Engage Yourselves

News Engagement Day is Oct. 1


Editor-in-Chief, UAS Whalesong 

The University of Alaska budget crisis, climate change decimated another Alaska Native community, President Trump tweeted something unpresidential (again) — these are just a few pervasive news headlines cluttering social media feeds. 

In the wake of financial hardship, natural disasters and political turbulence, constant updates feel like being trapped in a tornado of bad news. 

Tuesday, Oct. 1, is News Engagement Day, an international day that reminds all of us to be active consumers of the news.

A 2019 study done by the Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism showed that people aged 18 to 35 on average spend 6 hours on their phones, with less than 1 percent of that time on news apps. 

Like many college students, UAS student Carmen Soto said she “literally never” checked the news.

“It’s just never been a part of, like, my culture growing up, like, we never really watched the news,” Soto said. 

Students and faculty at UAS are always encouraged to engage with the news, whether that be in print, on-air or online. 

Some classes on campus include news engagement in the curriculum. For example, the Interdisciplinary Perspectives on Climate Change course, taught by professors Glenn Wright, Jason Amundson and Kevin Maier, requires students to share a current topic with the class. 

Wright said the class pulls together some disparate issues.

“We can talk about politics and geophysics and discourse, ya know, in the same kind of context and not every current event does that, but it’s a useful way to kind of increase the interdisciplinarity of the course,” he said.

Maier added, “I would say that media literacy is as important as understanding atmospheric science for understanding climate change.” 

But many students on campus generally engage with news purely of their own volition. 

That could be seen at a Sept. 5 forum hosted by Chancellor Rick Caulfield to assure students that they will be protected as much as possible from University of Alaska budget cuts. Egan Lecture Hall was about half full, with a mix of students, faculty, staff, and alumni. While students could ask the chancellor questions, few took advantage of the opportunity. Those that did became active participants in the news. 

Egan Lecture Hall was packed and an overflow room had to be set up for the Sept. 13 talk titled “combating climate change silence”  by Katharine Hayhoe, atmospheric scientist and political science professor at Texas Tech University. 

The sheer number of people who attended showed their awareness of global news and desire to be active participants. 

“If we assume someone will change their mind just by giving them the facts, we are assuming they are a blank slate,” Hayhoe said. 

But people are not blank slates, she said, and the facts are not always enough to convince someone. Hayhoe maintained that in order to combat climate change, “we have the science, now we need to talk.”

Speaking about global climate change or any hot topic fosters public awareness of that topic, but we need to engage in important issues at home as well. 

Being engaged with the news ensures that you can join in the conversation about the topics of today, whether it be the latest UA budget update, the newest impact of climate change or Trump’s latest tweet. 

Constructive conversations on these issues are the first step to paving the path ahead. Engaging in the news ensures you can use your voice in these conversations.

Keep global, regional and local issues in mind this Oct. 1 news engagement day and everyday. 

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