By: Danielle Sparmer

“The media can’t tell us what to think, but they can tell us what to think about…” This one sentence has been repeated by literary analysts everywhere. However, audiences still struggle to see that agenda-setting shapes our society tremendously. Even worse, those who recognize its relevance still allow it to continue. 

When you log on to The New York Times web page, the first thing seen is President Trump’s name plastered on headlines. Naturally, you interpret these bold headlines in the center of the page as what we should be paying attention to. Before you know it, you are four articles deep in Trump talk and your mind can’t seem to drift away from it. 

Newspapers and articles are a crucial part of media. They spread awareness, give perspective, and inform readers of events. Nowadays more than ever, print media has taken on another responsibility– being the entertainer of society. 

On the same website covered in messages, reactions, and responses directed towards the President are articles about climate change, a 7.2 magnitude earthquake in Mexico, and new lines of diseases being discovered. Regardless of their importance, they are tucked in corners of the homepage leaving barely any attention brought to the tiny print. The designers of the layout recognized a trend that is more than common amongst today’s readers: entertainment, gossip, and drama sells. Society has adjusted to the hyper-commercialism in life, the dramatization that media can portray, and the noise that clutters the resources and platforms that are supposed to deliver important, newsworthy, and reputable stories. While we should expect more of media and expect that impactful and meaningful topics will be presented to us constantly, we never demand it. Instead, we, as consumers, feed into the idea that things like Donald Trump’s tweets or the latest celebrity sex scandal are the most important things in today’s culture. We disregard things like a fire in historic Italy that killed many, remembrances of those who died in the recent school shooting in Florida, and sexual abuse of inmates in Pennsylvania. Rather than focusing and noticing the detrimental, sentimental, or poignant occurrences, we become consumed in drama and farce. 

So, how do we fix it? How do we incentivize the media to start producing and advertising the more meaningful articles that lead to in-depth thinking, significant reflection, and gained knowledge? These are questions I recently asked myself when I realized how consumed I was in the drama of the world. 

It’s important to never forget how being naive can negatively affect a reader. It is crucial to recognize that everything we read altars a moment. It changes our course of thought, our response, and sometimes our perception. Producers and analysts of companies posting and writing content watch for those responses and take into consideration any tweets, posts, comments, or other feedback that is given. These engagements show where the consumer’s attention lies and what they should continue writing about. Right now audiences engage in the drama, but if their eyes are opened to what we are consuming and we recognize the effects of such, then perhaps what we chose to consume can change.  

It’s more than common to focus on things like political uproar or become too consumed by responding with emotions, rather than looking past the articles we know will distract us from other problems in the world. Many of us fear what society has become and how divided we are, making it hard to focus on anything else. It’s up to consumers, though, to show news-sources that we are ready to pay attention to the things in society that have been neglected. Things like the health of citizens, the status of the economy, and natural disasters in the world deserve to be spoken about. It is time to try and only skim over the pointless articles that we know are insignificant in creating global wellness. If we want to move on from being consumed by the negativity that we are more than consumed in, we must altar where our focus falls and demand more from the content delivered from media platforms. It’s time to move on from constant discussions of Twitter debates and make understanding how to better society as a whole the new mission of media producers and consumers.