It's No News Week
June 5, 2013 7:12 AM   Subscribe

"By following this process, I’m not looking for ignorance – I’m looking for a way to remove irrelevance and stress from my daily routine, so I can be more aware of relevant things." The value of ignoring the news.
posted by mippy (36 comments total) 8 users marked this as a favorite
[Heya, long "here are my thoughts" comment immediately after your own post is kind of not okay re: the spirit of the "no editorializing" dictate for posts, maybe save it for later.]
posted by cortex at 7:24 AM on June 5, 2013 [1 favorite]

And I believe
These are the days of lasers in the jungle
Lasers in the jungle somewhere
Staccato signals of constant information
A loose affiliation of millionaires
And billionaires and baby
Don't cry baby, don't cry, don't cry.
posted by TheophileEscargot at 7:30 AM on June 5, 2013 [2 favorites]

I get the news I need on the weather report.
I can gather all the news I need on the weather report.
posted by ogooglebar at 7:34 AM on June 5, 2013 [3 favorites]

There's nothing wrong with refusing to engage in the cult of fear that is our modern media.

Everyone is afraid of everything and everyone else. We teach our children not to talk to strangers, that everyone may be a predator. We lock our houses up tight against the supposed marauding hordes looking to take our valuables, or lives or worse. We fear the evil motivations of the other, further driving the wedge between us and them.

The media stokes the fires of these fears to white hot intensity. They feed our fear and profit from it. They are like carrion birds preying upon the death of our sense of trust and hopes for a better humanity.

I don't know about you, but I'm tired of being afraid all the time.
posted by double block and bleed at 7:35 AM on June 5, 2013 [19 favorites]

I get the news I need on the weather report.
I can gather all the news I need on the weather report.

Sure, when everyone else in New York is dead.
posted by sweetkid at 7:37 AM on June 5, 2013 [7 favorites]

The thing is, these pieces of media shouldn't actually be called "news". "news" implies an overview of recent noteworthy events. the "news" hasn't been that for a long long time. And i think its because "noteworthy" has been defined as "stokes the adrenaline in preparation for the next ad".

This is just as true of MSNBC as of Fox News.
posted by softlord at 7:39 AM on June 5, 2013 [4 favorites]

"Bad science news is the worst. We now have measles again in the UK as a result."

I don't see how this problem is solved by intelligent people ignoring the news.
posted by ogooglebar at 7:39 AM on June 5, 2013 [2 favorites]

Sure, when everyone else in New York is dead.

At least all the other boys.
posted by ogooglebar at 7:42 AM on June 5, 2013 [1 favorite]

Sometimes you just want to find out for yourself how many holes it takes to fill the Albert Hall.

It's tough balancing between some news and all news.

Going off all news all the time in the mid 00's helped my general state of mind. I realized my watching had become too much during the black out in the North East in '03. The lights were out, it wasn't terror, *click*.

But I have had to introduce some in as the kids' school talks about current events and recent history (tornados, Boston Marathon bombing, 9/11) more than we do at home ...
posted by tilde at 7:42 AM on June 5, 2013 [1 favorite]

The thing is, there are always going to be a lot of junk inputs in life. Teaching yourself and your kids how to deal with them seems like it might be something to do before switching them off.
posted by selfnoise at 7:50 AM on June 5, 2013 [1 favorite]

I think a lot of people consume news as entertainment and because they think they ought to know "what's going on in the world" (as though the news-as-entertainment industry told them that).

The news should be a lot more about statistics and deeper analysis and a lot less about personal stories, a lot more NewsHour and a lot less Eyewitness News, but people are excited to hear about the family of four who died in a fire or the attractive young woman who was raped and murdered, and they are bored by information (crime trends, for example) that might actually be useful to them in daily life and in the voting booth (as if).
posted by pracowity at 8:07 AM on June 5, 2013

I had to do something like this after the Indian Ocean tsunami back in 2004. I could handle hearing about 9/11 in 2001; I could handle hearing about the aftermath of Katrina in 2005. But the destruction wrought by that tsunami was just so large in scale, so unthinkable, that it overwhelmed me. I couldn't bear to watch much coverage of it. So I told myself that I was aware of it, that I'd donated money towards aid, that I'd done everything a responsible adult who lived on the other side of the world and who had limited means reasonably could do, that it was okay for me to then refrain from learning every last detail because it would accomplish nothing but upsetting me.
posted by orange swan at 8:08 AM on June 5, 2013 [4 favorites]

I often self-impose a 24-hour news moratorium after a dramatic breaking news event, because I know most of the initial reports will soon be contradicted by later ones.
posted by ogooglebar at 8:12 AM on June 5, 2013

I worked for years in news organizations and it was my job to be totally engaged in everything that happened globally and locally. I took it ALL in and I was fucking miserable. There's a reason why every journalist I've ever known walks around with a dark cloud above their heads the same as many first responders. You see so much bad that it becomes very hard to convince yourself there's any actual good left in the world. I left the news industry in 2006 and within a few months the dark cloud lifted. Unfortunately, I go through jags where I become too engaged through websites and Facebook which unfortunately is full of friends that are still journalists. Every so often (like last Thurs when the Sun-Times layoffs broke) I go cold turkey and after a few hours my mood lifts.

