New News and Old News

Ukraine’s President Zelensky is worried. That might sound like the understatement of the year, given Putin’s invasion and destruction of his country.  

But the worry I’m talking about is one that Zelensky expressed in a recent interview with NBC’s Richard Engel. President Zelensky is worried about you and me, average Americans. He is worried that our support for Ukraine’s war of survival against Putin is waning.  

When Ukraine was first invaded by Russian forces on February 24th and in the days to follow, pictures of that horror seemed to be all that we could see on news channels.       

What a difference a few months can make in what constitutes “the news.” If you are a news junkie like me who regularly watches the evening news, think back over the past few weeks and compare the number of stories you’ve seen on rising gas prices or rising inflation with the number of stories on the ongoing war in Ukraine. 

Zelensky obviously has a right to be worried. While the US has correspondents and reporters positioned around the world, ready to cover any crisis that might arise, the reality is that news editors present the stories that their research tells them the American public are interested in. 

Zelensky’s problem is the same one facing the people of Afghanistan, Myanmar, Hong Kong, and Syria.  The average American would hardly know it, but each of these countries continues to experience crisis after crisis and horrific suffering.  Unfortunately, because these crises are ongoing, they fall into the category of “old news.”  

If nations can have “attention-deficit-disorder,” America is one of those countries. We are addicted to the “new” in the news, not the most important or consequential events and issues. The irony is that Americans and most Europeans can watch news literally around the clock, but instead of twenty-four hours of news from around the world, those programs are more likely to repeat the same stories every half-hour or hour.  

One of the assignments that college professors give to students in their majors is called the “deep dive.”  In this assignment, the student conducts research that digs down below the surface treatment of an issue to uncover the hidden or yet-to-be-disclosed elements of that issue. The deep dive requires time and perseverance, but the feeling of “I’m beginning to see what’s really going on with this issue” is exhilarating for the student.  

Of course, a person doesn’t have to be a college student to do a “deep dive” into one of our world’s current crises. All anyone has to have is access to the internet and a bit of curiosity. If you would like to give a deep dive a go, let me suggest that you conduct a search on the internet for what is happening and has been recently happening in Kabul, Afghanistan; Kiev, Ukraine; Hong Kong; Myanmar; or Damascus, Syria.  Go beyond what is happening at the surface to what life is like for ordinary people like ourselves.  In that way, we won’t just know more; we will feel more.  

Granted, no one can pay attention to everything, but that doesn’t mean we have to live with a shallow understanding of our world. Although I am guilty of mixing metaphors in what I write next, I would express the matter this way. Our minds don’t have to be stones that skip over the surface of things; our minds can be shovels that dig down to the treasures hidden beneath.