The Press: Non-Essential for Our Lives

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According to Robert J. Haiman's Best Practices for Newspaper Journalists, Americans believe freedom of press is essential, but at the same time they say the press has too much freedom (71-3).

I say that alot of time and thought is spent arguing over the power of the press and media.  I tired of hearing people say how essential journalists are to our lives: finding governement scandals, reporting the news, investigating problems for us....yada yada yada...blah blah blah. 


Newspapers and their journalists are not essential to our lives.  Newspapers are about as essential as toilet paper.  It's convenient, but you can do without it.  How often do you see people complaining about toilet paper?




Any time there is a military coup, the free press is the first target. Whoever controls the flow of information controls the minds of the people.

Are you talking about newspapers or just the media in general? If you're just talking about newspapers, I can see your point. It's true that people are depending on print media less and less. However, newspapers' successors, television and the Internet, certainly hold a lot of sway. As more and more news publications develop an online presence, I don't think you can say that their influence is going away. Just imagine if we didn't have newspapers, TV, or the Internet--how would anybody learn about anything going on outside of their local area? Even in their local area, it would be hard to know everything that's going on, and rumors would easily take the place of truth. Because news publications, in print or online, are the part of society designated to weed out the truth and determine facts from fiction, I would say they are pretty essential. As Dr. Jerz said, where we get our information determines how we think and how we conduct our lives. We get our info from somewhere, even if it's not in the traditional newspaper format. So while actual newspapers you can hold in your hands may be dying out, news media in general certainly is not.

Josie Rush said:

I agree with Matt and Dr. Jerz. Some kind of news is necessary or else we're all confined to our own bubbles. Sometimes I want to know what's going on in other countries, and as I do not have any friends currently residing in Japan for example, I count on the news to let me know what's up there. Really basic information would be hard to discover, as well. Just as Matt points out, even things in our own towns would take longer to become known.
Though, like you, I get tired of all the complaint about the press. I think the public needs to take responsibility for their viewing/reading habits. Stop buying trash, and people will stop selling it.

Jeanine O'Neal said:

My point is that everyone gets are argumentative over newspapers when news papers are unessential to our lives.

All the online blogs, articles, and the Haiman book we are reading argue over the problems of journalism. The groups of people Haiman interviewed for his book all seemed frustrated over the bad news that newspapers and the media puts out there (like invasiion of privacy issues, borderline defemation of character, etc.).

What I wonder is why people get so fired up about something so unessential to their lives. You DON'T NEED THE NEWS TO BREATH! You don't need the news to eat, to sleep, to start a fire, to boil your water, slaughter cows for food and sheer sheep for wool.

If people stopped for a minute and thought about the basics of life, their lives would be so much simpler. If they didn't constantly worry about what's going on around them and focussed on the day to day life, their lives would be simpler. (Maybe lonelier, but simpler).

If you argue with me about this, I suggest reading "Walden" first.

Hmmm...well, I haven't read Walden (it's on my list, hopefully I'll get to it over break), but I'll take a stab at a response.
Say there's a really destructive hurricane coming to hit your house, and you have no media telling you that it's coming. Without this information, you might not read into the signs of the environment, and the hurricane would take away all your food, shelter, etc.
We may not need the news to eat, but if the news tells us a certain food has been discovered to have some kind of poisonous chemical in it, it helps us survive. Not very many people slaughter their own cows for food, so if these cows have mad cow disease, they need some sort of outlet that lets them know about that.
Back when the public was first starting to learn about AIDS, they needed the truth so they would know what they could do to prevent the spread of that disease. Without the media, it would have become very easy for people to just believe the rumors that it was a "gay disease" and only affected certain people.
We don't really live in a society where important information is just spread by word of mouth anymore. For better or worse, we're much more isolated from each other than cultures of the past, so I would argue that news outlets do provide an essential service to the expanded, much more global communities of contemporary life. While news outlets do provide much unnecessary information, there are certain things they communicate that significantly impact people's basic needs for survival.

Jeanine O'Neal said:

Well spoken Matt. You haven't convinced me completely that we need newspapers and media. I mean, if you look at the cavemen, they didn't have newspapers. They learned from observation and word of mouth. As you said, word of mouthsource are generally unreliable anymore and rare to find.

Unfortunately, we live in a society where people don't take the time to observe their environment and learn for themselves. Therefore, those people, I suppose, need news for the survival reasons you mentioned.

So now, I'll direct this rant towards those people (so if this is mean I don't mean you Matt).

These people complain about news sources (and journalists), how they present their information, how they write the article, and how they gather information. If you (Matt) are correct and news media does provide some sort of survival service, why the hell are these people complaining!?!? The news is helping make their lives better.

In conclusion, I said the media is unessential to life because I was tired of people complaining about what the news media does (because its not pertinent afterall). Following Matt's comment, I see that the media can offer some CONVENIENT peices of survival information, but they are not NECESSARY. People, in general, need to just stop complaining about what journalists and the media do. Either they are helping you by giving you the survival infomation, or the news is so meaningless to life that you shouldn't even worry about it.