The modern media has created a monster due to the 24/7/365 nature of electronic journalism and cable news. I really believe many people feel a disconnect with the news media not because it doesn't serve to inform but because in it's drive for eyes it has to constantly stoke fear in order to drive traffic and justify ad rates.
posted by photoslob at 8:12 AM on June 5, 2013 [1 favorite]

Not having cable really helps with this, as does avoiding all network TV news. I can take NPR in small doses, but also avoid it during election seasons. I figure if anything really important happens, I'll probably find out about it here.
posted by Daily Alice at 8:14 AM on June 5, 2013

The author mentions giving up reading mainstream news, but then seems to focus on broadcast media, which very much aligns with my experience: selectively reading pieces from mainstream newspapers and magazines (though banning completely magazines that are "women's"/"men's"/celebrity-focused) and ignoring radio and TV news has significantly improved my quality of life. I do feel vaguely less well-informed, and haven't entirely been able to shake a weird sense of guilt about that, but it is worth it for the general reduction in my stress levels.
posted by EvaDestruction at 8:22 AM on June 5, 2013

One plan for keeping your personal newsfeed informative but not overwhelming is ignore radio and TV news and just read the newspaper (online or in print). Newspapers have the most in-depth and least sensationalized coverage.
posted by orange swan at 8:22 AM on June 5, 2013 [2 favorites]

I sort of drifted into this gradually. Now I check the local news sites once a day at most and the big news sites weekly at best. Twitter and (to an extent) Facebook give me enough insight into local events that I feel like I'm sufficiently informed without being overwhelmed. I feel I'm happier for it.
posted by tommasz at 8:24 AM on June 5, 2013

Seeing this I realize that I haven't checked the "news" for weeks. It hasn't been intentional, but I just find that most of it is a curiosity and really important stuff has a way of making its way known to me via various channels -- or so I presume.
posted by dgran at 8:28 AM on June 5, 2013

I have to take a huge step back sometimes when I am volunteering in "death row" animal rescue, because I am very prone to experiencing secondary/vicarious trauma and even reading about a bad situation involving wounded and/or condemned animals can leave me with inescapable nightmares for months and months. Every kill shelter is always overcrowded and sometimes someone gets kennel cough so they just euth the whole lot and there are always more animals coming in than there are being adopted out and sometimes you lose one you've been working on, even after you put everything you have into saving them, at the end of the day, there's just... absolutely fucking nothing else you can possibly do about it. Being faced with your own utter and complete ineffectiveness in the face of panic, pain, and suffering can be seriously psychologically destructive.

Getting rid of cable was a huge positive step, but I've always tried to avoid all news involving blood-soaked carnage or unimaginable destruction -- I didn't see any actual video footage from 9/11 for over a decade, and even then it was entirely accidental -- because it shatters my brain. I'll refresh Talking Points Memo all the live long day when it comes to election season, but rubbernecking over natural or man-made disasters that do not involve the government is a permanent no-go. It's just unhealthy.

Here's a great piece on managing vicarious trauma and compassion fatigue.
posted by divined by radio at 8:47 AM on June 5, 2013

Great article. Some mention could have gone to Neil Postman who was arguing for a news diet in 1990. He also wrote a book called How to watch the TV news.
posted by yoHighness at 8:58 AM on June 5, 2013

Source matters naturally. I narrowed my daily news intake to the top three headlines per iGoogle (yeah it ain't quite dead yet) and still managed to get a story about a baby rescued from a toilet pipe.
posted by rahnefan at 9:06 AM on June 5, 2013

The thing about (good) newspapers is that they're curated by smart people who know a lot about the issues, so they're not undifferentiated randomness or narrowly-focused my-interests-only echo chambers like internet newsfeeds can be; but a newspaper doesn't tell you how long you should spend on any one issue the way television and radio do. I don't need five minutes of local weather; I need 30 seconds. But I would like to spend six minutes reading about this Big International Issue instead of blowing past the highlights in 45 seconds.

Since my regional paper quit delivering regionally and my local paper got bought by GateHouse and quit, like, having reporters, I haven't found anything that strikes the proper balance between curating general-interest current events (most online sources are either too narrow, too haphazard, or too sensationalized) and letting me choose my time input.

This article made me a little nuts, though; all I could think is, this woman's going to end up with a Wal-Mart (Asda?) on top of her house because she decided to disengage with local issues on the theory she couldn't do anything about them, and isn't going to worry about zoning changes until they're a done deal and she finds out she doesn't like the outcome. Waiting for a crisis that requires action before you engage with issues is exactly the kind of behavior that leads to terrible, reactionary local decision-making, or local decision-making with zero local input, and it's a lot of what leads to national and international news crisis-hopping rather than providing ongoing narratives. Her solution to the problem is part of the problem.
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 9:07 AM on June 5, 2013 [4 favorites]

I don't see how this problem is solved by intelligent people ignoring the news.

