2) You were never actually accomplishing anything by watching the news
December 13, 2016 4:14 PM   Subscribe

After eight years of not watching TV and internet newscasts, David Cain posts Five Things You Notice When You Quit the News.

1) You feel better: A common symptom of quitting the news is an improvement in mood. News junkies will say it’s because you’ve stuck your head in the sand.

But that assumes the news is the equivalent of having your head out in the fresh, clear air. They don’t realize that what you can glean about the world from the news isn’t even close to a representative sample of what is happening in the world.


The most stressed out Americans say one of the biggest contributors to their stress is watching, reading or listening to the news. People who exposed themselves to six or more hours of media daily had more acute stress symptoms than people who were at the site of the Boston Marathon bombing.

So quit the news. Our brain chemistry -- dopamine, oxytocin, serotonin -- drives our news junky habit. "You can stimulate more dopamine by choosing your own information than by absorbing the alarm calls of news packagers. You can stimulate more oxytocin by strengthening trust bonds with real people in your life. You can stimulate more serotonin by building confidence in your own ability to navigate obstacles."

As Cain writes, it's natural to feel uncomfortable ignoring stories in which people are suffering and dying. But that kind of “concern” doesn't help anyone, except maybe to alleviate our own guilt: "As it turns out, your hobby of monitoring the “state of the world” did not actually affect the world."
posted by not_the_water (113 comments total) 53 users marked this as a favorite
 
I would argue that maybe it makes a difference what kind of news you quit. Or to be more selective with your news instead.

A 5,000 article would indeed inform you in greater detail about the refugee crisis. But 5,000 articles generally don't get written at the time the things that they're written about are actively happening. And sometimes you need to know things immediately, you know?
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 4:20 PM on December 13, 2016 [14 favorites]


I agree with the article, but you could pretty much say the same thing about most television, movies, video games, and sports, especially sports. Maybe because I'm getting older, but I'm scaling back on all my media and don't regret it one bit.
posted by Beholder at 4:24 PM on December 13, 2016 [11 favorites]


I have a "US politics" Twitter list that I followed during the campaign; I don't follow it as much anymore, but it's still useful to keep track of what's happening down South.

I used to read several different columns about provincial politics every day, almost, but I've stopped reading them, because a lot of it is glorified gossip.

I also used to listen to CBC's The House pretty regularly on Saturday mornings, but I've also stopped doing that, too. Too much information!
posted by My Dad at 4:28 PM on December 13, 2016 [1 favorite]


There's a hard anti-democratic and anti-intellectual ideological agenda being pushed very aggressively right now, so I'm skeptical. I know and absolutely believe we need to adapt new information management habits and social conventions to avoid soaking in the deluge, but the temptation to go to an extreme and argue for the complete irrelevance of having and using reliable information to make decisions is a dangerous overreaction that's psychologically and emotionally appealing, but amounts to exactly what I think of as the epistemological nihilism of our age: if you can't be sure of what you know, better not to try to know anything. The kind of business interests that benefit most from people giving up on the whole idea of making informed choices are exactly those that just took the U.S. elections and won Brexit, and I don't honestly care if it makes me happier in the short term or not. I know from experience ignoring them causes even deeper, longer term misery that's spread around pretty liberally.
posted by saulgoodman at 4:32 PM on December 13, 2016 [137 favorites]


I think people not sufficiently keeping up with and understanding the world's events is partially why we've gotten Trumple von Thinskin as president.
posted by tminos at 4:33 PM on December 13, 2016 [57 favorites]


Prior to 11/9, I genuinely enjoyed keeping up with current events. Now, I have to seriously moderate my intake. I dread looking at google news and slate now. I've actually found myself checking Mefi more often, since it often features articles that have nothing to do with Trump.

I still check the news once a day, entirely out of a sense of civic duty. I refuse to bury my head in the sand. Still, I have to get through the day, and there's only so much hopelessness I can take. Once a day is enough.
posted by panama joe at 4:41 PM on December 13, 2016 [31 favorites]


Ignorance is bliss, eh saulgoodman?
posted by qcubed at 4:44 PM on December 13, 2016 [2 favorites]


The author restricts her argument to not consuming TV and internet newscasts, which makes the argument pretty modest and also almost completely unassailable. But does anyone really watch CNN, MSNBC, etc. and think "this is a consistently and comprehensively useful tool for understanding the world"?
posted by skewed at 4:45 PM on December 13, 2016 [12 favorites]


The obvious fact that the Fourth Estate has become irredeemably corrupted by greed and fear is not the same as "paying attention is bad." We need a new way forward; most of our institutions are rooted in the 19th C, if not earlier, and they are not helping.
posted by GenjiandProust at 4:49 PM on December 13, 2016 [12 favorites]


I check Google News once a day. Like MSM, it's shallow, but so shallow I can consume all of it by skimming. So I get as much as it has to offer in a short amount of time.
posted by BentFranklin at 4:50 PM on December 13, 2016 [2 favorites]


I quit listening to NPR in the car after the election. I just could not take the calm, almost cheerful tone of the newscasters. I wanted to scream at them, "this is not okay! Get with it!" So that was bad for my blood pressure.

I have experimented with turning it on again from time to time this week, and now I want to scream for other reasons. "*What* are you talking about?" I want to interject every few seconds. The news is so hung up on who said what, and how such and such person reacted, and getting a false-equivalence point-counterpoint, and doing some quick-hot-take "analysis," that the most fundamental of the 5 W's of journalism - WHAT happened, is rarely fully explained.

This makes me believe that I could get together a team of energetic, ambitious journalism students and provide better coverage and reporting than what is in most major media outlets. Or perhaps high school students.
posted by mai at 4:53 PM on December 13, 2016 [30 favorites]


Ignorance is bliss and I have enjoyed my efforts to disprove it.
posted by lazycomputerkids at 4:54 PM on December 13, 2016


Temporary line in hosts file:


127.0.0.1 news.google.com



Idea for future development:

A news site that only contains articles with reasonable actions people can take to avert whatever potential disaster is described.
posted by amtho at 4:56 PM on December 13, 2016 [9 favorites]


It's linked from the comments over there, but Dobelli's Avoid News is also worth a read (previously, previouslier).
posted by effbot at 4:56 PM on December 13, 2016 [8 favorites]


But does anyone really watch CNN, MSNBC, etc. and think "this is a consistently and comprehensively useful tool for understanding the world"?

People certainly watch Fox News and think that. And I've encountered more than a few who think that about listening to NPR.
posted by davros42 at 5:01 PM on December 13, 2016 [10 favorites]


"People who exposed themselves to six or more hours of media daily had more acute stress symptoms than people who were at the site of the Boston Marathon bombing. "

Oh my God. I didn't spend this much time watching TV news when I worked in a newsroom. I can't imagine how this doesn't end in literal madness. Why would you voluntarily do this to yourself?

(I like news. I like TV. I like them both a lot. I still can't imagine.)
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 5:02 PM on December 13, 2016 [11 favorites]


The article does prioritize reading books. The article pulls a stat out of the air by claiming 3 books on a topic is more than 99% of others, but the books I consume do comprise my "center".
posted by lazycomputerkids at 5:03 PM on December 13, 2016 [1 favorite]


It is difficult to stay informed (in order to be able to make informed voting decisions) without following the local news. I don't know how else I'm supposed to turn up at the voting booth without keeping tabs on the daily evolving news stories.

I don't have a TV, so I rely on the local newspaper to provide the local, national and international news from a local perspective.

But not only does that newspaper have a monopoly in my city - which means I have to weigh up everything it reports with an understanding of its biases - it's also necessary for me to sift past all the news that's irrelevant to me, to locate the content I'm actually looking for.

