Editorial Staff

Sixteen-year-old Swedish climate change activist Greta Thunberg made national headlines after her appearance at the United Nations Summit on Monday. Thunberg’s coveted position of national attention and admiration did not result from her speech at the UN summit, as some may think. Rather,  it resulted rather from a “glare” she gave President Donald Trump during his 14 minute speech.

The glare received unprecedented attention from media outlets and public figures alike. Julian Castro, Democratic presidential candidate, tweeted a photo of her glare and commented, “I think a lot of us can relate.” 

The hashtag #GretaThunbergOutdidTrump currently has nearly 35,300 tweets and rose to the ninth spot on Twitter’s trending page. Additionally, numerous major media outlets, including CNN, CNBC, the New Yorker and NBC, have published stories centered around Thunberg’s piercing stare. 

The strange and seemingly unwarranted sensationalization of a 16-year-old activist represents a major problem with modern media. It often shifts attention away from truly newsworthy events. 

Instead of focusing on major accomplishments, terrible failures or unveiled secrets, news consumers latch onto superfluous details that speak to what they already know. Stories like Thunberg’s resonate only with those whose political beliefs are reinforced by the story’s content. 

Thunberg was not recognized at the same level for her dedication to the issue of climate change, nor was she as widely praised for forgoing a speedy flight in favor of a two-week boat trip that was considerably more eco-friendly. Instead, her legacy exists in the media as a single moment in which she glared. 

Thunberg was reduced to the political alignment of her action, obtaining the label of “newsworthy” because her glare reaffirmed the pre-existing beliefs of others.

The media explosion that followed the UN summit is representative of the echo-chamber media can become. Furthermore, it demonstrates the societal disregard for any measure that is not simply classifiable or able to be consumed by an existing identity an individual holds.