Does News Matter Anymore?

I’ve always been one to keep up with what’s going on. I watch the local and national news on TV when I can get it (for free, using an antenna). I read newspapers (usually online). I listen to the radio, too (NPR and BBC). I think it keeps me reasonably well-informed, but sometimes I wonder if it’s worth the investment in time, and if it even matters.

Time For News

I probably spend about four hours each day ingesting the news. Do you find that shocking? So did I. Until writing this post, I’d never tried to quantify my news consumption.¬† At least an hour of that is spent reading, often two, and sometimes three. I get the New York Times headlines in my email several times a day, so I skim those and if something looks interesting or important, I’ll click through and read it. I spend another hour or more with television news, but often it is just on in the background while I’m doing something else. I’ll stop and look up if something catches my attention. I also spend anywhere from a few minutes to a few hours listening to the radio, but usually while I’m doing something else.

The Vast Wasteland

Television is often called a vast wasteland, and what passes for news is often as bad as the rest of it. When you consider that there are only about 22 minutes of content in a local 30-minute newscast, and five of them are sports (how is sports “news” anyway?) and another two or three for weather, that’s only fifteen minutes left for actual news. Half of that ends up being fluff, so it has taken half an hour to receive seven minutes’ worth of actual newsworthy information. Not a very good return on investment.

Reader’s Choice

When reading the news, I get to scan the headlines, and then read only the stories I choose to. If a misleading or misunderstood headline takes me to a story I’m not really interested in, I don’t have to read it. I think with reading we have the most control, and can be more efficient consumers of news and other written content.

Hello Radio

While broadcast radio has become as bad as, and sometimes worse than television, there is some good news to be had. I avoid the shoutfests hosted by loudmouthed wing-nuts. I don’t need to be yelled at. NPR has decent headline¬† news and offers in-depth coverage, too. The BBC News Hour, carried by many (most?) NPR stations, is thorough, and I like getting a non-American perspective on USA and world events. Perhaps the best part is that you can listen to the radio almost anywhere. Since it does not occupy your eyes, you can listen while you are driving, doing household chores, exercising, or while doing some crafts and hobbies. Radio makes for great accompaniment while decluttering, too!

So Many Stories, So Little News

A big problem I have with news is that so little of what purports to be news, especially on television, actually is. Between sports, celebrity gossip, human interest bits, and various health, safety, and home maintenance tips (which always seem to feature some local “expert” who invariably advertises on the same station) you have to look pretty hard to find the news in a television “newscast”. Reading is a little better, but only because you get to pick and choose. Radio, surprisingly, is often he most efficient source of actual news.

Does It Really Matter?

Perhaps the bottom line is “What’s the point?” Most of the news, particularly at the national or international level, is not going to have any immediate impact on my everyday life. It’s also not likely there’s anything I can do about any of it either. Much of it saddens or angers me. I know people who pay no attention whatsoever to the news and seem to be just fine. Maybe better than fine, as they don’t have to deal with the stress of knowing what a mess the politicians are making of our country, or hearing about crime, accidents, and disasters every evening. Is ignorance bliss?

What Do You Think?

I suppose it has some value as a form of entertainment, or conversational fodder. I do find it entertaining sometimes, when it isn’t raising my blood pressure, but I tend to be a pretty lousy conversationalist in spite of it. Do you watch, listen to, or read the news regularly? Why or why not? D0 you think it helps or hinders the effort to live a simple and serene life?

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18 responses to “Does News Matter Anymore?

  1. I do watch the news everyday. I like the evening national news and usually watch one of the cable news shows for an hour or so. What annoys me is the focus on entertainment and sports. It takes the top spot. Why does anyone care what Lindsey Lohan or any of the other people in Hollywood have done to get themselves in trouble? The news used to tell what happened in the wars we are involved in and tell the number of deaths. Now our heros are mostly forgotten for ratings. All the channels jump on whatever craziness of the moment and run it in the ground.
    I used to watch a foreign news program and got more US info than our broadcasters but I don’t get that channel anymore.
    I know people that watch NO news and maybe it is the right thing to do.