It makes it very difficult to be an informed, objective citizen.
posted by paleyellowwithorange at 5:03 PM on December 13, 2016 [4 favorites]


my conundrum right now is that reading the news is clearly having a terrible impact on my mental health, and yet the anxiety that it intensifies latches on to narratives like "if i look away for even a minute, the stampede of miscreants assailing the federal government will get away with it".

ever since the election i have been struggling with constantly being bombarded by imminent disaster outside of my locus of control. i don't want to look away but trying to take it all in is like staring at the sun.

i keep asking myself, "what could i have done differently to prevent this?", like a pebble at the bottom of a mudslide thinking that if it had just gripped the cliffside harder none of this would have happened.

the news is intersecting with my particular brand of crazy very badly right now.
posted by murphy slaw at 5:04 PM on December 13, 2016 [84 favorites]


I think several of the article's points argue directly for consumption of more thorough, more focused, and more curated sources of information--possibly an elitist position, but not an anti-intellectual one. Possible examples: the Trump 2.0 syllabus, Black Lives Matter syllabus, Rape Culture syllabus, Standing Rock syllabus, 2016 Goodreads awards for non-fiction (Evicted, Dark Money, Another Day in the Death of America, etc.), or other best non-fiction lists from Amazon, Booklist, Entropy, largehearted boy, Library Journal, Minnesota Public Radio, Publishers Weekly, Time, or WaPo [via Savage Minds on teaching the disaster and largehearted boy on the best booklists of 2016].
posted by Wobbuffet at 5:11 PM on December 13, 2016 [101 favorites]


Years ago (10+ years, when I was single), I would watch The National on CBC with dreamy Peter Mansbridge. Every night at 10 PM. The format was one that I took for granted - 30 minutes, more or less, of news; 30 minutes, more or less of a long-format story on some specific topic.

Once in a while you'd get a few talking heads; once in a while a few opinion pieces, but always engaging, and in my naive mind, always with a mission to inform.

My life nowadays doesn't permit me this ritual, and to be honest, I don't miss it; though it was a nice way to wind down.

I didn't have "cable" those days, and when I finally saw what CNN and MSNBC, and all those US channels had become years later, I was shocked. I assumed everyone's newscasts were like The National, but instead it felt more like a Las Vegas Bingo hall with noise and tickertape headlines and talking heads. You couldn't keep up!

But yeah, I don't blame anyone in the US for quitting the news.
posted by bitteroldman at 5:16 PM on December 13, 2016 [6 favorites]


Since I cut the cord, I don't have any access to TV news, and I don't miss it at all. I never, ever think "boy, I wish I could be watching MSNBC right now." But I don't think I agree with him that you shouldn't consume any short, topical news at all because it's better to wait and read books or long-form articles or whatever. Some things are timely, and I want to know about them in a timely fashion. And some things that are important to me are never going to be the subjects of books or long, in-depth articles. That includes pretty much all local news, for instance, which I suspect is true for most places that aren't big cities. There will never be a book about the proposal to open an emergency homeless shelter in an empty building two blocks from my apartment, but I'm still glad that I know about it, and I would like to know if there are going to be city council hearings on it so I can go and voice my support. And reading the local paper or following local blogs is the only way that I'm going to know what the school board is up to and when there are proposed changes to local zoning policy and whether the state government is going to cut education funding.
posted by ArbitraryAndCapricious at 5:16 PM on December 13, 2016 [6 favorites]


Being informed about your community and society, for better or worse, whether it's fun or not, is a pretty basic requirement of responsible adulthood, even outside of democracies. If the tools we rely on to stay informed are making it harder for us to do that, it's the tools that are broken, not us.
posted by saulgoodman at 5:18 PM on December 13, 2016 [13 favorites]


This makes me believe that I could get together a team of energetic, ambitious journalism students and provide better coverage and reporting than what is in most major media outlets. Or perhaps high school students.

Thanks for the free new business model, mai!
posted by ZenMasterThis at 5:22 PM on December 13, 2016


If the tools we rely on to stay informed are making it harder for us to do that, it's the tools that are broken, not us.

Which suggests we should throw away the broken tools. I.e., stop watching the news.
posted by tobascodagama at 5:27 PM on December 13, 2016 [5 favorites]


The author restricts her argument to not consuming TV and internet newscasts, which makes the argument pretty modest and also almost completely unassailable. But does anyone really watch CNN, MSNBC, etc. and think “this is a consistently and comprehensively useful tool for understanding the world”?

Do you remember that letter someone wrote to The Awl’s advice column about hating themselves because they don’t work for Buzzfeed and Buzzfeed Buzzfeed Buzzfeed?

Do you remember how the President Elect starts his day be getting handed every single news story mentioning his name?

I don’t know if people think it’s useful, but people certainly seem to think that it defines the world…
posted by Going To Maine at 5:29 PM on December 13, 2016


I remember when I got hooked on CNN. It was during the run-up to the Gulf War, and I watched it non-stop for many unhealthy months. It was terrible. Then I stopped watching TV and became some sort of obsessed activist. I had no time for TV, and eventually quit cable.

Before the Internet, I read the Chicago Tribune every day, a conservative paper I'd learned to read for what it didn't say since I was a wee barn. I read it every day, until I moved to the great white north, and switched to my local small-city newspaper, a monopoly that mostly is terrible, but I know half the people who work there, and feel perfectly free to shoot them a complaining email whenever they fuck around, and a praising email when they do well. Also, when I get really het up about something, they always print my letter or my full-on opinion piece, probably because I'm really good about staying within the word limits and avoiding personal attacks.

At any rate, I am a great believer in keeping up on what's going on in the world, but I think cable news is terrible, and my local newscast has never been very good either. I watch evening newscasts when they happen to be on, but I never pursue it. I know a lot of the local newscasters too, as they come and go, and they're right on people, but local newscasts in this town are too often about the local lutefisk dinners and parades, and not really about anything of substance.

My Google news feed is tailored to my interests, and I scan it every day, along with reading the local paper, and one local blog that fills in a few spaces. If we had a decent alt-weekly, I'd read that, but we don't. The rest is a few articles from the NYT and WashPo and MeFi and FB, but if I'm diligent about it, I'm done in an hour and that's enough.

My husband used to listen to NPR all day while he worked from home, but he quit the morning after the election debacle and now we listen to music only, and we're both doing our best to read more books and look only sideways at the Shitgibbon horror show.

I honestly don't think it's that difficult to stay informed with a basic one-hour commitment per day, plus comprehensive longform articles, a Harpers subscription (I'm about six months behind at any given time) and a well-tailored news feed. If I spend too much on FB, I spend all my time annoyed at the fake news and feeling compelled to point them all out, and that right there isn't good for your blood pressure.

Sometimes I housesit for a friend who has cable, and the only decent news station that doesn't give me the gibbers is Al Jazeera.
posted by RedEmma at 5:44 PM on December 13, 2016 [7 favorites]


Also, I think that the article is totally correct that 99% of people have no bloody idea of what they're talking about when it comes to current events. They repeat talking points they've heard somebody spout and that's about it--the depth of thought is absolutely appalling. I used to love talking current events with people until I realized this. Now I discuss these things only with people I know who bother to read.
posted by RedEmma at 5:48 PM on December 13, 2016 [6 favorites]


too often about the local lutefisk dinners and parades, and not really about anything of substance.

I get that, and I don't read a lot about those kinds of events either. However, I think they are a direct societal antidote to the kind of alienation that different groups feel from each other -- or at least they can be, if someone is making sure they are inclusive and that they reach out to different kinds of people, and that they protect participants from harassment, and that they get the kind of outreach publicity they need, and that the people running them don't burn out.

