Alain De Botton - The News: A User’s Manual (3 stars)

Engaging and thoughtful exploration of an often manipulative medium

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Alain De Botton - The News: A User’s Manual

(Hamish Hamilton)

In this engaging and thoughtful book, the popular philosopher and co-founder of London’s School of Life, Alain de Botton, turns his attention to the news in its various forms. Specifically, he seeks to question the generally accepted positions of authority held by Western news outlets, and to offer some perspective on the effects of our incessant consumption of news from sources that multiply exponentially every year.

Beginning with the point that news ‘now occupies a position of power at least equal to that formerly enjoyed by the faiths’, de Botton goes on to assert that, unlike religion, the news is not presented to us with any appreciation of or sympathy for our frailties, sensitivities and felt needs. Rather, he argues, news is generally presented in a way that manipulates and takes advantage of our weaknesses, all the while drawing attention away from its own methods.

De Botton delivers perceptive analyses on current reporting of different types of news (politics, world, celebrity etc) and in each case posits the ways in which an ‘ideal news agency of the future’ might do things differently. While the analyses are invariably more convincing than his proposed solutions – and his tone can occasionally feel pompous and privileged – there is much of value to chew on in his observations. Subtitled ‘a user’s manual’, this book would still probably be best treated as a discussion starter, and should provoke many a worthwhile debate.

Alain De Botton: The News

The author and presenter considers the role that news plays in our lives, offering advice as to what precautions to take when watching or listening to broadcasts.

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