Why you’re uninformed if you don’t read the news

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Kevin Mangelschots

Table of Contents

The famous Mark Twain satirically said, “if you don’t read the newspaper, you’re uninformed. If you read the newspaper, you’re misinformed”.

And while we can debate about the misinformed part, and this is most certainly not always the case, we can most likely agree that if you don’t read the news, you’re uninformed.

Let’s take a look at the upsides and downsides of watching the news to gain information.

Why you're uninformed if you don't read the news

A black white image of a man reading the newspaper.

If you don’t read the news, you’re uninformed means that you can’t possibly know all that is happening in your own country, never mind all over the world if you don’t read, and/or watch the news.

Thus, the news serves a critical role in educating their audience. Be it by making them more knowledgeable, enhancing creativity, or developing certain abilities such as evolving one’s vocabulary.

Moreover, the news plays an important part to create different points of view, and to (hopefully) promote critical thinking. That’s also on the button why we shouldn’t mindlessly accept all the information we receive as facts instead of thinking for ourselves.

If you don't read the newspaper, you're uninformed. If you read the newspaper, you're misinformed

The noted American novelist, humorist, and travel writer Mark Twain famously said that if you don’t read the newspaper, you’re uninformed. If you read the newspaper, you’re misinformed.

What he meant by that is up for debate. Perhaps he satirically meant that you either choose to stay uninformed by not watching the news, or that you’ll get misinformed when watching the news because of the news owners’ own personal agenda and biases.

It’s also possible that he truly meant it, and that he didn’t have a particularly positive perspective about news channels. Viewing them as doing more harm than good due to accidentally spreading misinformation, or intentionally misguiding their audience.

Frequently asked questions (FAQ)

Benefits of reading the newspaper

  • To know what’s going on around the world

    One of the main benefits of reading the newspaper daily is that it allows you to keep up with what’s going on in the world.

    This is essential to stay connected and remain informed about the rest of the world. Not to mention that you’re able to ‘predict’ what’s going to happen next based on current trends.

  • To know what’s going on in your own country

    You need to keep up with what’s going on in your own country, since it involves your personal well-being.

    You need to know it when things are spiraling out of hand before you’re even capable of taking action. It’s hard to fix something when we don’t know it’s broken, indeed.

  • Provides information and general knowledge

    The words “knowledge empowers you” written on a blackboard with chalk by someone's hand.

    Knowledge is power. That’s precisely why reading the news is a great tool to become more knowledgeable and to learn new things that you can use to your advantage.

    Self-improvement is what life’s all about, it is what makes life worth living and is a requirement to become a content individual.

  • To provide news about a country’s economic situation, sports, culture

    Knowing your country’s economic situation is needed in order to know what opportunities and hurdles will appear in the present and future.

    Seeing which sports are important, and what cultural differences there are in other countries can give us new insights, and allow us to become more open-minded in the process.

  • Reading is a good routine to broaden your outlook and perspective.

    Life is ever-changing. Thus, it’s only normal, and even necessary, that we develop and evolve as well.

    Reading the newspaper can allow us to see things from different perspectives that we hadn’t yet considered ourselves. This can broaden our outlook, and lead to new insights as a result.

  • Helps you to lead discussions and conversations with other folks

    Image of multiple business people discussing work together.

    It’s hard to engage in meaningful and deep conversations when you aren’t aware of what’s going on around you.

    Knowing what’s happening in the world allows you to improve your interactions with others, since you’ll have the necessary cognition about what’s happening in the universe to do so.

  • Easier to connect with others

    Having something in common to talk about makes it easier to bond with each other.

    Improving your general knowledge about politics and the current events that are going on can make it easier to connect with our peers.

    That’s why being up-to-date with the current politics and events troubling society allows you to start, and maintain, deep conversations with one another.

  • Can help slow down aging

    Receiving visual, and auditory stimuli in the form of reading, or watching the news can help maintain our memory.

    But perhaps even more important is when we process all that information through a critical lens. Which requires us to flex our brain muscles.

  • Can serve as entertainment

    Watching the lighter side of things that happen in the world can serve as a tool to entertain us.

    Humor is critical in order to survive. Perhaps it was even invented by humans to combat all the horrors and tragedy that occurs during our lifetimes.

    Humor has gotten many through dark times when things looked bleak, so don’t underestimate its power.

  • Helps to develop a critical and open mind

    Seeing things from different angles leads to different viewpoints, that is, if you’re willing to learn. This is needed to develop, and keep, an open mind while simultaneously stimulating our ability to think critically.

