General public loses focus, interest on breaking news

News and information sharing has changed drastically in the last several years. Gone are the days when people stayed “in the know” by walking to the end of their driveway each morning to grab the newspaper and read it while sipping coffee.

For many people that was enough knowledge to hold them over until the nightly news after work or the late news before bed. Those days are over. With the rise of the 24-hour news cycle, people have the ability to track a story minute-by-minute.

For example, when the Supreme Court was set to release its ruling on the Affordable Care Act, I sat at my desk constantly refreshing Twitter until the results began to pour in.

Many journalists rightfully hailed it as a turning point for the country, and, as a result, it dominated media coverage. The problem was that it received intense coverage for only a short period of time. It went from being the major story on all news media to a second-tier headline in a matter of 24 hours after it was announced that Katie Holmes filed for divorce from Tom Cruise.

Overnight, Americans went from worrying what would happen to their health care plan to guessing how much money Katie would receive in “the divorce of the century.”

This turnover is just one example of how America and the world at large have formed a societal ADD of sorts. It has become virtually impossible to remain focused on one issue or story for more than a day or two in most cases. It’s as if news is just another aspect of popular culture as opposed to the medium that analyzes it.

Don’t get me wrong — I love the fast-paced world of current events as much as the next pop culture junkie. In many ways, I am the definition of the problem when it comes to maintaining focus on one issue.

Recently though, I had what Oprah might call an “Aha! Moment.” Like the rest of the country, I became entranced with and saddened by the recent shooting in Aurora, Colo. My way of coping with such tragedies often includes watching several hours of news coverage while reading about the victims. After watching the initial coverage, I realized I would not have nearly the same level of interest in the story within a few days.

This realization was troubling as it meant I was just like everyone else in that I choose to care about issues when they are a big deal but move on in a matter of days. Unfortunately, the victims and others affected by such tragedies do not have the luxury of moving on after 72 hours. We have the luxury of letting the story slip off the homepage of our favorite websites, but for them, not a day will pass in which they don’t think of the tragedy and the loved ones they have lost.

It would be foolish to ask anyone to follow this story closely for the rest of their lives, but we could all do a better job of not falling victim to “pop news.” Many stories will affect us throughout the course of a year, but it is up to us to maintain an interest or basic empathy for those involved.

Aside from the lack of tact involved in unceremoniously dropping one story for another, it is telling of how society operates as a whole. We would much rather talk about Suri Cruise to avoid discussing uncomfortable issues like the national deficit, unemployment or deteriorating infrastructure.

Staying informed is crucial to being a global citizen, but skimming headlines and avoiding critical thought about important issues is not.

Before you become obsessed with the next “big story,” read about the drastic rise in shooting deaths in Chicago or the overall issue of gun control in America. These are issues that affect millions of people each day, but somehow go from breaking news alerts to archived stories in a matter of hours.

When the next big story captures your attention, don’t ignore it after a few days. Continue to follow the story for as long as you can — you might learn something.

Better yet, you might actually feel something.

_John is a junior in Media. He can be reached at [email protected]_