What You Need to Know About Anything

I have created my own library of “what I need to know.” Here’s why.

This morning’s paper carried a “most read” article with the headline, “What You Need to Know About Watching the Olympics.” I did not bother reading the article, and I have never read a “What You Need to Know” article…nor will I.

I appreciate that a headline for an online newspaper is like a title to a book, poem, or essay. It is there to stir a reader’s attention and/or give a hint as to the article’s subject.

However, it seems to me that news providers have gone astray in using what any reader needs to know.

It’s all ‘Breaking News” these days. I have seen headlines that promise me what I need to know on Supreme Court decisions, major sporting events, a ruling by a federal judge, horrendous natural events, a new revelation about COVID, and more. There is no lack, it seems, of “What I Need to Know.” 

I admit that there is much I need to learn. However, as an avid reader who strives to gain information from various daily news outlets, I determine what information I need to absorb. I can determine what is important, and an editor who writes “What You Need to Know About” is of no use to me. That said, the work they do is.

I also know and appreciate that our language evolves. For instance, during the 1980’s I watched the verb “quote” begin mutating into a noun, giving us this well-used usage, “ I want to read a quote.” The art of imitation has helped change our language, and that is not necessarily a bad thing. However, I bristle when I read “What You Need to Know About (Whatever) or worse yet, “How to (anything).”

It’s just that the current situation is too much, and it’s out of hand. For instance, at 5p. Eastern on July 22, the Washington Post posted this headline, “What You Need to Know About the Delta Variant.” ABC online news carried the same headline with five stories attached. Not to be outdone, NBC online news carried this worthy tip: “How to Watch the Opening Ceremony of the Tokyo Olympic Games.”

A friend told me that I’m wailing against what is referred to as “Clickbait.” What a telling phrase and what an offensive practice by news outlets!

I appreciate that news outlets must, like advertisers, sell to survive. However, must they offend the common sense of their readers by such nonsense?

News outlets have their place in our world. Many are dedicated to providing instant reporting on occurring events.  But all that is is information, not knowledge. And that is precisely why I have created my own library of “what/how I need to know.”

To have information is useful, but to know … well … that is a strength. For example, to know that there is such a mutation as the Delta Variant is useful, but to know how to protect yourself and loved ones is strength. That second part comes only as a result of knowledge about COVID and its variants.

That knowledge is best gained from reliable sources, not from news peddlers.

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