    • Mike | HomelessOnWheels

      You’re right, Betty – news used to be real news – not all the fluff that passes for news now. The celebrity gossip is the worst, as it is the least important. Maybe the stations and networks are just chasing ratings, and if so it says a lot about the typical viewer if tabloid trash is what gets the ratings.

  2. I have no TV service and spend minimal amount of time reading the news. I find that I don’t really miss it. I used to know the current events and whats happening in politics. But very little of it really effects me locally. There is less stress in my life not caring about the things that I can’t control.

    • Mike | HomelessOnWheels

      Thanks, Marc. I’m glad to hear you don’t miss it, and enjoy the lack of stress. I doubt I’ll go cold turkey, nor end up totally ignoring the news, but I expect I’ll taper off.

  3. I have only free antenna TV, but I usually get a good assortment of channels.

    I’ve written about news a couple of times, and I don’t think it really matters much. Remember that I used to be a freelance newspaper reporter.

    Major world events matter a bit, but which house burned down or who was murdered on which street doesn’t matter. Sports news is the least useful of all. Weather news only matters if there’s storm bearing down on you within a few minutes. Otherwise, it all just makes you feel worse.

    Gip

    • Mike | HomelessOnWheels

      Yes, I remembered that you used to be a reporter, Gip, and I was looking forward to reading your comments. It is reassuring, I think, to know that even someone who was once in that business agrees that most of it doesn’t matter. Thank you.

  4. Reading the news on the internet is something I do in spells. I may not “tune in” more than twice a month, then, when I do, I read for hours, for a few days, then, turn it all off again.
    The television I utilize is only a box for watching movies on, never viewing anything else. Local stations available only which provide crap programming. Waste of time!
    Last time I viewed a paper, was while sitting in the break-room at job, and that had little to offer. It just happened to be sitting there while I ate my tuna on crackers, so, it was something to read for a few minutes.
    Overall, keeping in touch, via internet, seems to grant me the best access. I can read a headline, then pick out a main line, search for info on that, and eventually, find enough to give me, what I feel, is a through account of what the truth is.
    On the other hand… Truth is Perspective, Correct? So… who knows?

    • Mike | HomelessOnWheels

      I find your occasional “news binges” interesting. Do they usually begin as a result of some bit of news you’ve heard, and find yourself wanting more on that specific topic? OR is it just news in general that you read, until you’ve had your fill?

  5. I can relate. I don’t watch the “regular news” but between cable shows, blogs, and newspapers on the internet (not to mention sports… is that news?) I am afraid I “waste” a huge amount of time… four hours a day might be about right.

    Staying up with current events, learning different points of view, being able to make at least marginally informed decisions, that sort of thing – that’s an important responsibility that everyone has. I’m sure I could make my news ingestion more efficient, but then there is the entertainment value.

    Of course, as an idiot redneck Texan, the fact you get your news from NPR, BBC, and The New York Times…. well, to each his own.

    • Mike | HomelessOnWheels

      I mentioned the particular sources that I find to be reliable, accurate, and thorough, as well as relatively unbiased news outlets. While it is probably impossible to completely avoid prejudice in journalism, I also find that, unlike some networks and publications, the ones I cited rely predominantly on reporting, and keep opinionating to the editorial and op-ed pages where it belongs. Not that I don’t enjoy reading those pages on occasion.

      What do you consider to be “good” news sources, Bill?

  6. like you said, when i did watch or listen to the news it was usually npr or bbc.
    with occasional cnn. but i’ve tried an experiment for the last few months.
    my blood pressure had gotten to “stroke” level. so i cold turkey’ed on the news.
    low and behold! it has lowered my blood pressure.
    still taking the same meds for it (which didn’t seem to be working before)…
    had already been on low salt, no fat, no cholesterol… all that stuff… bp still high.
    i kicked the news habit and it lowers!!!! seriously.
    and oddly enough, i don’t care anymore about not being so informed.
    have found i enjoy life much more… and MAY actually live longer!
    cheers,
    tammyj
    and ps mikey…
    if you want to live in your rv surrounded by the stuff that makes you happy, then i would say “hey man. go for it. whatever makes you happy!” that’s what is important in the final analysis in this life. it’s too short to worry.
    i love crocodile dundee’s approach to life. “no worries mate.”
    why are my replies always the LONGEST???
    Sorry!

