Are you consuming more news these days, or less?


For me, it’s definitely less. I can only bear so much.

And maybe the problem is just me. You know, I lived and breathed this stuff for so long, and I subscribe to multiple newspapers so I don’t miss a beat, and maybe I’ve just reached an age where I’m like, “Nobody is paying me to do this anymore, so…”

But I don’t think that’s it. At least not entirely.  I think the news is actually worse. More than that, the way people engage issues has become so counterproductive that immersing oneself in it seems pointless. Once, we had energetic discussions of issues we disagreed about, and found elements to agree upon. Now, we yell at each other. And too often, it’s not even about trying to win an argument. It’s about establishing one’s bona fides as a member of this or that tribe, and expressing how you hate that other tribe more than anyone else does.

So much of it is depressing. Other bits are just stupid. Often, the items I read and hear are both.

This past week, whenever I call up one of the papers I read or turn on my NPR One app, I’m greeted by one of the following:

  • Abortion. Abortion, abortion, abortion. This is particularly true whenever I turn on NPR. It’s usually the first story, and it goes on and on. One story that was on when I entered the kitchen a day or two ago must have used the word, “abortion,” ten times in the first minute. I tried to be positive about it. I tried to say, “Well, at least these folks are being honest and using the actual word, instead of evasive euphemisms such as ‘women’s healthcare’.” But that didn’t cheer me up. I just turned it off before having my breakfast.
  • Masks. And other repetitive stuff about the coronavirus, but mostly unbelievably moronic disputes over wearing masks or being required to wear masks or being forbidden to require people to wear masks, just on and on and on and over and over again. This is particularly a problem when reading South Carolina news. And this one fits securely into the “stupid” column. But of course, it’s so stupid, and persistent, that it’s also deeply depressing.
  • Afghanistan. The utter misery of the situation, the idiotic things that are said about it, the stunning fact that apparently all sorts of people seem surprised that our precipitous abandonment of the enterprise would have any other effect than the one it did, the lifetime of misery that is ahead for people who are there and can’t get out, and the disastrous effect it is all likely to have on U.S. foreign policy for so long into the future, and I just can’t go on…
  • Mind-numbing local horror. This one, of course, is as far into the depressing column as you can get. A couple of nights ago, my wife — who watches TV news shows, even though I don’t, called my attention to the screen, on which was an early story about the two babies dying the van. Horrified, I had the pointless thought, “I hope it wasn’t twins.” Somehow, I thought that would be even worse, although that’s debatable — is one family suffering such a double tragedy necessarily worse than two families having their joy destroyed forever? Of course, it was twins. I’ve done my best not to read or hear another word about it, because it’s just too painful.
  • Bad weather. Or, if you prefer, call it “global warming.” Now I know that those of you who want to call it global warming and those who don’t want to yell at each other, so go ahead, but out of my hearing. And comfort yourselves with the knowledge that if a break occurs between hurricanes, it will be filled with huge fires in California. So you can keep yelling.

So I’ve generally been avoiding news this week. You?


17 thoughts on “Are you consuming more news these days, or less?

  1. Pat

    I’m reading. It’s like watching a train wreck. I feel the same way about these issues that you do, though. It would probably be healthier for me to avoid reading about it all.

  2. Bob Amundson

    What is news? I am certainly more situationally aware; too many unknown unknowns. Info = Data = You Manage What You Measure.

  3. bud

    Re Afghanistan
    I am eternally grateful that Brad doesn’t get to decide this. The utter stupidity of suggesting we need to stay there propping up a corrupt, incompetent government is beyond the pale.

      1. bud

        How about this: I’m thankful that we have a sensible POTUS who recognizes the futility of trying to prop up a corrupt and incompetent government in Afghanistan.The British tried 3 times, the Russians tried once and now the USA has attempted to create a western style democracy. And for the fifth time this has failed. I never fully supported Biden but the decision to honor our promise (made by the previous administration) to get out was the correct one. So I strongly disagree with anyone who wanted to continue this military endeavor.

        1. Brad Warthen Post author

          And I believe that this shows Joe’s strength of character as well. It takes a lot of guts to do something like this, and I give him credit for it.

          I see him as wrong in his conclusions, but he’s acting as a leader by acting in good faith upon those conclusions, and then accepting the political punishment that inevitably comes with that.

          He’s not a fool. He doesn’t believe, as so many people who wanted us to abandon Afghanistan firmly believe, that it would lead to anything but the mess it led to. Which is what I meant when I reacted this way to the polling a couple of days ago:

          1. Brad Warthen Post author

            I’ve considered it particularly asinine that some people have said the situation made Joe look like some sort of weak old man or something.

            To the contrary. It shows him as a man who stays his course.

            I believe the course is wrong (and that the evidence of its wrongness stares us in the face), but Joe has followed through on it…

  4. Barry

    Much, much more and it’s hurt my health.

    I read numerous news articles on breakfast, lunch and dinner.

    Typically, I read though several while in bed before trying to go to sleep. That’s not good for me at all – and I know it. It creates a lot of anxiety in me knowing I have zero control over anything I’m reading.

    I admit, the political environment (fealty to Trump) has cost me friends- which is what I can control. I no longer want to be around people that so profoundly disagree with what I think are basic values. So that part really doesn’t bother me.

    The part that bothers me is a large amount of news consumption has cost me a lot of sleep. I average about 4 hours of sleep a night and that’s been true for well over 2 years now. I’ve developed that habit and even if i refuse to read before bed, I still get the same amount of sleep so my body has adjusted- but not in a good way.

    I have no doubt that I’ll end up having a heart attack in the next 5 years if things keep going the same. Knowing that fact hasn’t motivated me to change though. It’s a rough cycle.

    I’ve too often found myself waking up at 3 or 4 in the morning, unable to go back to sleep, with what I am sure is some type of anxiety attack.

    1. Mark Stewart

      Take care of yourself, Barry. News is just a product to sell. Screen time and content pushing, especially in the evening and into the night, are turning out to not be good things for people. To reduce anxiety and still be aware of events try limiting news consumption to the morning hours. That way if anxiety builds, you can turn it off and engage in something productive – like things you can control and relationships with people you value.

  5. bud

    Wow Barry. I thought I had it bad. But I think I’ve found a partial cure, football. It serves as a distraction from the craziness of the news cycle.

  6. Scout

    I have tended to drive to work in silence (about 50 min drive) rather than listening to NPR lately. Partly because I need more mental time to organize my thoughts for the day in the midst of the increased stress now. But also because it’s too depressing on top of the increased stress. At work, I’m constantly hearing of kids and teachers being sick or out on quarantine at the same time walking by and seeing kids and teachers not wearing masks. The juxtaposition is distressing and mentally exhausting.

  7. Barry

    A judge in Ohio has reversed the earlier Ivermectin ruling.

    I’m sure Bryan will disagree as he supported the earlier ruling.

    Glad that what I consider to be common sense prevailed in this one.

    In an 11-page decision, Hamilton County Common Pleas Judge Michael Oster Jr. wrote that there “was no doubt that the medical and scientific communities do not support the use of ivermectin as a treatment for Covid-19.”

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