November 15, 2016

Confessions Of a News Junkie



I blame it on the just-past election mayhem. I blame it on the ease of being constantly updated on a smartphone or tablet. I blame it on a personal weakness. Whatever the reason, I have spent way too much time looking at the news, opinion columns, and analysis of what is going on in the world.

With November 8th in the rear view mirror, I thought I'd be able to cut back. After all, the constant drumbeat of political news and non-news is over. But, no, that hasn't happened quite yet.

Obviously, the election of the President didn't bring a conclusion, a satisfactory ending to anything for a large part of the country. It only stoked the political fires that were already at a dangerously high level. After a few days of self-imposed exile, I was back obsessively grabbing for the phone much too often.

After a few years of receiving no morning newspaper I did break down. Waiting in my driveway six mornings a week is the Wall Street Journal. While I rarely agree with their editorial stance, they offer a good overview of economic news and lifestyle information. Whether I renew my subscription next spring is still an open question. Staff cutbacks and a shrinking paper indicate the WSJ may be fighting the losing battle of most print media.

Clicking on news updates and the latest from the stock market is too easy for someone who spends a few hours a day in front of his computer. I may be in the middle of typing a post or answering some log comments, when suddenly I have a strong urge to see what I have been missing. A click here, a click there, and I am gone from what I was doing for a chunk of time.

Interestingly, I don't watch news programs on television. Depending on the channel I pretty much know what they are going to report on or how information will be presented. Usually, they will 20 minutes or more on an individual topic, analyzing it to death. 

I receive no magazines that would be in the political, economic, or news categories. By the time the publication reaches my mailbox, whatever is on the front cover is likely old news. Magazines are fine for ideas for home projects, hobbies and the like. But, for current events, I don't find them timely enough.

But, the smartphone and computer! Instant input whenever my heart craves it. Google searches during slow plot points of a TV movie. Video updates from CNN. The latest breaking story on Huffpost or Politico. What the BBC says, from a British perspective, about something happening in America. The choices are apparently endless.

Even on the just-completed RV trip, one of my first chores was to check on the strength of the WiFi connection. Try as I might to stay away while I was away, it didn't work. A poor Internet feed could ruin my afternoon.

Betty has learned to warn me about excessive news input just before bedtime. She knows that last minute jolt leaves me agitated and keeps me awake. 

So, is there an answer to this compulsion, or is this a phase of my retirement that will eventually burn itself out? Will I accept that my checking news and informational feeds doesn't change what is going to happen anyway, it just tends to aggravate me? A line in an article in the Washington Post a awhile back seems to summarize my problem: "Through media in all its forms, we exhaust and are exhausted by the insignificant."

Wait,  I have been typing this post for 30 minutes...I wonder what I have missed? Probably not much.

31 comments:

  1. Do you have any tips or tricks for locating wifi hotspots?

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    1. I am not a fan of public WiFi hotspots. Even when we we are on an RV trip, I will not use the park's WiFi for anything other than checking email and news if it is unsecured. If secure WiFi isn't available I use my phone's ability to become a secure hotspot.

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  2. Yeah, you do sound like a news junky to me Bob! I call it staying informed with the world outside my door. It seems many seniors choose the opposite route. My wife is one of them. She spends hours watching the cooking and home rehab shows but little news. I guess it makes her world more peaceful but I call it sticking you head in the sand. (Ha)

    Of course you know I also am a new junky of the Will Rogers variety. I love commenting on other peoples' opinions as he did. Maybe the difference between us is I am usually up every morning before 7am and have it out of my system by noon.

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    1. My routine is when I wake up to grab the phone and check the weather, look at e-mails, and then scan the news apps. Then, I read the paper and start my "real" day. Come night time, though, I will start scanning what has been going on that I might have missed.

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  3. I also feel the need to know what's going on in my world as soon as I wake up.It's a connection I don't feel complete without-- I need to connect. I also spend too much time re-connecting during the day! I have started to just close my computer ad put it in another room.That helps some. I spend plenty of time on other hobbies and activities,so how harmful is it to want to read news a few times a day online? I'm not sure.Especially now,i like being very informed. I feel anxious when I am NOT informed.Like you,I don't watch TV news or get any news magazines. I just check in online. The world is a busy place and I like knowing I can be a part of it whenever I choose! But I'm also trying to limit it a bit! Good luck!!

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    1. How else would I find out about the major earthquake in New Zealand, or the reaction to the president's trip overseas? For me, I need to begin to check more than just the news outlets. There is so much more going on in the world that is inspiring and affirming.

