The News | Alain de Botton

Summary of: The News: A User’s Manual
By: Alain de Botton


In ‘The News: A User’s Manual’, Alain de Botton delves into our complicated relationship with contemporary news. The book examines why we often find it dull and disengaging, focusing on factors like obscure headlines, lack of narrative depth, and overemphasis on numbers in economic news. By drawing insights from gripping novels, engaging stories, and timeless tales, de Botton calls for news outlets to present significant stories in a broader context and touch on universal values. This summary will explore how news can be made more digestible and compelling, while also highlighting the importance of well-balanced consumption of news.

The Importance of Context in Delivering News

News outlets should contextualize their stories to engage and inform readers better. Complex issues need to be presented in a broader context to be engaging and digestible. The beauty and emotional pull of a story are only understandable when relevant context is given. Without proper framing, readers may not fully understand or be uninterested in a story. Thus, news outlets could take a tip from novels by communicating what’s at stake and showing how each story fits into the grand scheme of things.

Universal Values and News

In our present time, people tend to find fictional dramas on television more interesting than the world news. This is not to say that they don’t recognize the importance of news, but rather in how it’s presented. News stories are significant, but they need to be presented in captivating ways to reach and engage the public. Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar is a popular play because it focuses on universal values, and the same principle applies to news. By emphasizing the universal issues embedded in world events, news outlets can attract more readers and engage the public. Therefore, instead of focusing on trivial matters, news outlets should make an effort to tackle universal questions such as moral responsibilities, friendship, and peer pressure. This will make the news more appealing to people regardless of their culture or location in the world.

Untangling Economic News

The economic news is not engaging for the average reader because it is packaged with only investors in mind. Financial news organizations have journalists around the world who cover powerful and fascinating stories that lie behind the business numbers. Investors may be more interested in the numbers, but behind the stats and figures, there are always human stories, be they tragic or triumphant.

The Benefits of Our Celebrities

Our relationship with celebrities has existed since ancient times. The Greeks admired people for their virtues and adored famous athletes, politicians, and philosophers for their moral fortitude. Similarly, Catholics bestowed the title of saint on people who exhibited admirable qualities. Unfortunately, today’s media seems to focus only on celebrities’ bad qualities or mundane actions, neglecting to showcase their positive attributes and contributions to society. If we shift our focus to highlight their admirable achievements and virtues, we can inspire others to emulate these qualities and make our world a better place.

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