Some of you may be fairly surprised to read this, but I do not watch, read or listen to the news. This is a deliberate decision on my part, because I do not think that the ‘news’ is just news any more and I therefore actively avoid exposure to it to try to eliminate the stress, anxiety and fear it fosters.
I actually used to arrogantly consider my consumption of news a badge of honour (though by no means would I pore over every detail of every story) and that a lack of knowledge of current events was something to be almost ashamed of. However around six to nine months ago I started to become more and more disillusioned with the news. I think my first glimpse into its darker side probably came some time ago watching episodes of Charlie Brooker’s Newswipe (which in my opinion should be shown in schools), and after I became more involved in Twitter I began to notice people mentioning certain types of stories that didn’t seem to get covered in the mainstream, including the BBC, which I had always held sacred as the unbiased foundation of truth. Once I had begun to garner greater cynicism toward everything I read I eventually came across an article in the Guardian titled News is bad for you – and giving up reading it will make you happier. This was the final nail in the coffin for my relationship with the ‘news’ and I decided to give it up. I still read the odd article here and there, but mostly I try to stick to articles that are a complete story, by which I mean the facts are established and are merely being related to me, rather than some hack piece full of speculation. For the most part I do think it has removed a certain level of stress from my life. I remember often feeling anxious and frustrated when I read the news, or just harbour more negative feelings toward many things, but these I days I feel far less of that.
I think its effect hit home for me when the Boston marathon bombing occurred. I heard about it via Twitter and Facebook, but still avoided reading anything else. Some friends of mine were interested in the story and watched hours of coverage on CNN, yet after all that time watching ‘the news’, they knew barely any more facts about the incident than I did. What they had actually been watching was what I guess would technically be labelled ‘soft news’ which is to say news with little to no facts but plenty of subjective, opinionated speculation based on little to no facts. If memory serves I also remember seeing people criticising journalists who had tried to interview frightened children at the scene, presumably to get a stronger emotional reaction from the audience, and asking people questions like ‘were you scared when you heard the explosion?’ as though anyone there would say anything other than yes, they were very scared and thought their life might be in danger. In fact I specifically remember seeing the phrase ‘they don’t know whether it was terrorists’ used online and thinking ‘it was a bomb planted at a public event, so is therefore almost certainly a terrorist act, however what you actually mean is “they don’t know whether it was Muslim/Arab/Al-Qaeda extremists” which is far from synonymous with the word “terrorist”‘. I think after that I felt like I had definitely made the right decision to quit the news, and I use the word ‘quit’ deliberately.
That all said, if anyone would like to recommend any journals etc. I’d be happy to hear them as I still believe there must be some out there that can simply give me the salient details of events and stories without subverting them in order to push an agenda. Also, I would be very interested to hear your thoughts on the above article.
Finally, if you have never seen Newswipe I cannot recommend it enough. There are plenty of episodes available on YouTube so check it out. If you have seen it, just re-watch it!