Regrettably or Productively Uninformed?
Earlier this year I chose to go on a news hiatus. While parts of those walls have come, I continue to have a routine that largely keeps me uninformed about current events. When the duck boat accident happened in Branson, Missouri, it was days before I heard. When the alt-right marched on Washington, I had no clue.
What I have struggled with is the give-and-take between being informed rather than caught up, alarmed and angry. Earlier this week I needed to have a leak repaired in my tire. When I came back to pick it up, they told me it would be about ten more minutes. No big deal. As I waited, I was in their waiting area for a while where CNN was on. Five or six people were discussing something President Trump (it still feels weird writing that) had said earlier that day. What I found distracting was the amount of time dedicated to something offensive but not mission critical. Why did this warrant bringing in five or six people for probably 10 minutes of coverage? Is there really this much to discuss or do they just have that much airtime to fill in a 24 hour day?
My respite from the news has left me feeling less in the know but also less anxious. A show I have fallen back into again, "Newsroom", captures my attention in part because of the debate that regularly occurs of, "is this newsworthy or hype?" What are the unglamorous but important topics? p.s. they don't always get it right. They have hard conversations about how to cover BREAKING NEWS. There is a scene I adore in which they are covering the 2011 shooting of congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords. In the scene NPR inaccurately reported she had died from a sole source. After that, the other news networks picked up NPR's story. ACN, the show's fictitious network, ends up deciding it will not report she is dead because there is only one confirming source. When pressed by an executive to run with it, one of the producers says, "Its a person. A doctor pronounces her dead not the news." Not only do I cry every time I watch this scene but it makes me think a lot about news in our instant era and why moving away from it might be a good thing.
Often a breaking or fast-moving story is full of people filling airtime while they wait for something to develop. People can also in a rush to be the first-mover, get out ahead of a story because they are moving so fast they don't have time, or the interest, to verify things. And once the story is reported it gets picked up by social networks and is suddenly everywhere even though the circulating piece of information is not correct. Mistakes are bound to happen in journalism. The question is: do we really have to know something the minute it breaks? How much of that is for our citizenry and actions we will take (social media venting does not count) vs. our ego wanting to feel fulfilled and our body craving instant feedback.
When considering largely opting out of the news, I see two things to consider:
What might I miss out on?
What might I gain?
There is no right path. But I do believe there is more than one.
Go Forth Boldly