As the last person stepped out of the classroom, I approached my teacher to express something that was weighing on my mind. She was skimming through her file folders but paused to say, “If you don’t know what you want to do as an adult, just look at problems in the world and think about how you want to fix them.” She detailed this counsel effortlessly and inspiration ran right through me.
It was just what I needed at a confusing point in time. My mom had been diagnosed with advanced cancer just days before on my dad’s birthday, college applications were looming and I was restless about what was to come after high school. University felt like a distant dream, uncertain and implausible. Yet those words stayed with me. Months later, recalling her guidance, I saw what I wanted to change.
I stopped watching television years ago. It was not a decision that was consciously made. Reading newspapers, books and online articles required more time and attention. Television became a faded memory. Based on the responses of others when I told them about this new routine, one would think that I told them that I had gone Amish, given up showering and decided to raise barns. There is absolutely no temptation to tune into a television set, despite my preoccupation with current events. Presently, cable news stirs an uneasiness within me as media in this country has successfully capitalized on various national anxieties. Election coverage of the 2016 race was an apotheosis of this phenomenon. It is painful that these fears were absolutely warranted. The current administration is insulating itself from environmental protection efforts, gender identity issues, and campaign finance reform among other items that I deeply care about.
Major issues go largely ignored by today’s media. Childhood poverty, gender identity discrimination, mass incarceration, environmental destruction, domestic terrorism and other matters that are directly endangering lives are ignored. There are students on our campus that face immediate threats, from food insecurity to immigration concerns, but one will likely not learn about these issues from watching a cable news program,, even though they affect a countless number of students across college campuses nationwide. Bringing light to such issues feels necessary. Since that day in class, I determined that if media is the field I wanted to prepare for and enter, this is the change that I wanted to see realized in the future.
That class will forever stay with me, not solely because it shaped my professional direction, but because it also incited an investigative spirit within. Exploration of works by authors such as Ronald Takaki and Howard Zinn was an initiation. Their novels explicitly discuss aspects of American history that few give much regard to. Coping with the notions that American soldiers who killed hundreds at Wounded Knee were awarded medals, that our government interned more than 100,000 people during the Second World War, the mistreatment of Native Americans and other atrocities kindled a demand for truth-telling. We exist in a digital age that has gifted the average person with access to more information than at any other point in history. We have the potential to become the most informed populace. Not only is there endless opportunity to explore any given topic, learning the experiences of others has never been easier. Such a powerful implication must not be ignored.
All perspectives and dimensions are important to acknowledge. There is much value, from my experience, in conferring with people who hold beliefs that directly oppose my own. Here in Berkeley, we seem to exist within a bedrock of progressivism that often alienates students that are anywhere right of center. Engaging with people on both sides has been helpful in developing my own perspective and in constructing a medium of understanding with people that I would constantly criticize in the past. After looking outside my personal circle of friends who hold similar views, I was confronted with an interesting surprise — I became more empathetic..
Although I am constantly immersing myself in disparate world views and continually fostering an inner hunger for information, I will never claim to know everything, not even close. My apprehension with news programming in its present state is an impediment to learning more, admittedly. Television news is an icy pool that I have recently tried to step back into, toes first of course. If media is something that I want to change and if I want to utilize it as a medium that highlights issues that are rarely discussed, I will have to familiarize myself with it much more.
With this column, I hope to discuss issues that rarely receive coverage in mainstream media and contribute to the national discussion.
Karina Pauletti writes the Thursday column on media discourse. Contact her at Contact them at [email protected].