Sentientist News

What would it be like to read, listen to and watch sentientist news?

While news does have a loftier goal of informing us, it’s primarily designed to grab our attention. Given how news organisations think of human psychology that can lead to an “If it bleeds, it leads” approach that prefers bad news over good and pushes emotionally affective stories over those that might objectively be more important.

Most news is also strongly human centred and very selective in how it talks about other sentient animals. The being doing the bleeding in “If it bleeds, it leads” either has to be a human animal (ideally of a group the local readership care about) or be a companion animal or charismatic wildlife. Other wildlife and farm animals are typically treated as objects or property that warrant little or no moral consideration. Often, inanimate or abstract entities such as the environment or nature are granted more serious intrinsic moral consideration than sentient beings.

In contrast, what might we expect to see from a more sentientist news, one committed to evidence and reason and having compassion for all sentient beings? Some suggestions:

  • Good news as well as bad – based on data (if you want to understand the world, rely more on data sources like OurWorldInData, Faunalytics, Beautiful News, the Centre for Humanitarian Data or Sentience Institute and less on news headlines)
  • Coverage including all sentient beings – yes, that means talking about farmed and wild animals (this paper suggests extending humanitarian data visualisations to include non-human sentients)
  • Stories and headlines more prioritised by impact on sentient beings (we might see more stories about animal farming, global health, global poverty, violence and oppression, catastrophic and existential risks…)
  • More global news – recognising that, while readerships have specific local interests, the lives of sentient beings elsewhere matter too
  • Language reflecting moral consideration for all sentient beings – no more “it”
  • More data and evidence to ground and balance the narrative aspect of stories.

We can encourage this type of news (and data) by asking for it and valuing it where we find it. With modern technologies and open data / open content standards, we can even create it ourselves. Hopefully some in the news industry want to go this way too. News is supposed to be objective, true and important, after all.

I’d love to know what you think… Please help improve these suggestions by commenting below or joining the discussion in one of our online communities.

One Comment

  1. People are drawn in by photos and snappy headlines. And “bleeding” news is more likely to be read and shared. But many animal lovers (myself included) have a low tolerance for pictures and videos of animal abuse. We already know the abuse happens, we don’t need to see it anymore. As for the pronouns, I think using “she/he” or “s/he” to refer to an animal is awkward. And in some non-human animals, just like in some humans, gender and sex are ambiguous. I don’t yet know the solution for those who find “it” offensive. Perhaps just calling an animal what it is? (A duck, a rabbit, a water bear, etc.)

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