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.
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.
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?