TIME Magazine, a fixture of journalism since 1923, usually produces a uniform cover for each of its different areas of publication, with one exception: the U.S. edition.
The Asia and Europe versions of TIME’s Oct. 21 issue had the headline, “Asia’s Obama Problem,” while the U.S. edition had New York City mayor Michael Bloomberg on its cover. The Sept. 16 issue of the magazine featured a picture of Russian President Vladimir Putin.
Meanwhile, the U.S. got a cover of Johnny Manziel striking a Heisman pose for a feature article about the need to pay college athletes. While TIME is trying to avoid stirring controversy in the U.S., it also understands what will sell magazines. Unfortunately, an embattled football player will sell more than the Russian president.
I was a junior in high school when the Navy SEAL Team 6 killed Osama bin Laden. It was a great moment for the U.S., capping off a 10-year search for the man who orchestrated the 9/11 attacks. After I heard about it, I went on my phone and looked at my different social media feeds. Both my Facebook and Twitter feeds reflected a lot of American pride, and it was nice to see us unite over one common accomplishment.
But a lot of the posts I saw said something different. They expressed the same pride that the others had, but they all said something along the lines of this: “So happy we tracked down and killed bin Laden. Now that our job there is done, let’s get our troops out of Iraq.”
About half of my classmates thought that we had invaded Iraq in response to the 9/11 attacks.
Fast-forward a year and a half, to September of this year, when the U.S. was contemplating how to respond to the chemical attacks in Syria. Now all high school graduates embarking on new chapters in our lives, I checked my Facebook and Twitter. Instead of seeing the opinions of the people I choose to associate with over the Internet, I saw tweets and posts about Miley Cyrus’ performance at the MTV Video Music Awards. My former and current classmates seemed to not care about the crisis occurring in Syria.
While those examples say more about my generation than anything else, I’ve noticed ignorance in older generations, as well. Jimmy Kimmel, the late-night host, sent a camera crew out to the streets of Los Angeles and asked pedestrians whether they preferred “Obamacare” or the Affordable Care Act. Just about every one of the interviewees trashed “Obamacare” while heaping praise upon the Affordable Care Act (hint: it’s the same thing).
That made for a funny segment on the show, but it points out a real problem that Americans have. A large amount of the population is either misinformed or just doesn’t care. And big companies are cashing in on it.
So how do we fix this? How can we change the culture we have of sensationalism and ignorance? It starts at the top. The media outlets don’t waste our time with things that matter; they talk about popular culture. We need to let big media outlets know that we’re done with being fed gossip and celebrity news. Let that market be dominated by the Perez Hiltons of the world, not CNN.
If the big cats force their viewers to learn about the important issues of the world, something is going to catch on and before long, we will start having more and more people who are properly informed and care about the real news.
We’re not lazy, as some might like to paint us. We just have short attention spans. If we can focus ourselves on real issues, it’s likely that we’ll start seeing strong improvement.
Reach the columnist at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on Twitter @ShaneTheodore