Over the last year or so I’ve gradually stopped reading, listening to and watching the news on purpose. (That is, I don’t seek out news stories but if an informative article is shared by a friend or posted on a favourite blog I very well may read it.) Here are some reasons why you should do the same:
- The vast majority of news providers put a sensational spin on the stories they report whether it is by taking a quote out of context, injecting controversy into even the most mild of disagreements or completely misrepresenting the latest scientific research.
- Sound-bite debates. Not every debate can or should be framed as one extreme viewpoint arguing loudly with the other. Not only is there a planet’s worth of opinions on any topic (only a minority of which are actually extremist), most people are perfectly capable of embracing the grey in life. Us vs. Them ™ may make for an exciting news story but it doesn’t reflect the vast majority of human relationships.
- A steady diet of worst-case scenarios ignites fear. If most of what you hear about the world are stories about murder, rape, kidnapping, war, starvation, disease and deadly household products it becomes so easy to assume that this is what awaits you ever time you step outdoors. There are people in my life who live in fear in part because they believe that what is on the news is an accurate reflection of reality.
- There’s no such thing as an unbiased journalist or news group. If you hear someone claim to be just reporting the facts (unless they are, in fact, just rattling off a list of numbers without any exposition!) take a hard look at what they’re saying. Bias isn’t necessarily a bad thing, though. As humans we will always be constrained by our perspective in life. The trick is to acknowledge it and to gather ideas from as many other people as possible. Listening to one news source can hamper this…especially if your beliefs match up well enough that they never challenge your assumptions.
- Also consider the problem of manufactured controversy. In an effort to appear unbiased news organizations often try to show every side to an issue…even when 99% of the experts on that topic agree. Climate change is an excellent example of this. Despite what the US news may report, there is a consensus on this topic. Does that mean that we will never find new information that alters what we believe to be true? Of course not! But the “controversy” on this topic exists only to bring higher ratings on the news and in a few radical groups. The actual data that has been gathered so far tells a far different story.
How Do You Know What’s Happening, Then?
Most often I hear about what is going in the world from friends and family or come across an article or post about that specific event while reading my RSS feed. I’m not dogmatic about avoiding any whisper of local or worldwide news. One story isn’t going to make my head explode (I hope. 😉 ) It just isn’t something I intentionally seek out.
16 Responses to 5 Reasons Why You Should Stop Reading the News
I quit listening to/watching the news nearly 20 years ago after working for a news source. I wanted to be a journalist, but I couldn’t stomach all of these things you have mentioned. Let me add, from my experience inside the machine: “experts” usually aren’t. That was actually the proverbial straw for me–when someone with a membership card in the Sierra Club was quoted as an expert in multiple science-related news stories, but with no scientific expertise whatsoever. I realized that those people in #4 are manufacturing not just controversy, but the “news” itself. I haven’t watched a news show or picked up a newspaper in approximately 19.5 years.
That I did not know! Fascinating.
How are “experts” picked, then? Is it just who the reporter happens to know that has some sort of tangential connection to the topic at hand.
It makes me want to quit even reading news links.
Experts are picked on how willing they are to pick up the phone and give a good quote when a reporter calls, how willing they are to own the truth as they see it, and how willing they are to go along with consensus. “Publish or perish” is a very real consensus-builder, because if you’re not writing what your peers are reading, then you’re on publishing.
Since I work at a place known as “Advisors to the Nation” I get to see summa that.
amend to read, “If you’re not writing what your peers are reading, then you’re *not* publishing.”
That’s ridiculous. I can see how it could happen, though. Do you bother watching the news?
no television or radio news. Can’t stand the added sensationalism. I check headlines several times a day to make sure the world didn’t blow up without my notice, and I read the Washington Examiner on the way to work. I read editorials and commentary because I enjoy reading people are thinking about what’s going.
As to the quoted experts: I worked for a couple of local print news organizations and saw how how they built their expert filse. And now I work for a national study organization and guess how they develop lots of their diversity-balanced expert panels?
Very good points, you are very articulate in your writing. Thanks for posting your thoughts.
Thank you, Fred! I appreciate that.
Good article – well said! The headlines of predominantly disaster, crime, corruption, war, etc., are never-ending, totally depressing, and we end up feeling either guilty or impotent. Yet we are not guilty of anything, and in most cases we really are powerless to change things. All because of the media dictum that good news doesn’t sell newspapers.
Thank you, PaulK.
Pingback: 2 Years Old | On The Other Hand
I’m a bit late to this lol. But fantastic article. I stopped with the news a long time ago. When a friend or family member brings up a subject that has been in the news. I go straight into research mode. Pretty much 9 times out of 10 they got the story from a newspaper with a sensationalist spin that has completely misquoted and took the whole thing out of context.
Thank you, Dave.
Where do you get your news?
If it has come from the government their web page. If it’s come from an organisation I go directly to their web page. You see a big difference in the statements they release and the statements that get printed in the news. Usually with a few embellished upon ‘facts and figures’ i.e downright lies and and cherry picked paragraphs.
Hi! Do you use Tᴡitter? I’d like to folloѡ yоu if that would be okay.
I’m absoⅼutely enjoying your bⅼog and look forward to new upԀatеs.
Yes, I do. My handle there is @TorontoLydia. I hope you’ll say hello, and thank you for your kind words.