They are actually important, and complicated, and worth people's time and attention, is all I'm saying.
posted by amtho at 5:49 PM on December 13, 2016 [6 favorites]


ever since the election i have been struggling with constantly being bombarded by imminent disaster outside of my locus of control. i don't want to look away but trying to take it all in is like staring at the sun.

welcome to feeling what it's like to be a PoC, LGBTQ+, disabled, poor, and so much more in an oppressive society every single day of your life

the jobs you don't hired for, the assaults you experience as an everyday occurrence, the prison system that's literally incentivized to lock you up and keep you in, the health services for which you are denied and can't afford, the savings that don't exist, the education you miss out on, the friends that betray you, the abuse you normalize as an everyday thing that you never see is wrong. and all of this, too, normalized by society and codified into our legal, financial, and various other institutions that bolster systemic disenfranchisement on a massive scale

which is to say: you better be watching the news and you better get plugged in. anything else is privileged comfort and it supports white supremacy and it supports the patriarchy and it supports so many more axes of privilege. unless you're paying all of your life savings into reparations, this not a system for which you're ever going to individually be absolved of, at least in my view
posted by runt at 5:50 PM on December 13, 2016 [16 favorites]


I realized recently that something I miss is getting the newspaper delivered in the morning. You get it once a day, you read it over breakfast, and then you don't read the news again until the next day's paper arrives. If something really big happens, you turn on the radio or TV, but that happens maybe once every three months. I feel like the internet has made every minute into potential news-checking time, and that's not really good for my emotional wellbeing. I'm thinking about going back to having a designated news-reading time and then not checking again until the next day. The problem with that is Twitter.
posted by ArbitraryAndCapricious at 5:52 PM on December 13, 2016 [11 favorites]


I mean, imagine you're undocumented and reading this steaming pile of crud advice column

yeah, just don't follow the news! who needs to know who's getting appointed and what bills are being passed. ha ha, you're going to be fine anyway

what fucking privilege
posted by runt at 5:53 PM on December 13, 2016 [12 favorites]


On Nov 9th I have woke up and promptly canceled cable tv, the NYT, the local paper and haven't looked back. I deactivated FB two weeks before the election and haven't missed it. i've worked in journalism starting in about '95 and was truly committed to speaking truth-to-power but that's not what American journalism is really about. it's about selling advertising by peddling half-truths and misery.

There's a video making the rounds of Denzel Washington being interviewed about the topic of fake news and among the many articulate things he says one statement rings true, "if you don't read the newspaper you're uniformed and if you do you're misinformed." That's where we're at and over the past 12 months we've seen what that means for democracy.
posted by photoslob at 5:59 PM on December 13, 2016 [12 favorites]


We can add Denzel Washington to the list, then.

Anyhow - it's an interesting quip with a decent amount of history.
posted by eschatonizer at 6:18 PM on December 13, 2016 [2 favorites]


Watching our own news is tough enough. I ceased watching American news somewhere around the 2nd time they elected Bush and it helped my state of mind immensely.
That shit still leaks in too much though.
posted by chococat at 6:20 PM on December 13, 2016


We can add Denzel Washington to the list, then.

Well, he did say it. And continued to talk about the obsession of being first :-)
posted by effbot at 6:31 PM on December 13, 2016 [1 favorite]


yeah, just don't follow the news! who needs to know who's getting appointed and what bills are being passed. ha ha, you're going to be fine anyway

I mean, the overlap between "news that will make you feel bad" and "news that will help you be a good citizen and member of society" is definitely non-zero. It's definitely also way less than 100%. Stuff like Fox and Breitbart is some of the most apocalyptic news out there, and it's designed to scare you into being worse citizen. That's too easy an example, but there's lots of stuff that's more subtle but still probably unhelpful and unhealthful. I don't endorse attempting to ignore current events either, but figuring out how to filter sources and manage your relationship with them is important (and there's probably not a universal best practice).
posted by atoxyl at 6:32 PM on December 13, 2016 [5 favorites]


the only decent news station that doesn't give me the gibbers is Al Jazeera

The Al Jazeera America channel was shuttered, unfortunately :(. HUGE shame because you're right, they did some awesome reporting. I discovered it about a month before its demise and watched part of the documentary series Hard Earned which profiled a few working-class Americans in a way that felt like a Nickle and Dimed for this decade. Great reporting, and I've never seen any other mainstream news source put together such an in-depth overview of such a basic topic. Plus, unsurprisingly, they had much better coverage of international events than most other channels.
posted by R a c h e l at 6:39 PM on December 13, 2016 [2 favorites]


Stuff like Fox and Breitbart is some of the most apocalyptic news out there, and it's designed to scare you into being worse citizen.

Which they do while definitely keeping you apprised of (a version of) who's getting appointed etc., I meant to write.
posted by atoxyl at 6:41 PM on December 13, 2016 [1 favorite]


I work in an incredibly news-centric place. My entire job is centered around the daily news. Despite that, I've managed to almost completely cut it out of my life, especially since Cheeto Benito was elected. I'm exponentially happier.

As I say to my family: "we can not talk about this, or we can not talk. Your choice."
posted by nevercalm at 7:13 PM on December 13, 2016


which is to say: you better be watching the news and you better get plugged in.

privilege

I kind of agree, but with this caveat: if all watching the news accomplishes is to make people more fearful and depressed, without at least giving hints as to what can actually be done, then it will actually make them _less_ able to act. The time to take in the information, plus the time necessary to recover from the stress, plus the generally decreased motivation, are all very real factors -- this is the kind of thing that emotional labor is all about, and it's real.

This takes time and energy away from things that people can invest in taking real action, organizing others, finding creative ways to collaborate, connecting with other people. A lot of those activities are cognitively expensive, too, and require the kind of reserves of any other creative problem solving activity.

It's important to find a balance. Probably cutting the news off completely is not good, but there seems to be a completely bimodal way of consuming information for most people: firehose or desert.

We really need something positive to _do_ that has real credibility and depth of purpose; that will alleviate the stress a lot and allow people to receive news and then act constructively (and generously, patiently, intelligently, and effectively).
posted by amtho at 7:31 PM on December 13, 2016 [21 favorites]


I see a conflation of "staying informed" with "watching the news" in this thread that I don't think is even remotely accurate.
posted by tobascodagama at 7:50 PM on December 13, 2016 [26 favorites]


yeah, just don't follow the news! who needs to know who's getting appointed and what bills are being passed. ha ha, you're going to be fine anyway

what fucking privilege


I think it highly doubtful that the type of news sources the article is talking about have very much coverage of what bills are being passed and who's getting appointed. The little blubs they do have aren't enough to help people figure out what they can do about any of it. I think the point is not to be uninformed but to dig deeper into the subjects that really concern you.
posted by WalkerWestridge at 7:51 PM on December 13, 2016 [7 favorites]


Oh, actually amtho just said it better than I did.
posted by WalkerWestridge at 7:53 PM on December 13, 2016


I think a necessary distinction between local and national news is important here. To me, it is incredibly important to stay involved in local news since there is a pretty good chance that it is going to affect me in some way, shape or form. I still subscribe to and read my Sunday paper each week for this exact reason (and the crosswords, love the crosswords).

As for national news, though, I try to keep a mixture of sources on my rotation - WaPo, Reason, Al Jazeera (which is sadly the ONLY place I seem to get any information about what is going on outside of the US), NPR (but Steve Inskeep is really getting on my nerves), and the farther righters like Washington Times. I can't trust any of these platforms to give me a reasoned and independent view on just about anything. But, I can rely on them to report their view of it, and give the reasons why that view is right. I think it is incredibly important to know both sides of the argument, no matter how outrageous or slanted they are. Kernels of truth are smattered about.
posted by tafetta, darling! at 7:53 PM on December 13, 2016 [2 favorites]


We can add Denzel Washington to the list, then.

