Lessons learned from a lecture with David Horovitz, founder, Times of Israel

The first thing I grab when I wake up is my iPhone. Not only because it’s been blaring loudly, after one two many snooze button attempts, but also because I’ve gotten so used to my morning routine: wake up, check email, read my favorite news apps, browse through my Facebook friends’ lives then finally hit the shower.

But while spending my first waking moments every day scanning a screen might not be healthy for my eyes, I like to think it’s helpful for my brain. One of the first things I like to do in the mornings is find out what happened overnight: Did any more monkeys get lost in IKEA, or worse, a Walmart? Did revolution quietly break out in a small Middle Eastern country that will now become front-page news? Or, does my favorite beauty magazine have any more tips on how to hide those dark black circles under my eyes? (It’s genetic I swear – nothing to do with late nights on the iPhone, let alone, early mornings).

So while I’ve been patting myself on the back for being so news-savvy (a journalist should like reading the news, if you want to write them, after all), it came as a bit of a surprise when a seasoned editor told me and a group of fellow journalists, who were part of the Taglit-Birthright Israel: Mayanot Newsroom to Newsroom trip, that one of the perils of reading news online is that you constantly read the same sources, only reinforcing your own narrowing world view. I was madly scribbling down his journalism tips but stopped abruptly when he said this. Here I was thinking I’m a well-rounded journalist when in fact I might just be some toque-sporting, wide-rimmed glasses-wearing journalist, moleskin notebook in hand, who is only getting news from one side of the spectrum.

He did have a point: if we we’re reading newspapers and magazines, our eyes would catch news that we never intended to read. But when I actively open my news app, I only click on the articles that are relevant to me – so any article that might not be already on my radar never really gets a fair chance at all.

I was all but ready to put down my pen, hand over my journalist hat (someone should really give us one) when I realized that I don’t believe it. In fact, I think the truth is, that, thanks to social media, we’re even more likely to get our news from unlikely places – and sources. Maybe all I check every morning is the Globe and Mail app but the second I log onto Facebook and Twitter, I’m bombarded with news articles that I would have never found – and maybe I don’t need to read about monkeys that go missing in furniture stores, but hey, my friends have led me to good stories too – ones about missing children I never would have heard about, a policeman who bought a homeless man shoes, a dog that runs to his owner’s grave every night.

The real challenge? Allowing yourself to have an open mind to begin with. I can easily skip through those articles I don’t want to read, with the glide of a finger, or I can pause and wonder if checking out these divergent sources will make me a more well-rounded individual, and a more informed journalist. I’m hoping it will.

Vicky Tobianah