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Don't just be informed — engage in news

New media, diversity of platforms raises new issues of news consumption

We have more access to the world than ever before, and every year we jump light-years ahead in the way we connect with it. But it seems that the more media platforms made available to us to diversify the way we access news, the less likely we are to really engage in it. Hashtag trends come and go every single week, and while it’s an easy way to keep ourselves aware of things in an increasingly globalized world, we’re losing sight of the true purpose of that awareness — to help us participate in active and useful engagement with society.

On Oct. 7, the Association for Education in Journalism and Mass Communication launched its first ever “National News Engagement Day” with the purpose of encouraging more active engagement with current events, particularly for students. Reading, writing, commenting, listening to and actively responding to the news is something that is increasingly becoming less of a priority for many people. While the ever-increasing media platforms have the benefit of a very diverse pool of sources, it also becomes more difficult to dig through it all and pay attention to the news that actually matters.

One of the ways the importance of staying up-to-date with current events can be emphasized is in the classroom, from elementary school through college. At Rutgers, professors make an active effort in many different departments to include discussions about current events and create a relevant context for their classes. Incorporating current events into course curriculums is something that can be done across the board — not just in journalism and media courses, but in virtually every field.

It’s not just about staying in touch with global issues, either. We can all keep up with news about Ebola, the recent midterm elections and other hot topics that capture national interest. The real test is when it comes to paying attention to local news. These are the issues that actually affect us the most, but they’re not presented in the same interesting (read: sensational) way that national and international topics are.

The challenge also lies in how we absorb the news. Many lines are becoming blurred, as journalistic ethics are often disregarded in the various new mediums and platforms. With the widespread access we have to the entire world on the Internet, everyone can be a journalist. It can be difficult to differentiate between fact and opinion or between sensationalism and proper journalism. Knowing these differences is extremely important, and it’s also important to be able to determine what stories we should be digging into and thinking about more than others. News outlets practically force feed the news to us, but it’s up to us to decide for ourselves what we consider important. Anyone can download the CNN or BBC app on his or her smartphone to stay up to date with breaking news alerts, but it’s not the same thing as truly being informed. There’s a certain level of analysis that we should make an active effort to engage in — without that, simply staying up to date on current events essentially becomes irrelevant.

Check out our feature story on the front page about professors at Rutgers University incorporating current events into their curriculums.

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