Even better that the quote originates with Twain. Also, I'm not totally uninformed. I browse the Guardian first thing when I wake up and I still get the NYT morning email digest but I'm really trying hard to not get too apoplectic about cheeto McGee's cabinet picks. I'm really trying to stay busy and creative to dig myself out of the comfortable privileged hole I've dug over the last few years. Just the act of creating is keeping me from retreating back into a dark corner. My psychiatrist reminded me yesterday to stay positive and continue to concern myself of the things in my control. Unfortunately, the media preys on people's fears of being out of control. Better to focus on changing your little corner of the world than worry about not being able to change all of it.
posted by photoslob at 7:59 PM on December 13, 2016 [1 favorite]


oof... can you just imagine meeting a guy like this at a work function or a party in a couple years? You bring up the House Bill on Forced Registration of Undesirable Aliens, and he casually replies, "Yeah, I guess, all those politicians are total crooks, amirite?! Well, they're gonna do what they're gonna do. Anyhow, I read this great book about elephant painting the other day!"
posted by wibari at 8:31 PM on December 13, 2016 [5 favorites]


Better than what people who do watch The News sound like, which goes something like, "Well, I heard on CNN that the Save America From Illegals Act is gonna pass. Some people seem to be against it, but what's so bad about saving American from illegals?"
posted by tobascodagama at 8:38 PM on December 13, 2016 [3 favorites]


I read The Economist (as recommended by Noam Chomsky) because it only comes out once a week, and it usually has reasonable coverage of world events. I will check out local altweeklies for events and municipal news. Realtime news? Worthless except for traffic. How can it possibly be investigate journalism when there has been no time to investigate?
posted by benzenedream at 8:45 PM on December 13, 2016 [1 favorite]


If you read literally nothing except X-Men and Captain America comics, you'd still be better informed then a CNN watcher.

And it's mighty convenient that this hypothetical non-news watcher of isn't, say, getting action alert emails from the SPLC or ACLU.

Gluing yourself to Twitter or CNN or whatever is not activism.
posted by tobascodagama at 8:48 PM on December 13, 2016 [4 favorites]


I don't follow TV news. I feel guilty for not being more informed, but most of this centers around not staying on top of the local papers. I'm in a mid-sized city, I volunteer and I know tons of activists and concerned citizens, so when some B.S. hits the news I often know already what to do about it, or I know soon after. Reading more local news would help me be more effective in my volunteer roles, too.

National news ... eh. I would like to be the kind of person who follows it carefully, but I would also like to be the kind of person who isn't vacillating between depression and frothing rage.
posted by bunderful at 8:53 PM on December 13, 2016


yeah, just don't follow the news! who needs to know who's getting appointed and what bills are being passed. ha ha, you're going to be fine anyway

Like "following the news" (as in most mainstream media) focuses on these things -- or any complex issue or argument -- anyway? Even the recent , televised or otherwise) coverage of Trump's cabinet "picks" focuses almost entirely on the "drama" of Trump's supposed decision-making process (assuming that there is one) and not at all on what these people would do once they are actually in their positions.

Nightly network news and cable news are both so insipid or so toxic that I gave upon them altogether during this past year and don't miss them at all -- and in fact feel assaulted and feel my blood pressure rise almost the instant I happen upon them (especially in airports). Local news is a harder ingrained habit to quit that dates back to childhood, and I know I'm getting even less from it than from network/cable -- almost exclusively the "news" is fires, murders, celebrities, burglaries, assaults, deaths, other crimes, and the occasional promo for a local event (along with sports and weather). In that, local news has at least had the honesty not to have changed much at all since my parents sat me in front of it as a hypnotic device when I was barely old enough to walk.
posted by blucevalo at 9:13 PM on December 13, 2016 [2 favorites]


You're watching ANN: The Actionable News Network
posted by murphy slaw at 9:25 PM on December 13, 2016


But does anyone really watch CNN, MSNBC, etc. and think "this is a consistently and comprehensively useful tool for understanding the world"?

Uh, yeah. He is the President-elect of the United States.
posted by My Dad at 9:38 PM on December 13, 2016 [5 favorites]


yeah, just don't follow the news! who needs to know who's getting appointed and what bills are being passed. ha ha, you're going to be fine anyway

It's important to be informed, but it's important to moderate your intake of news. These days, it's so easy to be overwhelmed by news every second of every waking hour. That is unhealthy. It is also easier to focus on stupid things, like "Kanye West just met with Donald Trump to talk about life and shit."

Everything in moderation, otherwise your fight-flight reflex get all out of wack.
posted by My Dad at 9:41 PM on December 13, 2016


That was a dumb article and an idiotic concept. The author's points are ridiculous.

1) You feel better

Ignorance is bliss.

2) You were never actually accomplishing anything by watching the news

Reading a breadth of sources to stay informed on current events is important because of one's ability to effect change via things like voting/protests/writing letters to representatives.

“Being informed” sounds like an accomplishment, but it implies that any information will do.

Being informed is just one step in the process. Taking only this one step is as bad as giving up entirely, as the author did.

3) Most current-events-related conversations are just people talking out of their asses

A lot of people talk out of their asses about everything from literature to sports to science. Many people don't think critically about things. Wilful ignorance is not the way to avoid this.

4) There are much better ways to “be informed”

If one is not discerning when one reads/watches news, then one is unlikely to be discerning when reading a book or watching a film or listening to music. Once again, being ignorant of current events is not going to solve a lack of critical thinking ability.

5) “Being concerned” makes us feel like we’re doing something when we’re not

So his solution is to encourage people to quit being aware of things that are worthy of concern as opposed to encouraging people to act?

The author comes across like someone talking out of his ass.
posted by dazed_one at 10:38 PM on December 13, 2016 [4 favorites]


France 24 is my choice for TV news these days. It's carried overnight on one of the PBS channels here.
posted by rhizome at 10:41 PM on December 13, 2016 [1 favorite]


Ignorance is bliss.

To quote the article:
To be clear, I’m mostly talking about following TV and internet newscasts here. This post isn’t an indictment of journalism as a whole. There’s a big difference between watching a half hour of CNN’s refugee crisis coverage (not that they cover it anymore) versus spending that time reading a 5,000-word article on the same topic.
The author doesn’t seem to be endorsing lack of information as opposed to selective and limited intake of nuanced information to avoid overload. But then, quite a few folks have been saying this through the entire thread…
posted by Going To Maine at 11:11 PM on December 13, 2016 [7 favorites]


There's a lot less 'news' in the news today. Once great newspapers are now full of 'stuff our interns found on the internet' and proprietor bias and agenda pushing is so overt that much media just feels tainted. The always on news cycle means hours are spent on mindless speculation and just filling airtime with anything. As a former news junkie and journalist, I cut right back on news consumption last Summer and I don't feel any less informed.
posted by quarsan at 11:13 PM on December 13, 2016 [2 favorites]


Good article. The post title is genius. I keep thinking there's (2) new messages and just like the news junkie I am, tab back to try to reveal them.
posted by FJT at 11:36 PM on December 13, 2016 [1 favorite]


Ever since Black Tuesday and The Thing that crawled out of the swamp, I seriously cut my intake of tv and radio news. It's just too depressing. It wouldn't be nearly as bad if the media offered any actual news with their "news" instead of inane slanted garbage. It's definitely better for my mental health to stay away from the usual infotainment/propaganda suspects. Like the author though, I haven't given up on reading more in depth news - I don't know what I would do without Metafilter.
posted by blue shadows at 11:40 PM on December 13, 2016


Even with trying to be more strict about this, it's 2am and I'm still awake. There is no way for me to live on a diet of the current events of the actual real year of 2016 and not kill myself from a combination of guilt and helplessness. (I wrote this and felt the need to clarify before hitting post: Not as in suicide, as in utter exhaustion and inability to function.) When I step away, I can see that I'm rationally doing the best possible things to keep myself safe and to put myself into a position to help. When I spend time every day swimming in all that, it will drown me.