I assume what the writer means is that if a person who is OK with vaccines doesn't get exposed to junk science news reporting, then the odds of that person becoming anti-vaccination is diminished. And by junk science news reporting I am referring to those cases where the media outlet interviews the scientist with 30 years of research experience and some person who has never had a biology class and treats them as intellectual equals/similarly credible on the matter and then concludes something stupid like "I guess there is a lot of disagreement in the science community about this". I know a lot of highly educated people who are swayed by that stuff.
posted by Seymour Zamboni at 9:56 AM on June 5, 2013 [2 favorites]

"Intelligent person" was a bad choice of words. "People who are OK with vaccines" would have been better. But I saw "the problem" as the return of measles.
posted by ogooglebar at 10:08 AM on June 5, 2013

Years and years ago, during one of my eventually-to-be-failed attempts at finally finishing a college program, I ended up taking an introductory astronomy class to fulfill a science requirement. It was a pretty good class, and during the course of the semester the professor came in one day with an interesting little bit of news. It seems that a comet was going to smack into Jupiter in the near future, and people were excited about the possibility that the impact would happen on the side of the planet that was facing Earth at the time. They felt that there was some potential for the impact to create conditions that would allow us to see deeper into Jupiter's atmosphere than we're typically able.

About a week later I was in a convenience store, and I noticed that TIME magazine had made this the cover must have been a slow news week. Anyway, I was sort of struck by how a story that I had understood to be entirely about scientific curiosity had become, in the mainstream media, a story about fear.

Everybody with even a marginal interest in politics tends to conclude that the media is strongly biased in favor of their own political adversaries, but since seeing that cover I've come to believe that what the media is really biased in favor of is for everyone to experience a constant, lowgrade sense of fear and anxiety.
posted by Ipsifendus at 10:53 AM on June 5, 2013 [6 favorites]

Great point, Eyebrows.

Also, I wish students these days, probably around 11th grade, would take a course in media literacy. If people were prompted to think about the motives behind what the various media present, and to be able to see the methods they use to shape reactions, we'd be a better society. "Rhetoric for the 21st Century", maybe?
posted by benito.strauss at 12:36 PM on June 5, 2013 [1 favorite]

I wish there were a news source that focused on reporting on issues where people can make a difference in a timely fashion, and less on a sort of generic what happened this week basis. The first lets us engage and do something, but the latter just leads to misery and frustration.
posted by BrotherCaine at 12:46 PM on June 5, 2013 [1 favorite]

I almost never watch the news. Sometimes when I am sleeping alone I'll listen to NPR, but I typically get my news from here. If I don't go on the computer for a few days I will occasionally miss big events, such as the tornado in Oklahoma. I didn't learn about that until a couple of days after it had happen. It wasn't something that effected me so much as it was something I was interested in and made me say "damn". I use to be so heavily ingrained in reading about the news, between here and reddit, I had many points-of-views concerning certain big events. It didn't make me necessarily depressed or have a cloud over my head, but it made me feel jumbled and disorganized. It's a little shocking nowadays to miss out on big events because I wasn't on the computer.
posted by gucci mane at 2:09 PM on June 5, 2013

I ignored the news once.

I was in college and had a lot of work to do and had just got back from studying abroad and needed to figure out what to do with the rest of my life. So I stopped reading the newspaper or paying attention to the internet and I didn't have TV anyway.

At least a month went by. I remember so clearly working in the college library shelving books and overhearing someone talking about martial law in New Orleans to stop the looters. I remember thinking "Well, that's weird" and then ignored it.

Oh boy did that not work out.
posted by subject_verb_remainder at 3:31 PM on June 5, 2013 [1 favorite]

I stopped watching/reading the news a few years ago when I realized that my behavior was identical during periods of news consumption and periods of non-news consumption. I voted the same way, I went to work the same way, I did my work the same way, I played video games the same way, I read books the same way, I danced the same way, I went out on weekends the same way, I cooked the same way...The news was a constant source of stressful information, but it was all information that I didn't need or actually use in any way, other than just to "be informed".

I am definitely a much happier person, now.
posted by Bugbread at 4:06 PM on June 5, 2013 [2 favorites]

I'm like that. i can't really change anything that happens to distant dead people, and all it does is cause stress... i figure when the riot or the earthquake or the tidal wave comes for me i should save my energy for that
posted by Charlemagne In Sweatpants at 5:08 PM on June 5, 2013

i can't really change anything that happens to distant dead people,

I remember when Amnesty International would publicize political prisoners and there would be letter writing campaigns. Sometimes the former prisoners would get out and say that it had had an affect in their treatment. I wonder if those days are just gone, or maybe the U.S. just squandered all its moral capital.
posted by benito.strauss at 7:16 PM on June 5, 2013 [1 favorite]

I overdosed on the news in 2010-2011, between global eco/political unrest, and disasters natural and otherwise. Being able to watch things live during local time led to a lot of sleepless nights.

I wonder if the whole "fear and consumption" meme is taught in journalism and media programs, or just something people instinctively do.
posted by ZeusHumms at 8:47 AM on June 6, 2013

Don't Make Me Think
posted by homunculus at 5:23 PM on June 6, 2013

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