    • Mike | HomelessOnWheels

      Well, the anecdotal evidence certainly seems to indicate that ignoring the news is a healthy choice!

  7. I live with a news addict and for a long time I just got the “news” from him, whether I wanted it or not. Then one day I realized that I was getting 2 hysteria filters instead of one. Now I watch it once in a while just to make sure that the earth is still revolving around the sun.

    • Mike | HomelessOnWheels

      Hi Trinity. I dunno if getting news third hand like that would be better or worse – I suppose it would depend on who’s doing it and how much they embellish their version. I’m glad you survived and are happy mostly ignoring the news. Thanks for commenting!

  8. I used to read/watch the news. Than in around 1983 my dad got a new job – at the local newspaper. Suddenly the news was EVERYTHING. We had months worth of free newspapers stacked all over the house (research?). All the local newspapers were stacked on the table, on the chairs, on the floor, in the car. I was a teenager at the time.

    Well, before this point, my reading newspapers was as such: I started with the comics, went on to the advice columns, checked out the book/movie/theater/restaurant reviews, read the obituaries, than scanned the headlines to see if any news of interest caught my attention (stuff involving pets, nature, animals, local businesses, etc). Wars, sports, stocks, earthquakes, death, shootings, those things bored me, so I avoided them. (I was a kid, what did I care about that “adult” stuff?)

    Skipping ahead. My dad worked for the newspaper for 21 years. In that time my life became filled with the darkest side of mankind – murder, war, illness, starvation, shootings, drug raids, more murder, this group hates that group, riots, death, violence, bloodshed…and all because every day the only conversation any one in the house had was, “Let’s see what’s going on in the news today.”…”What article will be in the paper tomorrow?” Etc, etc, etc. News, crime, war, hate, death, became the only topics discussed over dinner, around the tv, in the garden, on the beach…in short news, esp really bad news, became the only thing the family cared about, all day, every day. There was no break from it.

    Granted it was understandable, I mean it was my dad’s job and all, but I just plain got sick of it. I found the whole thing morbid and depressing. News seemed to focus only on the bad things, glamorizing and glorifying hate and bloodshed. It made me sick. It made me depressed. It made me hate the news.

    Today, many years later, as an adult, I do not read the newspapers or watch the news reports. I do read the tiny community papers still, you know the type which give updates and reviews on local businesses and the results of last week’s town counsel meeting and who planted what in their garden last week, how many lobster old George brought in last night, that sort of thing, but world news? BAH! World news can drop off a cliff for all I care. It’s too depressing for my tastes. I have better things to do with my time than focus on morbid world events.

    • Just wanted to add…I became homeless after a flood in 2006. I have not had a TV since. Life without TV = freedom. More time to do more things.

      Life without TV News = antidepressant. Less worry about what is happening to people in places I’ve never heard of, less worry about the US economy. I remember when I first heard about the 9-11 attack…what really, it did? When? Than there was the Iraq War… what, when did we go to war again? That many years ago? Huh. First I heard of it.

      It’s weird, but these BIG events that people worry and fret about (and years ago, I too worried and fret about), I now find out about them 4 or 5 years after they happened, and I can look back on them and think…boy am I glad I didn’t know about that, it certainly didn’t effect my life and I would have been so depressed with worry had I known about it.

      My life has been much better (emotional health wise) since both news and TV have been removed from it.

  9. Just tracking the time spent watching news is a huge empowering step. Both my parents watch/watched copious quantities of news, as in, the news channel being on 6 to 8 hours a day.

    Growing up in such a news heavy household, I used to watch a lot of news too, and my day was definitely incomplete if it didn’t start by reading the entire morning newspaper.

    But… I gave it up completely. I didn’t want to accept the message of fear into my life any longer. Now I don’t do any news or any politics. It feels great!

  10. Mike | HomelessOnWheels

    Some people do that (have the news on all day in the background), and I think that’s even worse because it acts upon the subconscious mind.

    I’m glad giving up the news has worked out well for you, Tanja. I’m not sure if I’m ready to entirely give it up yet, but with so many people telling me how much their lives have improved without the news, I should probably give it a try.

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