Over time, we have gradually accepted the news for what it is. Both our obsession with knowing current affairs, as well as what is even considered “news”, has always been shrouded with mystery that is to be expected of an enigmatic medium. Now, in the form of an analytical manual, Alain de Botton showcases the media in a way that we originally ignored.
With every point structured in small, bite-size paragraph, de Botton – perhaps intentionally – appeals to our limited attention span when it comes to reading the news. As well as this, with topics including politics, celebrity and world news, Alain cleverly picks apart the societal expectations of the media when it comes to reporting on said topics. Why do we smile at the fall of a politician? What makes certain news stories seem boring? Why do we idolise celebrities?
But aside from shining a light on our fascination with the media and showing it in its true form, Alain also considers the perfect, utopian media where self-development and betterment as well as the improvement of society as a whole are taken into consideration.
On a more personal note, I have studied Communication and Culture which studies the effect of the media on us and society. Throughout the book, Alain’s points resonated with key social theories such as otherness and capitalism. Also, with Alain including real-life articles for reference, the manual can also act as a guide not just for the everyday citizen, but for aspiring journalists as well. Alain’s intrinsic analysis of the media’s flaws is a cautious warning about the pitfalls today’s writers need to avoid. However, at the same time, Alain’s vision for a dystopian medium is something aspiring journalists can strive to achieve.
In a time where news has been accepted for the enigma that it is, Alain de Botton’s best-seller challenges expectations and explores the repetitive patterns in today’s journalism. Written in the form of a clear and informative guide, News: A User’s Manual is the manual for everyone – from the avid consumer of news, to the next aspiring journalist.
Rating: 4 out of 5