Can we still learn from the news?

interviews you could learn fromLast week, in an article on leadership, I learned a very interesting fact: our ability to learn declines with age. We aren’t talking retirement age either. Apparently, this kicks in from the age of around 30 for men, slightly older for women.

We don’t learn forever

At first this seems terrifying. Imagine a world where you can’t learn? A world where you watch things develop around you, unable to join in. But in reading on I discovered this was all manageable. We have the power to continue to learn past our 30s. We just need to keep on pushing ourselves to experience new things. To broaden our minds. To learn about the world around us.

But how exactly can we learn from this style of news?

Today I read that more business leaders are shunning the opportunity to be interviewed on television news programmes here in New Zealand. Totally understandable. Why would anyone want to sit on live television being interrogated by journalists? Note that I say interrogated and not interviewed. I am surely not the only person who finds modern news programmes often concentrate more on picking a fight than on exploring an issue.

Debate must replace interrogation

This obsession with labouring the point has significantly watered down the value of news. I don’t want to learn in soundbites. I want to learn by understanding. By gaining an insight into the why’s and the how’s of the issues of the day. I don’t want to be stuck with a single headline. I want to appreciate the views of others before I make up my own mind.

Now this might sound like I am a total purist, yearning for the days of lengthy news articles in the quality broadsheets. Not at all. I know life is fast. That news has to keep up. But should all reporting drop to the level of interrogation? Or is there still space for the type of journalism that broadened our minds?

We don’t all learn like true academics

I don’t believe that quality journalism should be saved for semi-academic publications and journals. Not all of us have the time, money or intellectual stamina to read 5,000 word articles on international politics. There has to be space for us to learn in bite-sized chunks. To understand a news story from more than just a single angle.

Surely producers can make room for six minutes of discussion on popular news programmes, rather than four minutes of interrogation? What value does anyone really get from a journalist repeatedly asking the same question of the interviewee? The listeners learn very little. The interviewee is frustrated at being denied the chance to give their point of view. And you have to wonder what satisfaction the journalist gets from what is essentially televised playground bullying.

We all need to learn

We learn so much from the news. Let’s not sacrifice quality journalism and open debate for televised bullying and sensationalist reporting. We have to keep our brains healthy into old age. We really do have to learn every day.