Balanced media diet

By Jenn Watt

Published Aug. 22 2017

If your home is anything like mine the last week has been one of captivated horror as news from the States pours in.

Starting Aug. 12 with the Nazi protests in Charlottesville Virginia – wait or was it two weeks ago with the threat of nuclear war with North Korea? Sorry it was definitely three weeks ago when President Trump hired and then 10 days later fired his communications director who couldn’t keep his mouth shut about anything.

Who am I kidding?

If your home is anything like mine the last eight months has been one of captivated horror as we watch Trump run roughshod over the American Constitution and societal norms in a way that wasn’t thought possible just a year ago.

During that time I have consumed more media coming out of the U.S. than any time in my life. I now have subscriptions to two American newspapers watch several American talk shows each day and listen to American news analysis podcasts in the evening before bed. And my news consumption is actually on the lighter side compared to many of my other friends and family.

While I disagree with some who argue there is little value in Canadians concentrating on American politics – who influences the rest of the world more than the U.S.? – this obsessive focus has detracted from my attention to Canadian news. And I doubt I’m alone in this.

Some speculate that Trump flits between controversies in part to distract the public from things he’d rather not discuss. However it’s not just his country’s population that’s being distracted.

We’re all finding our lives and the political discourse revolving around Trump and his hourly tirades. Like the proverbial car wreck we can’t look away.

But we need to try.

While Trump has been granting tacit support to white nationalists in his country ours is renegotiating NAFTA with our largest trading partner. While he vacillated on the fate of Steve Bannon the RCMP has been handling thousands of asylum seekers from the U.S. While he golfed and golfed and golfed Ontario has been debating the pros and cons of raising the minimum wage.

While those topics aren’t nearly as juicy as a spat with Jeff Sessions or canning James Comey they arguably have more direct impact on our lives than who was deemed “failing” “a loser” or “crooked” this week by POTUS.

When we allow our entire media diet to consist of fattening dishes from our neighbours to the south we miss important information about what’s happening in our own country province and municipalities.

It’s not realistic to expect any of us to swear off American politics nor would that be wise.

But just like a balanced diet it’s important that we remember to consume news grown close to home to build a healthy understanding of our own democracy.