If you are someone who is making phone calls and writing letters, thank you! It's not something I can do right now, emotionally. But even there, you don't need the full firehose. You aren't harmfully uninformed if you still go find out what's happening but allow several days to pass before you know about it, unless you're genuinely in a position to be acting on this information every day, or multiple times a day. If you're not going to act on that info tomorrow, then are you helping anything by spending an hour tonight "catching up on the news" instead of an hour spent building skills, engaging in self-care, actually doing volunteer work?

I guess the big thing is just that there's a difference between "you never need to know this" and "you don't need to know this right HERE and NOW". 1-2 hours spent on more focused reading on the weekend seems likely to help the average person more than an hour a day of random consumption of news media every night of the week.
posted by Sequence at 12:35 AM on December 14, 2016 [4 favorites]


When I was 14 or so, and starting to get curious about recent history, I asked my mum about Watergate. Specifically, what the hell happened that forced a President to resign. I thought she'd know because she kept up with what Reagan was doing and would explain why his latest move proved he was an asshat. Her response made a huge impression: "I can't really tell you beyond the burglary. It was complicated and too depressing. I didn't pay any attention to it."

I didn't understand her then. I didn't understand for the next 30 years. I understand now.
posted by honestcoyote at 12:48 AM on December 14, 2016 [9 favorites]


I think what needs to be cut from the diet is the commentary, not the news as such. The 24-hour cable news cycle and internet churn machine require that endless hours are filled with the rankest speculation, much of which is politically, economically, religiously or fruitcakely biased in one way or another, of varying levels of obviousness. I think people need to know, say, that a plane has crashed or a person has been elected or there's been a mall shooting or a sports team has won, but do not need to know what X number of talking heads think may have happened long before anyone can really know. Also: we really need improved education in how to watch the news, and a much better understanding of how news is made. It's just like any other product, natch, and people are cutting corners and sexing it up to ensure revenue.
posted by chavenet at 1:59 AM on December 14, 2016 [5 favorites]


I've read Raptitude for years. Some good insights, and this is one of them. Since reading this, I've *tried* to flip away from the top-of-the-hour and avoided the 6pm news with dinner, reading long-form articles instead, and more MeFi, less reddit.

And there have been significantly less "HULK SMASH RADIO!" moments since.

There's more than a nugget of truth in the old parody, "WIN 1010 News. Give us 20 minutes, and we'll give you an anxiety attack..."
posted by mikelieman at 2:20 AM on December 14, 2016


I look forward to reading the history books to find out how this year turned out.
posted by blue_beetle at 2:27 AM on December 14, 2016 [1 favorite]


The article is so so but to the people defending watching TV news as some sort of civic responsibility to stay informed, really? Have you watched TV news in the past 25 years or so? What do you think the ratio of signal/noise is?
posted by signal at 2:31 AM on December 14, 2016 [4 favorites]


I've been enjoying Vice News Tonight on HBO. Half-hour, five nights a week, no anchor, and pretty direct journalism that I'm finding refreshing. I haven't really watched television news since Peter Jennings died (well, okay, PBS Newshour runs as wallpaper fairly often), and this particular take on weekday events has left me feeling more informed in a good way.

I'm mostly an NPR newshound, have been since I was, like, 10 years old... but with my work hours I end up listening to a lot of the BBC World Service which is carried overnight on the local public radio station. It's nice to hear discussions of US topics from outsider perspective.

Otherwise, Samantha Bee is doing a good job expressing my outrage on a weekly basis, so watching her is mildly cathartic.
posted by hippybear at 2:37 AM on December 14, 2016 [2 favorites]


I quit NPR (though not public radio) out of disgust for the way it reported on the bullshit Clinton "scandals." I am indeed, much happier! That money now goes to local classical station.
posted by persona au gratin at 2:50 AM on December 14, 2016 [5 favorites]


mai: So well put about NPR. "Democrats say Trump still has financial conflicts of interest. Trump disagrees. Who's to say who is right?"

Well, you are. You cowards.

People need to cancel their subs, and tell them why you're doing so.
posted by persona au gratin at 2:54 AM on December 14, 2016 [5 favorites]


I'm skeptical of the "it takes exponentially more words to truly understand something" concept. Many ideas can be conveyed in a couple of sentences. Doesn't mean they're any less valid.
posted by sutt at 3:07 AM on December 14, 2016


mai: So well put about NPR. "Democrats say Trump still has financial conflicts of interest. Trump disagrees. Who's to say who is right?"

Well, you are. You cowards.

People need to cancel their subs, and tell them why you're doing so.


Hrm. That characterization goes directly against the article I listened to today on ATC [transcript]. It was pretty firm about how there are serious conflict of interest questions about Trump's business entanglements.
posted by hippybear at 3:18 AM on December 14, 2016 [4 favorites]


Good to hear, hippybear. NPR, like the NYT, did real journalism this election cycle. But the impression one got from each was that Clinton and Trump's "scandals" were equally problematic. God forbid Rush Limbaugh call them liberal for doing more than "opinions differ" journalism most of the time.

I'm more upset at places like NYT and NPR than I was when they helped put W in office because they wanted to have a beer with W and thought Gore was supercilious. I'm more upset now than I was when they helped the Bushies lie us into Iraq. I think this is a bigger case of journalistic malfeasance. If there's any karma, some of the coming horror will land on the media rather than the poor and immigrants and nonwhite.
posted by persona au gratin at 3:29 AM on December 14, 2016 [2 favorites]


Even there, hippybear, it's "ethics watchdogs say." No. Assert that Trump has conflicts of interest. He does. Obviously. It's just a fact he does. He will shape policy that affects his bottom line. Words like "conflict of interest" mean something.

(Frustration not aimed at you, hippybear!)
posted by persona au gratin at 3:34 AM on December 14, 2016 [3 favorites]


The key thing is a lot of ideas can't be expressed clearly and completely in just a few words. You have to summarize the ideas, which means biasing and information hiding. That can be fine if the people doing the summarizing realize that's what they're doing and do it skillfully with good intentions. But being very abstract and summarizing means losing precision and clarity and doing a lot of packing of implied meaning in fewer words. All those things can intentionally or unintentionally be barriers to understanding and communication. Complex ideas and really fine detailed observations often do require connecting complex verbal constructions together and expressing certain kinds of ideas even requires using specialized languages. Jargon is conceptual technology. People want to believe ideas are universally translatable across all languages and expressive modes, but that's probably not true. Some features of different formally powerful logical systems/languages aren't directly translatable, so some ideas are more difficult or even impossible to express depending on the limits of the particular language in use, and plain spoken/written English can be terribly imprecise and easily subtly confusing even to native speakers. Who hasn't had the experience of having a conversation in which everybody party to it talks completely past each other, speaking so generally and in such vague terms, it's only later the participants all realize they were all bringing a different subtext and level of focus to the conversation and didn't really connect with each other to communicate at all. Things always seem simpler than they really are in summary--like the old saying, the devil is in the details. We gloss over the finer points as if we can assume a common understanding of a lot of basic assumptions, but those assumptions aren't always common, and aren't necessarily valid. We all carry around a lot of received ideas and beliefs that aren't necessarily valid or consistent with the latest, best science or theoretical developments.

Tl;dr: Some simple, easily expressed ideas are valuable, but lots of important and valuable ideas absolutely do require more complex forms of speech and more verbiage to express them clearly and directly. Summarizing is a less direct way of talking than being really particular and detailed--we act like it's always more direct, and sometimes it can be. Sometimes a word salad isn't necessary to express an idea but we make one anyway and an editor can help. Other times, we don't connect with the ideas at all if we aren't really delving down into the details of the ideas, which may mean we need to use more words to get there.

