5 Things USA Today Says You Need to Know (and 5 Things that Come a lot Closer to Meeting that Need)
USA Today is back, grinding out its daily “5 things you need to know” article. Here are today’s entries; according to USA Today, apparently I need to know that:
1. “N.Y. escapee is in the hospital”. I don’t need to know this. Even if I lived in New York State, I wouldn’t have needed to know this (and I did just spend a week’s time upstate while the two prison escapees were hiding out). Take a look at a map to see how large the state of New York is, and visit the U.S. Census Bureau to verify that 19.75 million people live in the state. I don’t need to feel danger when the danger is statistically ridiculous.
2. “Greek banks to remain closed”. I give USA Today a little bit of credit for this. As an American, I don’t need to know about the suffering of people in Greece due to the behavior of banking institutions. But although I don’t need to know this piece of news, it probably does my heart and brain good to think about the suffering of people socially unconnected to me.
3. “Supreme Court to issue final rulings of term”. This translates to “there are rulings the Supreme Court hasn’t made yet.” Why do I need to know this? The “news” is inaction, not action, so there’s nothing affecting my life here; the story is one of emptiness, not presence. The Supreme Court is so cloistered that I’m not going to be able to influence the decision of its members, either.
4. “Obama will host Brazil’s president”. That’s nice. I hope they serve cookies at the State Dinner and all, but I’m not invited to participate in or hear the discussions, and neither are you.
5. “Game, set, match! Wimbledon gets underway”. It’s a game with rackets on a lawn.
1 out of 5 articles in USA Today’s list qualifies here, sort of. If a newspaper is going to use the word “need” then it should actually share information that either affects a reader, or that the reader can act upon in some fashion, or both. It’s not hard to come up with 5 pieces of news that affect your life and/or that you can change. Here are my nominations:
1. “Your Representatives are Coming Home Soon. Here’s Where you Can Confront Them.”. In the summer recesses for the U.S. Congress and your state legislature, U.S. and state senators and representatives will be making visits to their home districts. You’ll see notices in your local newspaper of visits that your representatives in governments made to towns near you to listen to constituents. But those notices will largely be in the past tense. That’s because your representatives make appointments with the rich and powerful, who are informed of events, while you are kept out of the loop. But you don’t need to be. Find the websites of your U.S. Senator, U.S. Representative and state legislature here, here and here, respectively. Call your legislators’ offices and ask their staff when they’re coming to your town and how you can attend a meeting. You’d be surprised at how often you’re given the information you need to know and a chance to give a powerful politician a piece of your mind. If they decline to share that information, or if they tell you that there will be no such meetings for the public, on the other hand, now you have a useful piece of news to share in a letter to the editor of your local paper: your representative gave the kiss-off to one of “the little people.”
2. “Planning a Trip to the Nation’s Capital this Summer? Step Off the Fake Trolley and Add Your Voice to the Clamor.” Thousands and thousands of people travel to Washington, DC in the summer for some tourist fun. This can involve a cheesy megaphone-driven tour on a fake trolley, but it doesn’t need to. Why not add a bit of civic participation to your tourist experience? Here are three ways you can see DC in action while raising your voice on issues you care about. Laugh, cheer, scream. Make the noise a little louder:
- Fast and Vigil for the Abolition of the Death Penalty, Washington DC, June 29 – July 2
- Health Care Justice March, Washington DC, August 1
- Bike around the Bomb to protest nuclear weapons, Washington DC, August 9
3. “It’s Not Just Prisons: Three Quarters of a Million Americans are in Local Lockup.” When we think of the sky-high U.S. incarceration rate, we mostly think of people languishing in state or federal prisons. But the Bureau of Justice Statistics recently released statistics showing that on a typical day in 2014, 744,600 Americans were locked up in city and county jails. If these trends hold for 2015, then if you’re an average American, it’s a good bet that someone you’re acquainted with is going to end up in the local pokey this year, a result of the unusual decision by American politicians to starkly criminalize human behavior.
4. “If You Hate Corporations that Abuse Workers, Stop Buying Gildan Shirts”. U.S. retailers selling Gildan shirts typically make $6 or more in profit for every single shirt they sell. But in Haiti, the factory workers who make Gildan shirts are paid $6 a day for their sweat, and as a result are so poor that they can’t afford running water in homes that squeeze an entire family into a single room.
5. “It’s Not Just Gildan: Third World Factories that Make Your Stylish Clothes Endanger Children”. While sweatshop workers work hard for hardly any pay to stitch together your fashionable clothing, what happens to their children? In a report released last week, the Workers Rights Consortium shares its findings regarding child care provided by Gokaldas, a contractor making clothing for Puma, Adidas, Marks and Spencer, Columbia, Nike, Gap, H&M and Levi’s brands. WRC concludes in its report that Gokaldas disregards safety laws and thereby endangers children’s lives in the nurseries where workers’ children are placed.