Seen the news lately?

I bet you have. It's been a good week for news outlets, with the Bat Affleck thing and the VMAs rocketing people to the Internet to check out videos, reactions and "What was she thinking?" articles, all handily provided by national news outlets.

Take CNN.com, "the Worldwide Leader in News."

They gave Miley Cyrus a front-page headline for more than 12 hours and a picture on the front page for three full days. In the 36 hours from Sunday night till Tuesday morning, CNN published 10 articles about her performance.

You would almost think nothing else was going on.

You may forget that 160,000 acres are burning in California, raining ash into the water supply of 2.6 million San Franciscans and threatening two ancient Sequoia forests.

It may slip your mind that the Egyptian government okayed using live ammunition on anti-government protestors, killing more than a thousand activists since July.

Oh, and remember Syria? We're about to start bombing them in response to their use of chemical weapons on civilians.

Add to this the whole NSA debacle, Chelsea Manning's 35-year prison sentence and the 50th anniversary of Martin Luther King's "I Have a Dream" speech, and it's been a pretty busy week.

Be careful, you might miss it.

I took some time to ask my friends and roommates if they'd heard of any of this national and international news. About the monumental California wildfire – "I had no idea that was going on." On the slaughter of Egyptian protesters – "I haven't heard about it."

On Monday, the Beacon published a great editorial cartoon depicting a distraught family in war-torn Syria checking the news. "Any reaction from the west?," asked the mother. "Yes... it seems Ben Affleck is a terrible choice to play 'Batman,'" the father replies.

Why are we so unaware of the massive shifts happening in the world around us? How is it that a minute-long televised twerking session is far more publicized than thousands of lives being lost?

It's easy to blame the news outlets – they are the ones publishing dozens of trash articles and gossip rags featuring a bit of news. We can lash out at MTV, or Fox News, or whomever you happen to hate in the media world.

But blaming journalism is not really reaching the core of the problem. It's what we are reading.

On Tuesday, satire kings The Onion published a fantastic article called "Let Me Explain Why Miley Cyrus' VMA Performance Was Our Top Story This Morning."

While comedic, the article offers a terrific explanation of why news sources are focusing on celebrities: popularity – "You want to know how many more page views the Miley Cyrus thing got than our article on the wildfires ravaging Yosemite? Like 6 gazillion more."

The front page of Huffington Post on Tuesday is a good example of this. The right sidebar, which features the most popular articles on the site, was stuffed with articles surrounding the VMAs. The top five articles on the site were each about Miley Cyrus, meaning that she was read more than five times as much as any other news story.

Online news sites, magazines and even the Beacon make a living through advertising. They tell advertisers that they get viewed x number of times per month, and then can get some money per viewer. This money is hard to come by – with giants like Newsweek going out of print and weekly magazines like US News going monthly.

When one naughty celebrity gets five times as many views than a hundred thousand murdered Syrians, that's a pretty big incentive to write about celebrities.

That's where we come in. We're viewers and tweeters and sharers on the all-powerful Facebook. News sites are begging for us to care about the actual news – believe me when I say that journalists are not exactly itching to write about Lady Gaga's thong.

The industry is pumping out trash not because they want to sell it, but because it sells. We're buying it.

It's only natural to be interested in the craziness of celebrities. Their lives are fantastic and jilted and almost royal. But it's inhumane to ignore the realities of the world we live in – to allow the fun stuff to cover up the ugly stuff. Our country is thinking about going to war in Syria, changing and ending thousands of lives. I think that's worth a read.

I know it's a big system, and we all can feel helpless to reverse these massive trends, but there are little things we can do.

Instead of defaulting to Facebook or Reddit, take a second to pop over to The New York Times or the Washington Post. Heck, stay local and pick up a Beacon. Follow news sources on Twitter, or share your own real articles.

This is why we're in college – to learn about the real world. And I guarantee you the real world cannot be found on MTV.

Evan Ford is a junior in philosophy. He can be reached at eford8@utk.edu.