It's a symptom of the stupidity of contemporary culture that we reduce these things to the simplest categories imaginable to think about them: more words bad, less, good. There's no basis in reality whatsoever for expecting ideas to make themselves easy to understand, and just because we might lose interest if an idea is hard to understand or to retain doesn't in any way imply it's not important enough to care about.
posted by saulgoodman at 3:59 AM on December 14, 2016 [2 favorites]


I haven't watched TV news in decades (not having cable was a big help with that.) When I'm forced to be in the presence of CNN/MSNBC/FOX, what gets to me is the tone. Constant shouting and trying to score points. And huge coverage of things that really aren't news, like what movie stars are doing, and "horrific crime of the week." My mom used to be a die-hard "news on all day in the background" person until sometime during the Bush II years she found it was making her physically ill. I used to be an NPR fan but their abysmal performance during this election has soured me on them. These days, I mostly get my news, well, here. Everyone who provides links to thoughtful longform articles - you are awesome. Other good sources are Bookforum and Arts and Letters Daily. I think unplugging from TV and radio news is not depriving me of anything but rancor.
posted by Daily Alice at 4:22 AM on December 14, 2016


My news philosophy has always been that if it's on TV it's entertainment. CNN, FOX, NBC, CBS and ABC exist to sell advertising and whatever you get in between is filler until the next big pharma ad. That's why all the networks love Trump because they know people will keep watching to see what he does next.

The only caveat is Frontline on PBS. The rest of it should be ignored.
posted by photoslob at 4:55 AM on December 14, 2016


About 5 years ago I stopped watching national and local news, and life is definitely better. I stick to some websites where I can skim headlines, and the local paper for what's going on around here. It's all noise and dreck and I don't have time anymore.
Once I realized that my voice is best heard at a ballot box and that I couldn't change the world, scaling back on knowing every salacious detail about things that have nothing to do with me made a lot of sense, and it still does today. If people see that as my sticking my head in the sand, well, okay. One of the important things I scaled back on drastically was caring what other people think of me or my actions.
posted by disclaimer at 5:12 AM on December 14, 2016 [1 favorite]


Totally agree with the article. Principally because of the tendency of news media to stimulate fear and inaction. Emotional intelligence, love and care are what's needed to make the world a better place. Compromising this awareness for the need to "stay informed" is brain dead, emotionally speaking.
posted by iotic at 5:56 AM on December 14, 2016


This article is Eat Pray Love for anxious white men from comfortable backgrounds.
posted by belarius at 6:27 AM on December 14, 2016


I came very close to having a literal nervous breakdown on November 9 and that continued for about two weeks. I could not watch the news/read Twitter/Facebook without thinking I was going to have a stroke. I felt so much better when I stopped and I forgot why I was consuming all that stuff anyway. Aside from weather and traffic news, almost none of it is actionable information. I cannot do anything about, e.g., the situation in Aleppo, not even donate, and reading about it in real time is of no purpose whatsoever.

I'm a big fan of this essay (PDF) which goes into much further depth than the one in the FPP.
posted by AFABulous at 6:28 AM on December 14, 2016 [5 favorites]


It's not a binary problem: you don't have to trade being well informed for being happy. The excluded middle here makes it seem like it's got to be one or the other, but I don't think it does. Whether or not it makes us feel emotionally intelligent and sensitive, it's not possible to be meaningfully compassionate without knowing what's happening to other people in the world. If you miss timely news about a local food shortage, you might never realize you could have helped by donating some of your extra food. We just need new strategies for managing the sheer volume of info we consume and for protecting the integrity of information. There's no reliable professional class of journalists who are at least expected to vet information for us with legal liabilities for passing misinformation, like we've had in the past. A number of court precedents removed or weakened the legal responsibility for accuracy on the public airwaves back during the Bush II regime. Now our news is less reliable and exacerbating social tensions in the pursuit of ad consuming eyeballs. Because we gave up on the idea of defending the news as a vital public good worth protecting from market forces because doing that came to be seen as too complicated and hard and it was too easy to point up examples like Hearst, who successfully cheated the system.
posted by saulgoodman at 6:32 AM on December 14, 2016 [1 favorite]


You don't have to trade being well informed for being happy, no. Arguably most news media facilitates neither.

Is watching current mainstream news the best way of staying informed?

We can protest the issues with news media without subjecting ourselves to it constantly.
posted by iotic at 6:38 AM on December 14, 2016 [2 favorites]


I don't know how else I'm supposed to turn up at the voting booth without keeping tabs on the daily evolving news stories.
Well, by these arguments, you're not. The same "don't waste your life watching news programs about things you can't influence" theory can be turned into "don't waste your life researching candidates whose election you can't influence" pretty easily. A well-informed electorate is a public good, not just in the English sense of those words, but in the economics sense. It is non-rivalrous (if your fellow electorate is well-informed then it doesn't cost them any more to supply you with good electoral decisions too) and 99.999999% non-excludable (if you abstain from voting instead of becoming well-informed yourself, the other hundred million voters will do nearly as well without you, and you still get to benefit from whomever they pick).

In other words, casting an informed vote (i.e. not just with your hour at the polls, but with your dozens of hours of independent research beforehand) is like a hundred-million person Prisoner's Dilemma. Each person has a near-total incentive to pick "defect", and once enough people defect the result is both a stable equilibrium and an utter disaster.

That being said, it feels like there's something vile about encouraging people to approach that equilibrium faster. In the stereotypical Roman Arena movie scene, everyone in the audience knows that the good-hearted gladiator is going to die and there's no way to save him, but the ones outright screaming for blood are still assholes.
posted by roystgnr at 7:43 AM on December 14, 2016


I empirically understand that I can read the Austin Chronicle (weekly rag) the daily newspaper & Harper's to more or less keep up with the current happenings in the world & feel relatively informed, & I consume a lot of non-fiction which gives me historical context, so I feel like I could look away from CNN, et al, but I just... can't.

I have a horrible addiction & while I've slowed it down to once or twice a day, it still creeps in, especially when I'm concerned about urgent things like Standing Rock & the election, and yes, it makes me feel bad & confused & helpless. I wholeheartedly agree with the premise of the article, & wish I could somehow convince myself to get on with the program.
posted by Devils Rancher at 7:47 AM on December 14, 2016


Ignorance is bliss.

I have high blood pressure, and I can tell you that keeping close track of the news does increase my hypertension.
posted by My Dad at 8:06 AM on December 14, 2016 [1 favorite]


I'm not sure why not watching TV is considered ignorance.
I stopped watching TV news about the time Walter Cronkite retired. I'm a believer in public broadcasting, but NPR has been disappointing lately.
My primary news and analysis source is right here, at least for national/international. I almost always get a balanced view here- a real balance, not a false equivalence.
For local issues, I have Front Porch Forum and VT Digger. And Mrs. Dewd is also a news source I trust.

The idea of taking a break from habitual behavior and noticing the differences when you stop and when you start back up is useful in any area, not just TV.
I was working away from home for 2 years and did not have a TV during the week. When I came back to having a TV, it was repulsive to me. I didn't want to watch it.
posted by MtDewd at 8:25 AM on December 14, 2016 [3 favorites]


This article is Eat Pray Love for anxious white men from comfortable backgrounds.

having heard of Eat Pray Love but having no idea what it's about, a little research reveals:

Maureen Callahan of the New York Post heavily criticized the book, calling it "narcissistic New Age reading", and "the worst in Western fetishization of Eastern thought and culture, assured in its answers to existential dilemmas that have confounded intellects greater than hers."

