News Junkie Declutters

a man's hands holding a tablet with the headline "news" showing on it

Being kind to oneself, self-care is a journey. I find that while making changes at the start of a new year is a bit of a cliche it’s also a really logical time for it. I have a few in mind, but first, the news.

Our neighbours to the south continue to find new lows. We’ve run out of adjectives for what’s happening there. A coup attempt at the Capitol? It’s crazy and used to be unthinkable.

Just before the holidays, I unsubscribed to a slew of breaking news alerts. At the same time, I got rid of some newsletters whose authors analyzed politics and helped me make sense of what was happening beyond the headlines. I’d thought about it for some time. Then, three New York Times alerts had come in back-to-back-to-back. Each of them interrupted my enjoyment of The Queen’s Gambit and weren’t, in my view, worth it.

Social media has taught us to get used to interruptions from “out there”. My notification sounds are off for most of the day. They ruin narration and interrupt editing, so I silence my phone. But still, I’ve been conditioned to look at what’s going on way more often than necessary.

Do I need to know, at the moment, that the Cleveland Indians have (finally!) decided to drop their name? Or that some foolish gym owner has racked up $1.2-million in fines for defying social distancing orders? Or even that the first trucks carrying the Pfizer vaccine have left the plant?

No, I do not.

I’ve lived and breathed news for decades. Ate it for breakfast before you woke up. Loved and hated being over-informed. So, putting myself in a position where I won’t be among the first to know something, is a whole new world. And frankly, I haven’t missed a thing. Now, I reach out to find it when I want to, instead of allowing it to pester me.

But there’s another component that’s factoring into my decision that’s more particular to me and my history. When I was a newscaster, noticing the writing choices made by others in the industry was part of my work. News writing interests me now like an anthropologist studying a hidden tribe. I study media mistakes that make no sense. They don’t upset me, but I sure do notice them. And if I roll my eyes any harder, they might stay in the back of my head!

Late last year, the world marked the 40th anniversary of John Lennon’s murder. And yet, we saw and heard countless people call it his “death”. True, he died. But it wasn’t a typical death. Death is something that happens to everyone. Murder is more accurate and illustrative. Why did so many writers go the wussy, bland route by calling it his “death”?

A headline read, MSNBC’s Chris Wallace “refuses to allow Health Secretary to deny Biden’s win”. Okay, sure, the media have given some of these guys a free pass during Trump’s presidency. But why was Wallace the focus? Why not shine a bare bulb on the idiot insider who denied proven facts? Kellyanne Conway, William Barr, and others broke with the koo-koo President and admitted defeat. Anyone in authority who didn’t should have been vilified. Wallace was just doing his job. Finally.

Attribution. Newscasters have to give it. I heard one say that the Pfizer vaccine for COVID-19 has a “95% effective rate”. Oh really? You conduct tests for Pfizer in your spare time? The correct way to do it is, “Pfizer says its vaccine has a 95% effective rate”. Newscasters report facts but they don’t personally vouch for those facts.

Okay, maybe it’s clear to you as it is to me that I miss writing news. In fact, I missed being on the radio for the first time a few weeks ago. It came to light that a local school board trustee is traveling the US with his wife and 7 kids, “road schooling”. During a pandemic. From Canada, throughout the US. His reasoning was that no one else would be out there, so it was a good time for them to go. I nearly burst from pent-up responses.

But I don’t have a radio show anymore and I no longer write news. Nor do I need to allow every slight shift in the world to take my attention away from whatever else I’m choosing to do. So, don’t look to me for the latest, greatest, breaking news details. I’ve got other things to do.

4 thoughts on “News Junkie Declutters”

  1. Boy, can I relate: that need to pass along pertinent information when it happens, is in one’s blood. I am finding that above all, the Serenity Prayer is helping me keep a more even keel (“God, Grant me the Serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the Courage to change the things I can and the Wisdom to know the difference” for those few who aren’t familiar.) It’s the act of looking at events like the Big Lie that brought about last week’s domestic terrorism attack, etc. and asking, “can I control anything about this?” The answer invariably is no – all we can do is be vigilant and try to prevent the same poison and lies from spreading further into the Canadian mainstream. I tape the Cuomo/Lemon cross-over and then limit my CNN viewing. I take in the majority of my news from sources I can trust like NYT and WaPo. You and I are now in charge of our own intake – and output – and I salute you in your resolve to cut it back. It’s only hurting ourselves. We’ll never have the bliss of ignorance (nor do we ever want it) but we have the power to preserve our own sanity – or what’s left of it – and like you, I’m just so grateful not to have to digest that breakfast of news and regurgitate it so that it’s factual, sensible and even somehow palatable for people just waking up. THANK GOODNESS!!!! And thank you.

    1. Well said, Erin. I subscribe to WaPo but I’m going to let it go when my subscription is up. (I might subscribe to The Star instead. Darn them and their fascinating stories hidden by a paywall! *shakes fist at sky!*)

  2. Good for you and a great way to start off a New Year. Disconnecting and decluttering is good for the soul and even more so the mind. And technology house cleaning doesn’t involve getting out a vacuum.

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