Most of my phone calls home involve me describing what life’s like here, what I do, what makes Whitehorse different from Ottawa. My work is covering the city beat here, so most of my day is spent filling my office corner up with such thoughts,sticky notes and interviews.
Time to time, I know I have to look beyond the mountains that form walls around this city, and see what else is going on in this big, wide world of ours. I owe it to myself (curiosity! Cool random facts!), my job (perspective! ideas!) and my responsibility as an able-minded citizen in a large-scale capitalist democracy who believes you use it or lose it. (I apply that adage to my mind, in this case)
Today I checked out my fave news site, BBC Front Page. It’s my fave because the news isn’t always politics, and it doesn’t act like Africa is one solid place that creates war-ish headlines once in awhile like SOME news outlets seem to think. As high and mighty as that sounds, I realize today I am no better.
There are stories with which I am not familiar in the slightest. I try and connect headlines to generalized social histories I learned in high school (so, does this Gaza Strip-Egypt thing have to do with the agreement after W.W.II? Still? Oh, OK). I try even harder to read the detail and absorb it all. Half because one day I want to go on Jeopardy and kick butt and know everything, and half because I want to retain knowledge about the world like my Dad, who I’m pretty sure DOES know everything.
It was always so easy to ask him things like, “So, what’s the Mulroney-Schreiber affair?” and have him answer in plain language in five minutes and have me understand enough to follow the news while forming opinions for imaginary, sophisticated cocktail party conversations I imagine myself having.
“So, this business in Kenya is quite something isn’t it?”
Real me: “Yeah ... it is? It’s a real...bummer?”
News-smart knowing me: “A travesty, but a pattern likely to repeat itself in the postcolonial aftermath plaguing Africa until its governments can stop relying on foreign arms and financial support and become self-educated and functioning, not to mention relapse from the AIDS devastation.”
I remember when I traveled to Greece, when the BBC was THE news source, and I was in awe over what got covered outside of Canada. For the first time, there was daily coverage on African countries’ politics, arts, health and business, beyond the Sudanese war headlines I was used to seeing, with declining frequency. It made me realize that just because Canada has news outlets, that doesn’t mean that I as a Canadian have to rely solely on what those sources tell me. And thus I began learning the value of perspective.
I also like to look at what BBC News has to say about Canada, which stories are worthy of spreading to people in Turkey, or Germany.
So today, while I may open the web site and not have the slightest as to what half the headlines are talking about, I take the opportunity to read them and learn them. If not for the ability to take advantage of such a resource and better myself, than for the betterment of my journalism, where my job is telling people what’s happening with some degree of authority. Any lower level of social awareness, and I’d feel like a fraud.
Today I challenge you to read one international news story and see if it doesn’t brighten your eyes, make you feel smart, to give you something of substance to discuss beyond the hideous outfit you think your coworker is wearing.