And the conclusion that I really must at least see the movie, while drinking.
posted by philip-random at 9:01 AM on December 14, 2016


We really need something positive to _do_ that has real credibility and depth of purpose; that will alleviate the stress a lot and allow people to receive news and then act constructively (and generously, patiently, intelligently, and effectively).

I organize an anti-racist group in my city that has a few hundred members in it right now, over a thousand if you consider social media 'membership'

'watching the news' and 'getting plugged in' are two, non-mutually exclusive actions. before the news media meltdown about Trump, we were at about 10 active members and 100~ or so social media members. after Trump was elected? now the coalitions are forming. now people are getting involved and plugged in. now they're finally taking time out of their TV binges and drinks at the bar to actually do a goddamn thing about a society that has never not been this racist

like, I love this idealism about oh, if everybody were just on the same level about news and approached it healthily and consumed the right sources, we'd all be great. but that's never going to happen, not in a news media environment driven by profit margins and skewed by a non-transparent government where getting close to a source also means never covering them negatively. the world where we can have healthy, sustainable consumption of news is utopian and farfetched. you consume every bit of news and you consume it skeptically because if you don't, then you're left absolutely out in the cold in figuring out ways to engage in the much wider dialogue that's going inevitably to happen, whether or not you're aware of it

you want to disrupt racism? then you can't go into conversations with racist colleagues spouting news media nonsense without first knowing what they're going to say and having a well-formulated argument against it. that poison is out there, spreading, and you shielding yourself in an ivory tower only helps you
posted by runt at 9:06 AM on December 14, 2016 [1 favorite]


like, the issue keeping people from organizing and doing actual real shit isn't the news. that has nothing to do with it. if anything, the news drives people to protests and events and then it's up to organizers figure out ways to get them engaged and to help them stay

if people naturally showed up regardless of the news cycle that would be amazing! but they fucking don't. the issue keeping people from organizing about racism or sexism or transphobia or etc is that systems of oppression exist naturally because people are blinded to oppressions that don't exist for them so they don't give a half-hearted fuck. and even if they sometimes do realize them, going from compassion to action beyond just like social media posts is yet another huge step that weeds out more potential allies

it ain't the news. news is just a facet of societal opinions with a nice capitalist gloss to it. it's people not showing up, individuals influenced by sociocultural norms that's the problem
posted by runt at 9:15 AM on December 14, 2016 [2 favorites]


I know and absolutely believe we need to adapt new information management habits and social conventions to avoid soaking in the deluge, but the temptation to go to an extreme and argue for the complete irrelevance of having and using reliable information to make decisions is a dangerous overreaction that's psychologically and emotionally appealing, but amounts to exactly what I think of as the epistemological nihilism of our age: if you can't be sure of what you know, better not to try to know anything. (emphasis added)

That's the central problem. Broadcast news isn't reliable, and it's pretty biased as far as information goes. The typical form of "analysis" that happens on broadcast involves getting two professional talking heads, one "pro" and one "con," pushing "talking points" through highly emotive performance. We're all Balloon Boy these days. The article isn't a call for ignorance, it's a call to stop supporting bullshit.

Although, obviously, I don't think the article goes far enough in identifying the practices of broadcast news as a tainted source. I've become a big believer in a 24-hour news cycle. Any story worth reading needs a minimum of 24 hours of investigation, reflection, and editorial review.

A lot of people in this thread are completely missing the point that the article is isn't about journalism as an ideal, it's about television news. There's also a disturbing bit of ableism going on in saying that we're obligated to be Baloon Boys regardless of documented issues that can screw with our mental health. If a particular mass-market product is harmful to your health, then you should avoid dependence on that product: whether we're talking about CNN, wonder bread, refined sugar, aspirin, gonzo porn, or contemporary horror cinema.
posted by CBrachyrhynchos at 9:23 AM on December 14, 2016 [9 favorites]


Also unplugging from broadcast news networks and refusing to give their advertisers our eyeballs is probably the only way we have to effectively hold them accountable for bullshit. Plugging in to real journalism is essential for supporting it.

And the real journalism will, in fact, cover what the bullshiters are saying about an event.
posted by CBrachyrhynchos at 9:36 AM on December 14, 2016


There's also a disturbing bit of ableism going on in saying that we're obligated to be Baloon Boys regardless of documented issues that can screw with our mental health.

that feeling when you suffered from years of physical and emotional abuse at home with a dose of racism in your 99% white public schools on top of all of it and now you struggle with lots of mental health issues and someone calls you ableist because you want them to stay plugged into the news more

learn to sublimate. you don't have my sympathies
posted by runt at 9:42 AM on December 14, 2016 [1 favorite]


A lot of people in this thread are completely missing the point that the article is isn't about journalism as an ideal, it's about television news.
I actually think that's pretty unclear. He says:
To be clear, I’m mostly talking about following TV and internet newscasts here. This post isn’t an indictment of journalism as a whole. There’s a big difference between watching a half hour of CNN’s refugee crisis coverage (not that they cover it anymore) versus spending that time reading a 5,000-word article on the same topic.
I'm not sure exactly what he means by "internet newscasts," which is one problem. I read almost everything, including print newspapers and magazines, on the internet. Is that what he's talking about? But more than that, he thinks we should wait and read longer articles and books, rather than pay attention to the daily news cycle. But there isn't really anyone doing that kind of long-form journalism about local issues where I live, or at least not about all the local issues that I think are important. So it's not clear to me what he recommends we do about topics about which we want to stay informed but for which long-form reporting isn't available.
posted by ArbitraryAndCapricious at 9:51 AM on December 14, 2016


I think the nit that is being picked here is the word "newscasts", which implies video or audio journalism vs. text.
posted by hippybear at 9:55 AM on December 14, 2016


runt: Your posts were not on my screen when I wrote that. (My personal crazy is called homophobia BTW.)

If you want to get "plugged in" to current events, participating as broadcast news's "product" strikes me as a pretty bad way to go about it. The last time I depended on broadcast news was Weather Channel during hurricane Matthew. And it was really interesting how coverage jumped directly from Florida to South Carolina with scant minutes (out of hours of coverage) devoted to the coast in between. At one point, an anchor asked, "what about the golf courses?" Well, what about the shelters? What about the homeless? What about the socio-economic landscape of race and poverty?

Broadcast news can't get their act straight about white supremacy in the current administration. How much bullshit would I have needed to sit through to get a soundbite about the constitutional crisis in NC this month? Letters traced back to Savannah threatened arson and murder against a dozen religious groups. Did that even get covered by CNN? What about the anti-violence work that happens every day in our cities? I can watch CNN all night and possibly get seconds of footage of homelessness. Is my statehouse religious liberty law fight even making CNN at all? When it does (because Disney does business here), is it really worth sitting through hours of bullshit about messaging to the white working class, how the Star Wars film is doing, what the next First Lady is going to be wearing, and the current Hollywood breakup to get it?

In the last six months I've collected a bibliography of over a dozen research studies regarding anti-bisexual prejudice and discrimination. None of them hit the CNN website. I think two ticked over to big print sites such as the NYT. The Heard/Depp divorce, now that was all over my feeds. And much of that was biphobic as heck.

As I said. It's not about being ignorant. It's about rejecting a form of reality entertainment that gives equal weight to liars and bigots. I know what they say. I don't need to listen to them say it through a medium that actively works against discernment.
posted by CBrachyrhynchos at 11:08 AM on December 14, 2016 [3 favorites]


An opinion: you can support news without actually reading it (if you have the means). Indeed, it might be better for your psyche to only stay abreast of issues that are immediately relevant to you while knowing you are actively supporting investigative reporting in general.

