The first topic is simple: the need for this.
The 21st Century media is something we can’t escape from. Print journalism has been heavily disrupted by digital media and will never be the same again. But aggregators, Twitter updates, Facebook trends, RSS feeds and countless others keep us up to date as never before. Rolling news coverage is a constant stream of facts.
But do we get any analysis? What about the traditional ‘Opinion’ and ‘Commentary’ sections of publications? It is unfortunate that these sections tend to be for paying subscribers only in an age when the average consumer gravitates towards free sources.
Is what we read improving our minds? Does anyone take the facts and produce insight that informs, entertains and educates the reader all at once? Although many journalists would agree that this is the hardest challenge of their job, this middle ground has and can be realised. It is out there, but it is too easy for it to be shrouded by plumes of sensationalism and hastily written articles that have barely been edited. So quick is the pace of the rush that we now find typos in articles ever more regularly.
But you’re asking – why do we need analysis in our reading? Why should our reading aim to improve our minds?
Gandhi’s explanation is a helpful one:
“Your beliefs become your thoughts,
Your thoughts become your words,
Your words become your actions,
Your actions become your habits,
Your habits become your values,
Your values become your destiny.”
I don’t think anyone is going to argue that what you read doesn’t stimulate your thoughts or even your beliefs. A great deal of us have heard the saying: “You are what you eat”. Equally, perhaps, it is worth saying:
“You are what you read.”
Shedding Some Light did a survey of commuters on the central line in London. What were they reading? BBC News? Google News? The FT? Buzzfeed? Aggregators of all sorts? We found that so much competition is out there, all vying for those most lucrative few minutes of our morning gaze – too many to mention here. But we also found that free Metro and Evening Standard papers take up the majority of the market share. When asked how thought provoking and mind-expanding the commentary in those papers was, the scores became very low. When asked whether they would prefer to read something more cerebral, 83% said yes.
Of course we will consume quick journalism and we shouldn’t forget how useful it is for us. But surely this is only as part of a ‘balanced diet’.
So what has gone wrong? Why do we have such an unhealthy reading diet? There are sugar taxes, TV shows, dieticians and cookbooks in order to combat the obesity epidemic, but perhaps we seem unaware of the junk journalism that we internalise every day without realising.
People need to read healthier, more cerebral paragraphs. People’s minds can grow from a healthy, balanced reading diet and their lives can be enriched. Shedding Some Light intends to address this in a tiny and humble way.