Why you shouldn’t just say “no” to news

by Madeleine Kolb

An update of my guest post on Gip Plaster’s blog So Much More Life, published in 2010.

There is much focus these days on simplifying your life, getting rid of stuff, sometimes even paring down to a finite number of things—perhaps by discarding two old things before buying one new thing. 

And the trend carries over to cutting down the amount of information you take in or the amount of time you spend taking it in. 

So much information, so little time

It’s everywhere. In print and online articles, blogs, newspapers, magazines, and TV. And even if you omit TV, you’re left with a veritable outpouring of news with headlines crafted to tease, tempt, and tantalize you.

It’s the informational equivalent of all-you-can-eat. So you need to choose. Do you want little bitty samples of everything or a few generous servings slathered with whipped cream? Here’s what I suggest.

Skip the sleaze

Most writers are trained professionals and know exactly how to pique your interest. Aren’t you curious about the goings-on of the ubiquitous Kardashian sisters? Or what’s next for Casey Anthony (the one we love to hate)?

Or the latest in the sorry saga of poor Lindsey Lohan’s oh-so-public, alcohol-fueled, self-destructive meltdown? Or endless relevations about Bristol Palin and the ever-vacuous Levy Johnston? 

The list goes on and on. So an obvious and easy way to reduce your consumption of  information is to just skip the sleaze.

Ignore the insignificant, irrelevant or unimportant

This is not nearly so clear a call, and opinions will vary. My candidates for the highly ignorable:                   

***  Local news about accidents, murders (even, or especially, the gory ones), fires, traffic problems, local planning efforts which have been going on for years without any end in sight, routine local politics, or overtly heart-warming stories about animals (unless you just can’t help yourself).

***  Reviews of any TV shows, movies, plays, exhibits, or books that don’t interest you.

***  Anything else, however popular, that doesn’t interest you. I’m not suggesting anything here, but for me it’s sports.

I save sizable chunks of time by not watching baseball, basketball, football, soccer, boxing, wrestling, auto racing, or hockey (except occasional Stanley Cup games with my BF). I save more time yet by not reading about the events I didn’t watch.

Stick with the significant

Some local news does have real significance beyond its locale. An example is the collapse of Washington Mutual Bank, notorious as the largest bank failure in U.S. history. When I lived in Seattle, I closely followed the brilliant reporting of the bank’s implosion by the “Seattle Times.”

Follow significant national and international news

Examples include public policy matters; the economy; government action; government inaction; regional conflicts and war; droughts; pollution; treatment of minorities, women, and elders; epidemics; and national or global trends (both good and bad).

Why this really matters

It’s the context for your personal and professional life

Initially, I expected that some of what I wrote about on my blog would just not be controversial. “Hey,” I remember thinking, “It’s health care, nothing controversial there.”

So I was astonished when the early meetings on health care reform in the U.S. brought out huge crowds of extremely angry people, pushing to get inside, shouting down their congressmen and senators, and loudly heckling other speakers.

How could I possibly write about health care reform, except in the context of the information in articles and videos of the procedings.

It will give you ideas for topics to write about

The more credible the news sources, the better. And referring to those sources will enhance your credibility. Sometimes I stumble across a fascinating news article and decide to write about it.

Other times I follow news about a  particular event because it’s relevant to aging. For example, I’m tracking the budget deficit talks like a vulture eyeing a dying animal. Watching and waiting.

All that talk about slashing so-called entitlements, such as Social Security and Medicare, but leaving farm subsidies and other government payments intact. (Hey, don’t get me started.)

You live in the world too

Our world is complex—replete with conflicts and cooperation, problems and solutions, challenges and progress. As Gip Plaster nicely phrased it on his blog,  

News is information about other inhabitants of the planet.

What do you think? Do you follow the news? What kind of news do you read or watch? Is it even possible to shut out the outside world and stay tucked away in a tight, cozy little cocoon?

Is it possible to close your eyes to the hard realities that many people cope with every day? As always, I’d love to hear your thoughts, opinions, and respectful rebuttal.

photo by mcmorgan

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