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  4. Yup, I share your addiction.
    NPR/BBC in the car, NYTimes & Wash Post on line (I'll buy it when the metro section looks good), Wall Street Journal or Herald Tribune when on the road, toggle between Fox, CNBC and MSNBC for 30 minutes a few times a day. I get lots of news from my kids, nephews and nieces- their jobs seem to be steeped in real time application. I get a summary of the ultra liberal/liberal from blogs and the ultra conservative from my niece in law. I go to Church Saturday night so I can spend the morning listening to the actual politicians on the political shows.I listen to Glen Beck once a week to know what my Mom is talking about. Used to love Jon Steward. Miss him.
    After living in the strange places I have lived, I will never be uninformed again. It is up to me to know all sides. All those little "tests" say that I am a centrist. No surprise to me.
    Still, I have plenty of time to garden, do housework, take a course, volunteer, travel, play with grands and correspond with friends. Like you, it is a good thing I am retired.
    ~Janette

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    1. That is a a pretty "aggressive" news gathering diet, Janette. Except for watching Fox or Glen Beck we are quite similar.

      For the first time in years I had the chance to watch the Sunday morning news and lifestyle show on CBS. I miss Charles Osgood, but the program is a nice way to end the week.

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    2. Bob, I recently added some reading of news sources that I hadn'been reading before (more conservation stuff, like Fox). It's difficult to read sometimes but if there's any hope for coming together, I need to understand viewpoints different than mine. I find it very challenging to even *find* the other viewpoint because the internet feeds you more of what you've already looked at. It does help to see how the same facts are spun different ways. It's also tempting to think I'm well informed when I'm consuming a quantity of information instead of really digging into a select topic, researching it, and analyzing it.

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  5. I too am a political news junkie. It's just the way I am. It started when I went door-to-door for John F. Kennedy at the age of 14. Then I had a minor in political science at college. Then I wrote my Ph.D. dissertation on the election of 1980. Then I rode on the Jesse Jackson and Bill Clinton campaign buses in 19898 and 1992, respectively. I don't think it's something to be ashamed of. But I agree with Betty that you have to limit your consumption when it gets to be near bedtime. No sense losing sleep over stuff that we have no control over anyway.

    Dr Rin Porter

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    1. My major in college was International Relations, which contained a lot of political science courses. Maybe this is just my school training coming back!

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  6. Not a junkie but I stay informed. Newspapers in the morning. They are not really breaking news but a relaxing analysis. Check internet sites after dinner. Occasionally do more in depth research on an issue. Never check news on my phone. If I am at home where there is a landline for kid's emergencies I may not turn it on all day. Don't watch TV news unless there is a real crisis. I'll admit I might not know about the crisis if not for my husband, but that would not really matter as I could not have affected the outcome. Overall I am just as well informed as my news junkie husband. I might learn of rioting a few hours after the fact, but what difference does that make. I'm convinced that news junkies are addicted to the agitation. It gives them an adrenaline rush. I tell my husband it is his blood sport. For me, it ruins my day. But to each his own.

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    1. I hope I am addicted to agitation, but you may be right.

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  7. Personally I have changed from receiving much of my news from TV to receiving the vast majority via the Web. If you want to call it news I do watch CNBC on a regular basis, but often have it on mute to watch the ticker only, all while tuning out the talking heads.

    The past year basically killed the mainstream media watching for me. I noticed they changed from reporting the news to trying to affect the outcome for some years now, but never to the extent of the past twelve months. Even the media itself is doing much soul-searching in this regard, but I suspect they will be right back to trying to make rather than report the news in short order.

    Besides, if it's on the Internet, it must be true. :)

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    1. There has been a fair amount of chatter over the past week about "fake" news sites on the Internet. Google is attempting to crack down; Facebook will, too, at some point. Of course, anyone with a keyboard can post anything on social media. Personally, I think those "news" sources are more dangerous than the networks.

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  8. One time many years ago I was on vacation and for whatever reason I didn't have any news updates at all. After a week or so I noticed that nothing had gone wrong anywhere in the world AT ALL (not that I could see anyway). Everyone I was interacting with was as healthy and alive as the day I met them, I didn't encounter a single traffic accident, no one had been robbed, all the businesses were operating exactly the same as they always had - all in all the world was a very pleasant place. Once I noticed this I kept up my news ban for the rest of the vacation and for the whole trip nothing bad occurred to anyone. Judging the world simply by what I saw with my own eyes and what I experienced DIRECTLY revealed that the world is a pretty nice place. I am not saying we should bury our heads in the sand and ignore the world, stay informed, but don't let "the news", which is uniformly bad, distract you from all the good things that happen every day to almost every single one of us.

    - David

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    1. That is a great comment, and very helpful, David. Thank you.

