Why We Need Books To Be Better Than News Stories

Traditional reporting involved presenting a set of facts clearly, without prejudice, so the reader could form their own opinions and deductions. Your writing skills were solely meant to put forth the findings without compromising the truth.

However, today we live in a world where content is everything. Content creation has been turned on its head and you have millions of people pushing their content in your face every minute. So who decides what’s the “truth” and what facts should be presented?

 

Image of a woman with her head on a stack of books
Photo Credit: cindiann via Compfight cc

Let’s say I want to write a news story about racial discrimination in politics. I could Google the subject and get more than enough information to put together a good article. But, what are my sources? Other blogs? TV news channels? Expert opinions? First hand experiences? How do I tell which version is the truth? Every source is clouded by their own bias and beliefs. So when I write, though I express the necessary facts, those facts will be based on all that I have heard, seen, read and understood. Yes, I could spend more time investigating the subject myself, but I have deadlines to meet. So I can spend only so much time investigating. At some point, I’ll have to stop researching and present my findings. No matter how well I present the facts, when I choose certain set of facts over all the others – for reasons such as they didn’t seem sound, were dismissed by my sources, space is a premium, or I didn’t have the time to research it any further – the whole concept of objectivity is blown out of the water. That kind of choice happens everyday when newspapers and news channels decide what’s news. Fundamentally, every piece of news we see or hear or read, is tainted by someone’s perspective. Similar choices are made by any news provider when they consider certain facts unnecessary to what they want us to know.

“What they want us to know” sums up news stories today and expecting them to be completely objective in any way, is naïve and dangerous.

It’s dangerous because believing any news source that we consider objective, leaves us open to manipulation. Complete objectivity involves presenting every truth. Since all news stories are faced with time and monetary constraints, objectivity takes a back seat. Add to that the issues of control of media by organisations with vested interests and political affiliations, and objectivity becomes non-existent. Every piece of news becomes a single story, a powerful tool in the hands of few. Which story is told and how and when they are told, are defined by who tells them. The power lies in not just telling the story they choose to tell, but in the ability to make it the only story, the definitive and authoritative story about the subject.

That’s why books are so important. They don’t have to be immediate and instant like the 24-hour news cycle. An author can take the time to present multiple perspectives, instead of one-sided tales chosen by the select few to represent the world we live in. A book can overcome the control of money and power. I don’t claim that profit margins don’t matter in the case of books. But self-publishing and e-books have opened many doors that were closed a few years ago to writers and have changed the kind of books we can ship out to the world.

Every book we read has the power to mould the way we look at ourselves and others, and they influence our reactions and attitudes. Books provide the space to create full pictures with depth and details. Today, books can afford to break away from stereotypes, from the danger of a single story. Instead, books have the opportunity to humanise people, create empathy and understanding, and highlight the common humanity that we share, that makes us all human.

Has a book changed your beliefs or the way you think? Share in the comments.

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