On the News

newsI will confess, I have never read a newspaper from cover to cover.  Or a copy of U.S. News and World Report either.    I avoid most TV news programs like the plague.  I don’t which is worse, some bozo reading, In Kansas, thirty five people died in a tornado, with an insipid grin or someone acting as if they are horrified by the same news, only to turn into Pollyanna when reading the next report about some celebrity I’ve never heard of.   I sometimes get my news from the radio, mostly from talk radio shows.  I know they are mostly biased, but they admit it up front, unlike most other reporters these days.  And another station is a button push away.  I don’t worry about missing anything of significance, particularly if it’s horrifying, because in these days of social media it will make it’s way into my consciousness somehow.  But my main source of news these days is the news apps on my tablet. My favorites are the Google news app (which extracts it’s pieces from many sources), USA Today, and Fox News.   I really liked the Washington Post app but after finding for several months that it lets me read only ten articles a month before asking me if I want to subscribe for $14.95 a month, I deleted it.  They are certainly entitled to make money in these difficult times for print media … they are just not going to make it from me.  Yahoo News has also been deleted … too many celebrity bullshit articles and ads posing as news.   At least the other apps put that kind of crap in one place so I can avoid it.

Even with the real news articles, I am selective about what I read and how deeply I read into each subject.  I have no desire to know the gory details of the latest automobile accident, murder or terrorist bombing.  I may be interested in the circumstances surrounding them … why they happened, the motivation or the politics involved.  I don’t need to read every statement from the police and fromfacts the protesters in Ferguson, just enough to know the issues.  Facts?   I think they can only be found these days by examining a number of biased presentations of what happened then using my own judgement.   I am never surprised by the antics, misbehavior or crimes of any celebrity, athlete or politician, not because I’m convinced that all of the above are bad but because do believe that fame brings a certain hubris to many and our media loves to report it.   I sometimes shake my head to find that things like Girls with “Boy” Names – A Blessing or a Curse? rate a headline or that the future coach at Michigan University will make $5M a year.  I can even find more of the same floating around on places I go for fun, like Facebook.  It makes it hard to keep my Inner Curmudgeon inner.

No one will ever mistake me for a Pollyanna or even an optimist, but I don’t want to be a pessimist.  I want to see humanity as more good than bad (with some REALLY rotten apples, I admit) and the world as a place that is in the process of creation, gradually moving from chaos to a better place.  I like to be what Alan Loy McGinnis calls a Pragmatic Optimist in his book, The Power of Optimism, one who sees the world as it is and is positive anyway.  That doesn’t happen naturally for a guy with a very resilient Inner Curmdugeon and the truth is, I don’t think it happens easily for most people.  Our world view is shaped by what we see, hear and read, whether we like it or not. And, as journalist Bob Franklin said back in 1997, Entertainment has superseded the provision of information; human interest has supplanted the public interest; measured judgement has succumbed to sensationalism. With the growth of the internet and social media, this is truer than ever. Based on a study in the British Journal of Psychology measuring the effects of negative news, Psychology Today says this:

So not only are negatively valenced news broadcasts likely to make you sadder and more anxious, they are also likely to exacerbate your own personal worries and anxieties. We would intuitively expect that news items reflecting war, famine and poverty might induce viewers to ruminate on such topics. But the effect of negatively valenced news is much broader than that – it can potentially exacerbate a range of personal concerns not specifically relevant to the content of the program itself. So, bombarding people with ‘sensationalized’ negativity does have genuine and real psychological effects. Given this ‘cascading’ effect of negativity into people’s personal lives, should TV schedulers be required to consider such effects when preparing and scheduling programs containing emotively negative content?

On what planet is that ever going to happen? If we want to be pragmatic optimists in this world, we need to moderate and modulate what we let into our brains and not depend on our media to do it for us. We can do that by looking intentionally for good news at places like The Huffington Post Good News Page or by finding the good in the world ourselves intentionally by focusing on the good or beautiful around us and by being of service ourselves … which pays double dividends by placing us among others who are of service.

That’s what Older Eyes thinks when he can get his Inner Curmudgeon to shut up.  What do you think?

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2 Comments on “On the News”

  1. jenihill Says:

    When it comes to the news, I definitely am not what one would call a “news hound.” I do watch the local news in my area -or as close as any TV station in central Pennsylvania comes to reporting what would be my “local news” because it’s a small, very rural area so odds are this part of the broadcast region rarely has anything newsworthy to report on the 5 p.m. or 11 p.m. broadcasts -except maybe the weather. Simply because I tend to keep the TV on the same channel most of the time, the end result is I usually end up watching the NBC Evening News broadcast most every night although depending on what they are talking about is what I base my attention span on then too. Politics I frequently ignore except for maybe just enough to have a little clue of what is being discussed. One thing for sure though is that the station that never has their “balanced” broadcasts grace my living room is definitely the Fox people! I steer away from O’Reilly, Limbaugh and the lovely (NOT) Glenn Beck like the plague! Even my local newspaper is generally just a very quick scan of headlines for the most part, read the local police reports from time to time, then move on to Dear Abby, the obituaries and occasionally visit the crossword puzzle of the day. The daily local paper has become such a farce for those of us who live in or near where I live because they rarely have anything that they find newsworthy enough to include in the paper if it is about anything in the section of our county we residents lovingly refer to as the “Down River” region. If something happens in the county seat or any of the little towns and villages to the west of the county seat, that will be in the paper but if it is in the “Down River” region, the only time our paper recognizes our existence is when they want people to subscribe or renew their subscriptions! As a friend of mine likes to say about our region, “We must live in the safest part of Clearfield County because if you read the police reports, you always see under the header “Cooper-Morris Township Police Reports” it will say “Nothing to report!” No wonder the kids growing up here tend to say “Nothing ever happens here!”

  2. territerri Says:

    I’m not generally a news-watcher either, and I tend to internally berate myself for not being well-informed. But having read your post, I think it may not be such a bad thing. I have to be very conscious to think positively and the last thing I need is a regular barrage of information that steers me in the other direction.Thanks for the tips on where to find “good” news. As far as the typical offerings go, I don’t think we’re ever going to see an unbiased news source in this lifetime.

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