    Whatever information you receive, no matter the source, you should always think critically on your own to verify the validity of the news you’ve received.

  • Reading the newspaper can serve as a source of inspiration

    Some life stories that get shared in the news are truly awe-inspiring. Although a lot of news is typically negative, some news is in fact positive, and can even motivate us to become better ourselves.

    We can draw excitement from those stories that can give us hope, and an actual plan of action to better our lives.

  • Reading the news can help to separate truth from lies

    Picture with the word “lie” in the background and the word “truth” in the middle of it.

    Watching the news can aid us to separate truth from the lies by giving us the facts and empirical evidence. Of course, this can be a double-edged sword, as the news doesn’t always portray the image as it realistically is.

    Nevertheless, it serves as an important tool of education that can weed out lies and deceit by giving us the scientific grounds that’s needed to prove what’s true and what’s not.

  • Can enhance creativity

    Since the news can serve as a source of inspiration, it can also enhance creativity by giving us new ideas, and unconventional ways to do things.

    Creativity can make the difference between success and failure, since creativity allows us to do something different from our competitors. Something that’s so unique that it’s special, and sets us apart.

  • Reading the news allows you to develop your language skills

    Since you’re hearing and/or reading the language in which the news is presented, you’ll learn some surprising new abilities, such as developing your language skills.

    You’ll never know when this will come in handy. Whether it’s when going on vacation to a foreign country, or even when meeting someone from your own state.

  • Evolves reading and writing skills

    Image of a pen lying on top of a notebook.

    Reading and writing are the most important abilities that one needs to master in order to effectively learn new things in life. Writing in particular forces us to think about what we’re writing, which stimulates critical thinking.

    Reading means we can learn things that others have already figured out long before us, which intends that we won’t have to do as much research and figuring out. That’s if the source of information is credible, of course.

  • Can increase communication skills

    Since we have the ability to sharpen our speech, writing, and reading abilities, it makes engaging and keeping a conversation going much easier.

    An increased vocabulary can make your audience more engaged, which means you’ll have an easier time communicating, and even convincing them.

  • Improves your vocabulary

    An illustration about a guy sitting in a chair while talking a lot.

    The large variety of different words that you’ll have access to through the news means that you’re more than likely to pick up a few new words that were foreign to you at first.

    That’s a great way to improve your vocabulary. And a larger vocabulary can make you seem more intelligent, and eloquent, which can lead to others having a more positive image of you and your capacity.

    Never underestimate the power of words!

  • Easily accessible

    News through television or even newspapers is easily accessible these days.

    Most of us have a television, or have the money to buy a newspaper. Which means that it has never been easier to become informed about what’s happening all over the world.

    This is a good thing, since informed people are better equipped to make finer decisions. And if individuals benefit, then so will society as a whole.

  • Free of cost

    Free of cost is debatable, since watching television on TV costs money as well since we need to buy a TV, or if we read the newspaper on the internet, we need access to a computer and the internet.

    But most (fortunate) people have access to these modern technologies these days. And that means that we don’t necessarily have to pay extra in order to have access to all that information.

  • Can help develop a sense of responsibility and empathy

    Knowing what terrible things are happening all over the world, such as the war between Ukraine and Russia, can help to develop a sense of responsibility and empathy.

    A lot of folks find it terrible what’s happening over there. This can cause people to support the war victims by taking in fugitives or sending monetary aid, for example.

Possible disadvantages of reading the newspaper

  • Not required to lead a good, happy life

    Knowledge can be a gift, but also a great curse. Knowing every little thing that goes around in the world is not required in order to lead a productive, happy life.

    As a matter of fact, it can make it even harder to live a content life since the news regularly mainly presents all the negative and detrimental things that are going on around the globe.

  • Multiple platforms to get information exist, such as the internet and books

    Image of open books surrounded by closed books lying on a table.

    The news or newspaper aren’t the only ways to get the right information from all over the world.

    These days, there’s the internet, and a bucket-load of book, which means we have access to an incredible amount of data that’s much easier to entrée than ever before.

  • There’s a monetary incentive to let consumers ingest more news

    The way the news and newspapers make money is to have a lot of consumers, which means that there’s an incentive to let the consumers keep coming back for more to keep raking in the money.

    That means that some information might get sensationalized out of proportion, or even misrepresented to maintain their audience.

