Headline Nation: Making Sense Of The News

Navigating the news. We live in a torrent of headlines. We’ll get a philosopher’s guide to sorting it all out.

A stack of newspapers. (Flickr / Jon S)

A stack of newspapers. (Flickr / Jon S)

The news is everywhere.  The news is too much.  The news is not serious enough, not factual enough, not contextual enough.  Everybody has an opinion about the news.  Fox News, celebrity news, “lame-stream media.” Alain de Botton has written about sex and travel and Proust and philosophy.  Now he’s writing about news.  A kind of philosopher’s take on what we’re getting and not getting.  How we’re overwhelmed and under-nourished by the news.  How the news can power a democracy, or cut it down.  This hour On Point:  We’re thinking through, getting meta, on the news.

— Tom Ashbrook


Alain de Botton, philosopher, essayist and documentary producer. Author of “The News: A User’s Manual.” Also author of “Art As Therapy,” “How To Think More About Sex,” “Religion For Atheists” and “A Week At the Airport.” (@alaindebotton)

Lisa Tozzi, news director for BuzzFeed. Former deputy editor for the New York Times. (@lisatozzi)

From Tom’s Reading List

The Huffington Post: The Difficulties Of Consuming News — “Much of what we now take for granted as news has its origins in the information needed by people making major decisions or at the center of national affairs. We still hear the echoes in the way news is reported; timing is assumed to be critical, as it really would be if we were active agents. If you don’t have the latest update, you might make a terrible blunder or miss a wonderful opportunity.”

The Observer: “The News: A User’s Manual” by Alain de Botton – review — “De Botton can be infuriating as well as stimulating. He pronounces from a philosopher’s lofty chair. He does nothing you could call probing research. He merely analyses what he sees – and that can be naively obvious. He wants fewer bare facts in The News and more context and explanation. Fairness and balance? They only make sense as part of an overarching narrative (which can also be called bias). Put aside the twists and turns of economic reporting. Seek economic understanding instead. Don’t make politics boring. And, while you’re struggling to do better, rediscover an abiding interest in foreign affairs. De Botton wonders plangently why Uganda is so sparsely covered.”

The Daily Beast: What is the News? Whatever Alain de Botton Thinks It Is — “If we are to believe de Botton, though, this decision isn’t ours to make. The average reader, he declares, is but an unwitting receptacle for media narratives. The news possesses ‘the power to dictate what our idea of ‘other people’ will be like.’ That’s right: dictate. ‘If we are regularly told that many of our countrymen are crazed and violent, we will be filled with fear and distrust every time we go outside. If we receive subtle messages that money and status matter above all, we will feel humiliated by an ordinary life.’ No, of course. ”

Read An Excerpt Of “The News” By Alain de Botton

Alain de Botton On The “Point” Of The News

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