Josie Rush said:

I completely agree that it is annoying to hear the constant complaining about the news, Jeanine. However, I don't agree that news is either meaningless or granting information necessary for survival. We don't live in a world where people just focus on the basics, unfortunately. Yeah, it would be a lot better if we did, we could spend more time thinking about things that really mattered, however the hard truth of the matter is that world does not exist in American society. To function in society, a person needs to know what's going on around him/her. We can't say that the news isn't essential because it doesn't pertain to the basic needs of life (eating, sleeping, shelter, whatever), because our lives are not just concerned with those things. Our lives, for better or worse, contain so much more, and we need to be able to function accordingly.

AprilMinerd said:

This is my reflection:
I've read parts of Walden: It was okay. I’m more of an Emerson fan, myself. Perhaps, Jeanine, you refuse to give news precedence because you hold more respect for the world Thoreau suggests than the reality of our own (which Josie nicely put into perspective). And I am with you on that note. As a society we have spun ourselves into a web of artificial "need" that shows no immediate signs of reverting back to more frugal or conscientious days.
I am willing to bet you have a cell phone, though. Right? Cell phones are perfect examples of “convenience” turned “necessity.” From your very own definition of need, cell phones are not essential. You certainly can’t shear a sheep with one. (Then again, if there was a market for it…“Time to shorn your sheep? There’s an App for that!).) But, say, you’re out driving and blow a tire on a most forsaken stretch of road and your Blackberry is conveniently displaying only one signal bar. Right about now, the verbal battery of Verizon commences with colorful ideas about what they can do with their “Network.” We’ve inflicted dependency upon ourselves. When the options are phone for a ride or beat-feet towards home, you need that cell phone to do everything Verizon vowed it would. After all, people don’t stroll down the highway – unless they’re hitchin’. Thoreau may have walked the edge of Walden Pond contemplating it all; but today people won’t walk half the length of Wal-Mart parking lot, they’d rather wait 20 min. for someone to load-up their grocery-getter just to get the first space after the handicaps.
The necessity of news comes from different life-demands and expectations.

Jeanine O'Neal said:

Yes, April, you are right. I prefer the simple life that Thoreau presented.

I have a cell phone, but I don't want it. The only reason I have it is because my mother bought it for me. She is worried about my safety and wanted to be able to contact me in case of an emergency. I hate the phone. The only messages I do get from people are people who text at 3 in the morning complaining about how miserable their lives are. I don't want to talk to them. My theory is, if they want to communicate with me so badly, they would come to visit. They know where I live. We don't need cell phones.

For that matter, my cell phone is a crappy T-Mobile one and the only features it has are the ability to text and call. I hate technology and what it does to us. In my little apartment I have no phone, no cable, and no internet. And I'm content that way (I'd be more content if my mother would take the cell phone back).

And, I am like Thoreau in that I park at the end of the Wal-Mart parking lot to walk to the store. Unlike Thoreau, I have a car. Once again, this is my mother's doing. She hates the idea of walking.

So, with that in mind, you see that I prefer simplistic ways of living. I know most people don't want that type of simple life. That's fine. But if they are going to complain about the conveniences and luxuries they have, then I'm going to complain about those people right back.

People should be happy with those things that make life convenient. Matt is right in pointing out ways newspapers are convenient. So, if people are going to complain about newspapers (a convenience rather than a necessity) then they need a reality check.

If a child throws a fit as he's opening his Christmas present because it wasn't the color ball he wanted, people would say that child is spoiled (and a brat). Well, people who complain about newspapers (a luxury just like a toy is a luxury) then they are spoiled brats too.

Matt Henderson said:

Hi Jeanine,
I think we could pretty much go on forever debating this, but I just have one last point to add to the discussion:
While it's true that in many ways news media are a luxury, I don't really agree with your comparison that people who complain about the news media are like spoiled children who whine about not getting a toy they want. They may not be the basic essentials to life, but I don't really see what's wrong with wanting to hold our news sources accountable and make them better. I believe humanity should evolve; we shouldn't just accept the basic needs of life and not try to achieve anything else. We should try to realize our highest potential, and one of the ways we do this is through constructive criticism and making things better. Are art, music, and literature basic needs for survival? No, but I would say they enrich our lives immeasurably. That's why we study and learn and try to evolve these things, despite the fact that they're not basic needs for survival. If all we ever thought about was how to get our next meal, we'd stay alive, but our brains wouldn't get that much stimulation.
That's how I perceive the purpose of this book: not necessarily to complain, but to find ways to improve, so that we can enrich society beyond just the basic things.
Our world certainly isn't perfect--many people are able to get their basic needs, but many aren't, because of war, disease, food shortages, etc. I believe that news media and other types of global communication can help facilitate solutions to global problems, because the better we communicate, the more we are able to understand and solve our larger problems. I think that's an admirable and worthy goal, although it's not directly related to my needs for survival. So I guess I take issue with the idea of news media just being "convenient"--I think it's a valuable tool for us to improve humankind as a whole. I just look it as being deeper than just being a shiny toy to play with.

I'm very impressed by the quality of the conversation on this thread -- I particularly like the reference to Thoreau, who did eventually leave his cabin and rejoin society, and who books and essays that nobody actually NEEDS in order to survive, but that help us recognize what we're doing when we're not taking care of the basic physical necessities of life.

If anything, Jeanine, the news reminds us what good people are capable of doing to each other, and what evil they do to each other, so that we can make informed choices about how to live our lives.

Jeanine O'Neal said:

I suppose you are right. I am being a little too harsh on these people. You make excellent points in your argument. But, in the end, I suppose we have different world views. I'll agree to disagree. :-)

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