  • The main goal isn’t necessarily to inform, but rather to gain money

    We live in a consumer society, which means there’s a clear motivator to make money, and to maintain consumers by ‘tricking’ them into coming back.

    That’s why informing the masses isn’t always, although it most certainly can be, the main goal of the provider. In a lot of instances, money talks.

  • News can be misleading

    Image of someone holding a newspaper reading, 'fake news' as the heading.

    News can be intentionally misleading due to the folks in power’s hidden personal agenda, and the encouragement to make money that our consumer society promotes.

    That’s why people may promote sensationalism, and even purposely spread misinformation by click baiting others into reading their information.

  • Some news is irrelevant

    Not all news that reaches our ears and eyes is relevant to us. Sometimes we’re even better off not knowing all the negative stuff that’s going on around the world.

    It might be better not knowing some things that might drag us down and cause us to be less productive and an overall lesser version of ourselves than we could be.

  • Reading the newspaper can do a poor job of explaining the root causes

    Just because the news reports what’s going wrong doesn’t mean they have the time, expertise, nor the means to go in depth enough to explain what the causes of these issues are.

    That’s also why it will always remain essential to think for yourself and to employ your critical thinking skills in order to figure out what the root causes of these concerns are.

  • Can inhibit critical thinking

    Image describing how reasoning, problem-solving, and evaluating are all needed for critical thinking.

    Getting all the information and all the perceived reasons makes it less likely for people to think for themselves.

    The main reason being, why would one take the time and put in the effort to think for oneself when you could just google or watch the news to get all the data about the subject?

    Still, being able to be introspective and to think for yourself is one of the best things you can learn and develop in life. This is a requirement to figure out the truth, and to weed out the lies.

  • Can increase the chance for cognitive errors

    If information is misrepresented and twisted in such a way that it misleads the audience for the provider’s own personal gains and agenda, then it might induce thinking errors in their audience.

    It might for example cause conformation bias, which basically means we only search out information that reaffirms our already existing beliefs while simultaneously disregarding all the data that says otherwise.

  • Wastes precious time

    Watching news, particularly the kind that is unimportant to us, can cause us to waste precious time that would be better spent otherwise.

    That time would be much more efficient if it was used to develop skills that could further our dreams and goals in life. That’s why mindlessly watching the news is not always the most productive.

    Remember that time is precious, so waste it wisely.

  • Can be addictive

    Watching the news can be addictive since it can satisfy our impulses. It provides an immediate gratification of the senses without necessarily having to think too much, or having to put in any effort at all.

    That’s why it can be addictive, and is an easy distraction that can give us that quick dopamine rush that we so crave.

  • Can overwhelm us and make us passive as a result

    Illustration of a man sitting on a chair with various negative thoughts written around him.

    Receiving too much information at once can overwhelm us, especially if it is data that we perceive to be negative.

    When we watch too much detrimental news, then that can make us depressed, or even passive as a result of thinking that whatever we do, we’re doomed to a life full of misery and suffering.

    Humans need to have a sense of control over their lives in order to remain content and functioning.

  • Reading the newspaper makes it harder to engage in creative thinking

    Creative thinking is often the result of thinking critically for yourself and by searching, and finding, unconventional ways of doing already established things.

    This is much harder to do when other people think for you. And there’s a real incentive to not think for yourself since it’s hard, requires time, and it’s overall much easier to simply consume the information that’s already processed for you.

  • Can serve to portray an agenda

    Black and white image of a woman hiding.

    We don’t necessarily know the hidden agenda’s that the news provider has. Perhaps it’s to inform, perhaps to make money, perhaps to misguide people, who knows?

    I’m not saying that every news outlet is evil, because they’re not. But not all people are good and altruistic. Some are self-serving, narcissistic, and misguided.

    Bad and misguided people being part of life means that some news outlets will be as well. So be careful what information you consume, and learn to think for yourself, no matter where the information comes from.

  • Cultivation theory

    Cultivation theory is related to the long term effects that the news consumers experience after consuming media, in particular data through television.

    It proposes that people who’re frequently exposed to media for prolonged periods of time are more probable to perceive the world as it is portrayed by the media as truth. This can affect the consumer’s thoughts, attitudes, and behavior.

    Critical thinking is required to combat suffering from the cultivation theory.

  • Recurring trauma

    People can get traumatized themselves from continually seeing all the recurring trauma from others suffering all over the world.

    This can in extreme cases even lead to post-traumatic stress syndrome, depression, and feeling like nothing one does matters in the end.

