bells?
Malayalis experienced this phenomenon during the 2018 and 2019 floods. We cannot forget how news channels functioned as control rooms, especially during the 2018 floods, with people calling in for help and with help. They played a crucial role in closing the gap between the rescuers and the ones who were stuck, facing death. But along with this, there were also visuals of houses being swept away, of bodies being discovered under landslides and news of the death of people who had maybe called in for help to the same channel a few moments ago. A few of us were stuck in our hostels, like many students at the time. While we were safe, many of our parents, relatives, and friends were not. Every day, we had to see exaggerated visuals of how grave the situation was back at home. Every day, we were glued to the TV, and someone would break down in front of it. Gradually, we just stopped watching the news.
This same coping mechanism is being adopted by a lot of us right now. After the first few months of 2020, many of us are not able to take constant barrage of tragedy. But news channels and newspapers continued to mint out ‘hot news’. Who can forget the debacle after Sushant Singh’s death, that showed a degraded face of the Indian media?!
There are still some journalists like Faye D’Souza and channels like our very own DD Malayalam, who took care to deliver the news like it was. Following the plane crash at Kannur, D’Souza put up a post that read, “The news today is likely to be distressing. If you find yourself feeling very low, please reach out to someone and talk about it before you got to bed tonight”. Some outlets have even started giving trigger warnings for disturbing news. This is a welcome and necessary change.
The bottom line is, we are humans, and we are prone to feeling sorrow and being empathetic. We can adapt to our coping mechanisms and choose to protect our mental health, especially during testing times like these. So skip the news if you do not feel like it. Scroll a bit faster.
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But, this shouldn’t lead to us being unaware of what is going on around us. This is where news outlets should start doing their actual job – start being news outlets and stop being obsessed with increasing their TRP, so that we as a whole can be better informed, without having to stress over newsroom debates and disturbing graphics. It is high time ‘news’ returned to being news.