Students respond to media trends, cite need for awareness

Tuesday, April 7th, 2009

Re: “Mediating Trends”
March 25, 2009

To the editor:
The special focus on the role of media in world issues is very pertinent. The Gazette should revisit this issue regularly. Part of the reason issues fall off the radar screen is because the same story repeats itself in different settings around the world. Yet we fail to notice the pattern and recognize that massive social change is in order everywhere. We tend to find issues more romantic when they are far away rather than in our own backyard. Waking up to this reality will help us to change patterns within ourselves for long-term improvement.

I now cannot forget how my cousin told me of incest in the family, our family, and when she told me I thought I was hearing it for the first time. Then she said that she had told me 10 years ago and I didn’t listen. That shocked me. I realized that I had not been ready to hear her story; I was in denial, even though I knew that this pattern was typical. People telling these stories usually don’t get heard by their family members. I just thought such things didn’t happen in my family. Human rights abuses, poverty and environmental scandals " all of these things happen here in our very own Canada. And these issues are not sexy. No crisis anywhere is sexy. Perhaps we are suffering from the same strange dichotomy as those parents a few generations ago who told their children to eat all that was on their plate because children in Africa are starving. In other words, “It doesn’t happen here, so be grateful.” Meanwhile, there were hungry children in the slum down the street.

Strangely, we have never been more equipped than the present to relay pertinent information to everyone quickly. Why is our communication system failing us? How can the media be better used to solve problems? People would love to hear a good news story from time to time. We know what the problems are " poverty, war, injustice, discrimination, ignorance, the environment. What about headlines like these: “Students take action on global warming,” “London children connect to help underprivileged kids in their own community,” “Mothers say NO to war in Afghanistan” or “World Brotherhood Day at Western unites across ethnic divides in the Middle East.” What would it cost to cover such stories? They do exist. They could seem small; they may be big. Accidents happen every day involving only a few people " homicides, thefts. If 10 people march for peace, that is equally noteworthy. They needn’t necessarily campaign for media attention. The media could scout them out, just as they scout for pernicious incidents. Perhaps people’s appetite for this kind of news could be cultivated. Furthermore, such coverage of ordinary people looking for solutions to ongoing crises could be a very good way to keep an issue current in the media without overwhelming and discouraging the public.
" Celine Poirier
Music IV

To the editor:
As a fourth year political science student, I can say with absolute confidence that the majority of students pay attention (and become enthusiastic about) whatever crisis is dominating the popular news at any given moment.

While some stories gain enough momentum to remain constants like global warming and Darfur, there are fly-by-night causes. For example, how many students do you still hear crying about the monks in Burma or Tibet that were all the rage last year around the time of the Olympics? None. This is what I call bandwagoning: jumping on the latest trendy cause and being overly opinionated without having any real background to support it. We can all feel great about ourselves for turning off our lights for an hour a year or for giving a few dollars to STAND but this isn’t lasting awareness.

Do I have a solution? No, not really. People will react to what they read and then forget about it. I get it. But people shouldn’t get all hot under the collar for the disaster of the month and then forget about it and still claim to be aware. Just because no one is talking about monks in Burma or Tibet anymore doesn’t mean their situation has changed. Can we get up in arms about every last disaster? No. While we are going gaga over the problems in the Sudan, mums the word on the thousands and thousands of people slaughtered in the Congo every month. And if we did hear about it, would people want to boycott cell phone use because of its relationship with the problems in the Congo? Doubtful. Awareness comes from more than keeping up to date on what the newspaper reports.
" Dave Beitelman
Political Science IV

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