No News Is Good News

Apparently there’s a mad despot at large, causing difficulties for his nation and the world beyond.

Sorry, I take that back… There’s always a mad despot at large. Probably always will be.

The madder, the badder and the more shocking, the more newspapers (or now e-subscriptions) the media sell.

One of the things I’ve tried to learn over the years is to follow what I call my internal compass.

This is the little voice in one’s head which chimes in when you’re chatting to someone at a dinner party that says, ‘this person is talking complete shit’. However, my outward appearance is normally one of interest, intrigue and delight. Well, sadly that’s not entirely true – my mood is plastered on my face for all to see. But you get the drift. We at least try to be polite, even if our faces are as revealing as a burlesque dancer’s brassiere.

I try to trust that internal compass. I am trying to listen to it more closely. When I hear a story, or someone tells me what is right or wrong, I try to look inside at this little spinning needle and work out what I think is right, rather than adhere to the common consensus.

For three and a half years, from the age of 37, Gandhi refused to read newspapers, claiming that the tumultuous state of world affairs caused him more confusion than his own inner unrest.

The needle on my inner compass swings to absofu*kinglutely.

Do we really need to know what, or perhaps what one reporter thinks, is going on in a country we’ve never visited on the other side of the world?

As Mark Twain said: “Those who do not read newspapers are uninformed, those who do are misinformed.”

Or Thomas Jefferson: “The man who never looks into a newspaper is better informed than he who reads them; inasmuch as he who knows nothing is nearer to the truth than he whose mind is filled with falsehoods and errors.”

Surely the most important news is the prevalent, the everyday and that which affects you and which you can affect?

If you find yourself at a dinner party and the chat turns to world affairs about which every participant has a commentary-style approach, don’t lament your ignorance – instead marvel at all the things these people could have been doing with their valuable time rather than reading biased news reports. Or ask questions about what that person has seen or felt, rather than their regurgitations of another’s opinion.

I love this article, which is one person’s attempt to give up news for 30 days.

Particularly the quote – “When I stepped back and looked at the big picture, I realized that news was worse than worthless to me.”

You know that feeling after you’ve eaten a BigMac (please sue me McDonalds, it would be fantastic press and you can have all Simpletom’s worldy riches) when you still feel hungry, yet also slightly sick and rather sullied?

Like Steve, that’s how I feel when I read the news.

Sure, it’s important to be informed. But is there much more that a newspaper can tell you about human nature than Middlemarch? Are there other ways of finding out what’s going on?

I do not take a single newspaper, nor read one a month, and I feel myself infinitely the happier for it. Thomas Jefferson

If ex-Presidents can do it, so can you.

By not reading the news, you will have time for more important things, like making some news of your own.

My advice is to cut it out and spend more time chatting to people, find out about people’s opinions, thoughts, desires and passions. Most of all, ask the question you want to ask rather than nodding politely and being agreeable so as not to offend your host.

Elaine St James, a famous simplicity author believes that reducing news consumption is one of the best ways of improving time for things you love:

Psychologically, news can also be bad for your health:

In How the News Makes Us Dumb: The Death of Wisdom in an Information Society, C. John Sommerville claims that we can’t discern truly significant events when we watch the evening news every day. In the news everything is equally essential; we don’t develop a sense of perspective about what the bigger, more important issues are. The psychological effects of current events can destroy positive energy.

As for me, one of my great friends who is the BBC correspondent for South Sudan is coming to stay for the next few days. So I’ll just have to soak up my information about what’s been going on there, albeit fascinating, through conversation, wine and friendship. That, my friends, is how I prefer to receive my news.

I must make like a shepherd and get the flock out of here… his plane is arriving all-too-shortly.

In the meantime, here are a couple of links about news consumption:

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2 thoughts on “No News Is Good News

  1. so well said! The thing that scares me the most is that a lot of people seem to follow the news very lazily: they do not question, they do not seek alternatives; most tend to take a position and completely ignore the possibility that things may not be as the media wants us to believe. In general people seek confirmation of what they choose to believe and if the media feeds them that they will take it, no questioning.
    I find though that your eyes really open when you go and live in a different country, one with a culture rather removed from the one you are accustomed to, because then you start noticing the incongruence. It’s ever clearer now that I have been living in an Arab country for 2 and 1/2 years: journalism is about sensationalism; what you get from it is just a glimpse and what a selective and biased glimpse it is.

    • Hi Rosella,
      Thanks so much for your kind post. I couldn’t agree more – it is only when living amongst and amidst the cultures and the news that you start to understand the truth of what is happening, rather than one authors representation. It’s very easy for us to become soapbox commentators, but would take a hundred lifetimes to understand every ‘situation’. Wouldn’t it be interesting if, as happened many years ago, our leaders would be at the front of the charge riding into battle – as opposed to besuited bureaucrats who often have never tasted war or conflict.
      Thanks for reading, enjoy your travels (and as far as marine conservation is concerned – have a look at http://www.blueventures.org, which is an organisation I set up many moons ago).
      Tom

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