For the low price of a digital subscription, you can subsidize the NYT’s good, long-form investigative reporting without actually taking advantage of that subscription to read the daily dross. For the low price of whatever-you-can-give-per-month, you can support all of the investigative reporting by The Marshall Project, Pro Publica, Mother Jones, or Reveal that you can can consume (or choose not to consume!) knowing that it will be thorough and useful to those who do have to stay abreast of those particular issues.
posted by Going To Maine at 12:08 PM on December 14, 2016 [2 favorites]


ArbitraryAndCapricious: I think that since CNN was named specifically, that's the model under criticism. And I can see the possibility for good TV news if you're producing 30, 60, or 120 minutes a day rather than 24 hours of "content." As I said, my beef is that news networks tend to fill the 24 hour demand with either talking-head debates or opinion shows. Talking-head debates boil down to "teach the controversy" even there's minimal legitimate controversy. Opinion shows tend to confirm existing biases.

Local news is suffering all around, and the business end of multimedia has resulted in deep cuts on the local level. Still though, many local TV stations also publish text, so there's no need to tune in during the magic window of opportunity or cut through the emotive subtext of the presentation.
posted by CBrachyrhynchos at 12:18 PM on December 14, 2016 [1 favorite]


The Al Jazeera America channel was shuttered, unfortunately

This is true, but you can do what I do, which is take advantage of the fact that they now let you stream the main English channel for free on their website, which is here.
posted by zeusianfog at 12:28 PM on December 14, 2016 [1 favorite]


The Al Jazeera America channel was shuttered, unfortunately

I had the site bookmarked, and kept clicking on it almost daily. It had a picture of a downtrodden-looking man in front of a derelict house, with the title "Goodnight, and good luck", and it was just so perfect.

Fucking broke my heart, every time.
posted by Dashy at 1:01 PM on December 14, 2016


The Al Jazeera America channel was shuttered, unfortunately :(. HUGE shame because you're right, they did some awesome reporting.

Eh, I'm sure that every once in a while, Russia Today will also do an in-depth report. They're still state-run media controlled by totalitarian foreign governments with an interest in influencing American opinion.
posted by indubitable at 1:49 PM on December 14, 2016 [1 favorite]


I don't get the premise of this article. Reading articles instead of watching broadcasts isn't "quitting the news," it's getting the news in a different medium. An arguably better medium, sure.

It's sort of what I do by default anyway because I'd rather read something than watch a video. (Down with video tutorials!)

The article also doesn't mention social media at all, which is weird because it's how a ton of people get their news these days.
posted by speicus at 2:47 PM on December 14, 2016


The article also doesn't mention social media at all, which is weird because it's how a ton of people get their news these days.

This is true. I’m pretty sure you could substitute “The Election Threads on MetaFilter”, “The Post-Election Threads on MetaFilter”, “The Facebook News Feed”, and “Twitter” for CNN here. Simply substitute references to celebrity gossip and overblown coverage of random events with hot takes from different pundits and the satirical stylings of your John Oliver, Steven Colbert, Samantha Bee, and/or Trevor Noah of choice. The correct opinions for you to hold will be just as defined, along with the rationales for why you should hold them.
posted by Going To Maine at 5:59 PM on December 14, 2016 [2 favorites]


(For instance, the election thread is currently discussing the NC GOP’s attempt to shift a bunch of power from the executive to the legislative branch, now that the governorship has been lost. This is a crazy and terrible thing! But it’s also a thing that, if I don’t live in North Carolina with the ability to reach Raleigh, I can’t do a thing about. My knowing what happens right now, or reading ten different accounts of the events is, in the grand scheme of things useless. My actual power will remain the same, but I’ll feel markedly more disempowered.)
posted by Going To Maine at 6:17 PM on December 14, 2016 [3 favorites]


learn to sublimate. you don't have my sympathies

It's much harder to help others if you don't take care of yourself first.
posted by krinklyfig at 3:14 AM on December 15, 2016 [3 favorites]


learn to sublimate. you don't have my sympathies

It's much harder to help others if you don't take care of yourself first.

I feel like there's stuff being missed here.

On the greater topic of "being informed", I think most people would agree that the more we know about the state of the world as a whole, the sadder and more depressed we're likely to be. Likewise, the more we're actually aware of our various privileges the more distressed we will be on a regular basis - especially if we have a lot of privileges.

There are situations where one needs to step back and take care of oneself, but there are also situations where fairly privileged people become distressed at proportionally minor things due to being used to being privileged. The first summer I really saw how pervasive racism was in everything I liked, everything I'd previously used to comfort me and calm me down was taken from me because it was all racist. All of it. Every bit. And suddenly I could SEE and that was miserable for me.

But it was a necessary miserable. It was a necessary removal of some bits of white supremacy blinders so that I could see the world accurately, instead of distorted by my race and how it dominated and marginalized everyone else in every piece of media I love. "Taking care of myself" could have looked like putting those blinders on again. I would have felt a lot better. The world would be easier to see, because it would conform to and reflect my biases. I believe this approach is what's being objected to - the sort of breezy "I feel better if I unplug" statements written primarily by people with more privilege than not. Learning to sublimate - learning to turn distress into motivation for action - takes longer but is more satisfying in the end.
posted by Deoridhe at 4:35 PM on December 15, 2016 [2 favorites]


The nightly news has been an American family ritual for 60 years now. Perhaps it is the blinders.
posted by CBrachyrhynchos at 5:36 PM on December 15, 2016 [1 favorite]


Learning to sublimate - learning to turn distress into motivation for action - takes longer but is more satisfying in the end.

Citation needed. It’s perhaps more satisfying if you’re afraid that your back will be up against the wall if you don’t do so, but I’m not convinced otherwise.
posted by Going To Maine at 5:59 PM on December 15, 2016


Is it that easy to stay informed? Discernment can only get one so far, and even years of practice has not lessened the sheer amount of time it requires me to stay informed. I cannot conceive of thinking I'm informed with less than a few hours reading, and ravenous at that.

It takes so much time unwrapping motives from news media. Long form stuff, history, or sociology, and of course politics, has helped me more than the day in day out churn of barely veiled thought-planting masked as news. It's just not easy to see the line demarcating news and advertisements.

So while I understand dismissing the article out of hand, I'm not its target audience either, the larger points are familiar in my own struggles with being a politicized being. I really think the answer lies in broken trust. There is no public in the old sense of the term anymore.
posted by Strange_Robinson at 6:00 PM on December 15, 2016


I'm not there yet, but may well move to a strict diet of Democracy Now and nothing else. Goodman is what I like to think of as a dying breed when reporting was important and not another mask for 5th avenue.
posted by Strange_Robinson at 6:03 PM on December 15, 2016


Learning to sublimate - learning to turn distress into motivation for action - takes longer but is more satisfying in the end.

You can put a "for me" at the end if you really must.

When all of the injustices were a nagging pain I was much more uncomfortable because I couldn't find the cause of my distress - I just knew that sometimes things were off from what I expected and that shame was attached to those moments. Now that I know what it is I can begin to do something about them and I can learn from people who know more than I do. I find that satisfying.
posted by Deoridhe at 2:05 AM on December 19, 2016


The nightly news has been an American family ritual for 60 years now.

The nightly news used to be an American family ritual. It died sometime in the 90s, I suspect.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 4:44 AM on December 19, 2016


Deoridhe: I have no problem with "being informed." I disagree that "being informed" involves participation in a biased and emotionally manipulative entertainment medium of TV news. Especially when specific forms of emotional manipulation such as exaggerated conflict, highly emotive affect in delivery, giving a platform to bigots in the interest of "fairness," and sensationalist coverage of criminal matters can be harmful.

I'm reminded of Fahrenheit 451 where 24/7 access to media fosters illiteracy because people prefer the emotional and simplistic over interpretive labor.
posted by CBrachyrhynchos at 6:45 AM on December 19, 2016


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