  • News typically shows the negative things in life

    Sad thumbs down emoji.

    News tends to thrive on sensationalism. It leans towards representing all the negative events that are happening, rather than all the things that are already going well.

    But constantly being faced with all the darker things going on can be emotionally draining. Not to mention that it’s not always productive to be faced with the same troubles over and over again.

    Think in solutions, not in problems.

  • Unrealistic estimation of risks involved

    It’s possible that we misrepresent the amount of danger we’re personally in due to being faced with risks and dangerous events going on somewhere else in the world.

    That’s why not all the news is as relevant to us personally than it is to other consumers at a different demographic.

  • Can increase gossiping

    It can lead to an increase in gossiping with others because we’re faced with such a vast amount of information, and a lot of times with small, unimportant details of for example celebrities.

    Gossiping is not necessarily a positive trait, either, seeing as most of us don’t like other people talking behind our back.

  • Can lead to conformation bias

    Illustration depicting what confirmation bias is.

    Conformation bias is when we purposefully search out information that confirms our preexisting belief system. People suffering from a conformation bias also intentionally disregard information that doesn’t align with their already present beliefs.

    This can create narrow-minded thinking and tunnel vision. Furthermore, it’s particularly toxic when we are wrong, yet believe it to be true.

    Try to remain open-minded, and search for the truth rather than information that you would like to be true or that reaffirms your current beliefs.

  • Can create a negativity bias

    A negativity bias is a cognitive bias that states that negative events have a more severe impact on our psychological state than positive events do, even when they are of equal proportions.

    When the news shows negative circumstances, even when equally representing positive events, it’s likely that we experience this negative bias which can put us in a sad, negative psychological state which isn’t productive in the least.

  • Losing sleep over things you can’t control

    Some things are controllable in life, but a lot of things aren’t. Uncountable individuals lose sleep over things they can’t control.

    Devouring news means being faced with such a vast amount of issues, no matter how unlikely, that are simply not controllable.

    This can cause us to lose sleep over things that aren’t even personally applicable to us because we’re stuck with this feeling of losing control.

  • Critical news typically reaches us anyway

    News that’s essential to our personal well-being will reach our ears quickly, even when not actively consuming news outlets.

    Those around us would most likely tell us, or try to engage in a conversation about it, which means you would get informed anyway.

  • Reading the newspaper can prevent you from being productive

    Being faced with an overwhelming amount of negativity and concerns can overpower us and prevent us from doing the things that truly matter.

    In extreme cases, people can even become depressed and passive from this perceived lack of control over their own lives.

    To be, and remain productive, focus on yourself and the issues that you can fix, instead of fretting over the things that are outside your control.

  • Can create stress and anxiety

    Negativity, especially when constant and prolonged, can create stress and anxiety. This means our stress hormone cortisol, which is devastating in the long run, gets released and wreaks havoc on our mood and physicality.

    Hence, make it a point to relax in time, and to not take every bad little thing that happens in the world to heart. Not everything is your fault, nor is it your responsibility to fix all difficulties in life. We’re only human, after all.

  • Reading the newspaper can change our mood for the worse

    Experiencing all this stress and anxiety due to the news shoving all this negativity in our faces can cause our mood to take a turn for the worse.

    We often don’t realize how much the news and the emotions of those around us affect our psychological state, but that doesn’t mean that it doesn’t affect us.

    That’s also why we should make it a point to concentrate on the positives, and to surround ourselves with positive people who genuinely want the best for us.

  • Can make us physically ill

    Chronic stress can make us physically ill due to the detrimental effects of cortisol. That’s why each of us should limit stress as much as possible.

    Practical tips would be to wind down regularly by taking your mind off the more stressful things in life. Make sure to exercise plenty, and to practice a hobby such as reading, gardening, or soccer, for example.

Conclusion

Image of the word, “conclusions” written on a black backboard with white chalk.

The newspaper reading benefits are plentiful, but there are also quite a few, albeit possible, disadvantages of reading the news. Just because you’re educated doesn’t necessarily mean you’re smart.

Still, a lot of potential downsides are eliminated if we practice critical thinking skills instead of simply accepting all the news that reaches our ears and eyes as facts.

Nevertheless, if you don’t read the news, you’re uninformed.

I think that we should at least stay well-informed about what’s going on in our own country, since that will have its impact on us personally. But following what’s going on all over the world can be a vital tool to watch what positive, but also negative, trends are happening.