What We Can Learn From the News 


By Brad Smith


The first newspaper to appear in print in the US, was the  Publick Occurrences Both Forreign and Domestick. This news sheet came out in September 1609 and was quickly censored and never made it past the first issue.
The first evening news program ran from 1947 to 1948 and the title was The Walter Compton News. The newscast was 15 minutes in length and went out nationally in the evening. America had to wait until January 14th, 1952 to get its first real news program. This was the day that the first episode of the Today show was aired, making it the first morning news program in the states and the world.
Nowadays there are hundreds of choices when it comes to the news. Newspapers are still printed around the world, the internet displays up-to-the-minute reports, and there are even dedicated 24/7 news channels.
This amounts to an unprecedented amount of global news available to anyone at any hour of the day. But, to sometimes understand what is happening today, you must also look to the past.

How has the news changed over the years?

In the not-so-distant past, people relied heavily on newspapers for in-depth reports about the events of the day. News channels often tend to summarise some reports due to time constraints, but there are other programs that go into some stories more in-depth.
Many people today rely heavily on the internet for their news. Especially in countries where the news is censored and controlled by the state.
One thing that has really changed, is that anyone can set up their own news channel by using the internet. Serious amateur journalists can control their own reports and stream the events live with high-quality cameras. This freedom has led to some serious reportage, and it has also led to works of fiction and fake news.

What needs to be understood when watching the news stories of the day?

What is perhaps missing from many of these news channels is any relation to past events. Of course, newspapers and newscasts are supposed to limit themselves to reporting the facts of the matter, and not entering into a debate.
However, for observers of these events, it is important to be students of history as well as current affairs to see how today’s events can be traced to the past.
No matter how good today’s photographic and video equipment is at recording the present, and regardless of how talented a reporter is at writing, without understanding the past, the same mistakes will just keep getting made.
When news reports on events such as the Charleston Church shooting came out, how many people watched and considered the recent past in America and its history of white supremacists? Events from the past can be connected to recent history and today’s news.

The current pandemic

The news has been dominated by Covid-19 ever since the emergence of a strange flu-like illness started spreading in Wuhan at the end of 1999. Not a single day has gone by in the last 16 months without more reports about record deaths, surges, new variants, and vaccines being distributed.
While it is still unclear how the vaccine originated, the past may hold a clue. It is believed by some that the virus was created in a lab in China as a weapon, others believe the US had a hand in it. It has also been blamed on a seafood or wet market, and China’s love of exotic meats.
What is clear, however, is that the past should be studied to understand what is happening. China has now been the starting point for around seven global epidemics. It is perhaps time for the world to expect China to investigate more seriously why so many serious flu variants have emerged from there.
When it comes to understanding the present state of the world, it is often important to look at other areas of the past, from economic downfalls to persecution of minorities, and wartime.

Has the financial sector learned anything?

The Enron bankruptcy was big news at the time. The company, which was the seventh-largest corporation in America at the time, colluded with their accounting firm, Andersen Accountants, to hide huge debts.
The company was believed to have a yearly revenue of over $100 billion when it went bankrupt, but the business was telling big whoppers and eventually, the lies caught up with it.
Since this event, the world has seen the global recession of 2007/2008 when the US housing market collapsed. An industry that was also built on foolish financial decisions.
To understand the crash of 2008, you only need to look back to the original Black Friday of 1929. The similarities are there to see. Frantic speculation on the stock exchange, credit being handed out without proper checks to see if the borrower could repay, and panic from the banks when it all went wrong.
One thing that has been learned from the Enron scandal is that due diligence is done far more thoroughly now. Their old accountants live on in the phrase ‘the Andersen Effect’ which refers to this new way of performing due diligence.

Will the world ever learn from wartime?

When looking at current wars it is hard sometimes to relate them to the past in a way to make them understandable. Some wars were necessary, such as WWII and the fight against Nazism.
Others are about installing so-called friendly leaders or gaining control of oil pipelines. The Myanmar coup has led to calls for prosecutions for crimes against humanity for those involved. Unfortunately, for the Burmese, this is just more of the same that keeps happening through history.
The Rohingyas are being persecuted in Myanmar and fleeing by the thousands to Bangladesh, while in the past the Khmer Rouge massacred millions in Cambodia, the Nazis instigated the Holocaust, and Rwanda witnessed its own genocide.
In modern times America has gone to war in Vietnam, Iraq, and Afghanistan, among other countries. It was announced this year that the US military would pull out of Afghanistan. Just as announcements were made to pull out of Vietnam and Iraq, although a small contingency of around 2,500 soldiers remains in the latter.
What was learned from the past when looking at these 21st-century wars? It seems very little, sadly. Just as America left behind a Vietnam torn to pieces and empty promises to the Hmong people in Laos, they have also abandoned Afghanistan to the Taliban.


Today’s news is more than just the pandemic. The US and some other parts of the world have never been more divided. While some support the taking of the knee by athletes, others - including the former President - decry it. Black Lives Matter marches clash with Alt-Right protesters. The Capitol is attacked by the very people who announce they want democracy, while the President refuses to denounce them.

All of this is captured on video and in a digital format with smartphones and cameras to be relayed to the world on the internet, and on TV. No matter how high quality the filming is, without referencing the past and finding solutions, they will just be more news st