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  9. You mentioned the news issue in an earlier post, but here you have expanded the discussion. Oh Lord, why can't I turn this off??!! It's like an addiction. I did manage to stay away from news obsession for several years, but with the election, I got hooked again. And like you, I thought I would stop after the election, but I'm just as bad. My only relief is at the cabin where I'm unplugged from all media. Good grief.

    Loved your last line about being away from the news long enough to write the post. Laughed out loud. So true.

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    1. I just added a news/opinion site back on my phone today. Here we go again.

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  10. Twitter has become my drug of choice these days. It's addicting, and I find myself checking in several times a day to see what's been going on. I like the short, pithy remarks but also the many links to articles, videos, charts, etc. that I might not have read or seen otherwise. Twitter also throws out little bits of information that would probably be overlooked in more traditional media, and they're usually ahead of the game on breaking stories. I've found people on Twitter ae also good at pointing out falsehoods very quickly, on both sides of the political divide. Twitter can require a strong stomach at times, but overall I think the format works.

    I think the traditional media has failed all of us, and I'm almost to the end of weaning myself from it. I'm getting better at seeing how topics are framed (soooo sick of the tendency to "both sides" a topic) I still click on articles or videos, but have been turning more and more to non-traditional sources for my news these days.

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    1. Interesting perspective, Laura. I use Twitter to promote this blog, but find too many of the thoughts disconcerting or inflammatory for me. The nightly news shows on the TV networks are completely useless. Maybe David (see above) has the best idea.

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  11. Well, you do come from a news background, at least in part, so you can only blame yourself for your obsession. But seriously, I've at times found myself getting so upset and wound up after watching some news, that I've almost gone off the deep end. And then I take a breath, and try to figure out what it means to me, and most of the time it means almost nothing. So I've learned not to take anything on the news personally, or even too seriously. Plus, a lot of the news is editorializing -- people fearing that something will happen if the "wrong" people get elected -- whether there's any string of truth to it or not. The media -- both TV and the web -- have become much more partisan than the public, largely because that's how they've found more audience and more ad dollars. You know what they say -- You want attention? Start a fight! So I try to take all media with a grain of salt. I'm not a cynic. A cynic believes nothing. But I am a skeptic. A skeptic doesn't believe everything.

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    1. I can't argue with your points, Tom. My college education and radio career did make me more sensitive to the media and its use/abuse. I can see when I am being played, yet I still get involved. Silly and counterproductive? Absolutely.

      I am not a cynic, but I do get rather upset when I see people spouting gibberish or falling for the same untruths over and over again. It must be in our DNA.

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  12. I find that I can watch ABC Nightly News with David Muir and love his ending stories that are uplifting and inspirational. It helps me to forget the "yucky stuff" and reinforces the lovely and kind people who we wouldn't know about otherwise. The little kids overcoming great odds get me every time.

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    1. I haven't seen that. Maybe i should et up the DVR to record the newscast and fast-forward to the end!

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  13. Like you, I feel addicted some days, and this election cycle has made it much worse. I think I've drilled some paths in my brain that fire the news junkie synapse. I have podcasts downloaded to listen to in my car and while walking/doing chores/etc., but on a recent car trip alone, I found myself flipping my Sirius channels between the news options to catch the latest on the "transition". Ugh. Just when I think I've reached my saturation point and walk away from it, something on Twitter sucks me back in. I think I need a technology fast.

    One thing I have discovered that I love is David Axelrod's podcast from the Institute of Politics at U Chicago, The Axe Files. He is a pretty measured interviewer, talks to both sides, and delves into each person's background and experience, plus their viewpoints which are often not his. But they disagree respectfully.

    --Hope

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    1. David was one of the bright spots on CNN during all the coverage through the primaries and the election. He worked in the Obama WH but showed respect for others' opinions while making his case.

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  14. Hi Bob - it seems to me that the main problem with the news is that it focuses nearly exclusively on the negative. Bad news sells but it's a full anxiety diet that's no good for anybody. If we were given more of the good news I'm sure that that would change how we feel about ourselves and the world.

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    1. Huffington Post has sections on Good News, Healthy Living, GPS for the Soul, and 50+ that tend to steer clear of most political stuff. I have moved those sections to the top of my smartphone app.

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    2. Me too! I still believe in being well informed every day.Can't go about my daily stuff without knowing what my fellow humans are up to!!

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  15. I've been a news junkie for a long time. The internet has compounded and expanded my addiction. I only follow legit news sites and fact check anything I plan to share online. ABC is our tv news station, primarily because it is the best news source in our area for local and then we watch the nat'l after. We get The NYT and WaPo digitally every day but, I had to cut back for a while because it was affecting my health. The election results haven't helped that's for sure. I'm trying to take breaks and step back to hope and pray good triumphs over evil. It is very scary out there!
    b

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