Posted by: joha5 | June 1, 2010

You News? You Lose.

I am – and always will be – a huge news junkie.  I wake up everyday and the first thing I do is check the news and read what is going on in the world.  I get the Washington Post delivered to my house daily and online I read MSNBC, CNN, and the BBC World News.  I don’t just glance over the headlines either.  I spend time reading dozens of articles a day.  I don’t know why I do this or what is so fascinating about the news for me.  It just is.  I like to be informed and I like to know what is going on in the immediate and extended world around me.  For lack of a better cliché, I like to feel as though I am a citizen of the world and by reading the news and learning about what is going on I feel as though I am actively engaging myself in the discourse of society. 

Yet, as much as I love the news, there re some days when I feel really overwhelmed by it all and just can’t quite bring myself to read about what is going on outside of these walls.  Here is just a smattering of the headlines that have assaulted my senses today:  ‘Vice President Al & Tipper Gore to Separate After 40 years of Marriage’, ‘Anger and Fury over Gaza Aid Convoy Raid on Flotilla’, ‘Storms Kill 146; Leaves Huge Sinkhole’, ‘HP to cut 3000 jobs’, ‘Workplace Suicides in the US on the Rise’, ‘Gunman Kills 3 in China Court’, ‘Jobless Benefits to Run Out’…I mean, I could go on and on…and on.  This is literally just a very small selection over a couple of hundred deadlines that I have seen today.  In fact, the only piece of good or entertaining news that I have seen today is ‘Homer Simpson Named Greatest TV Character’.  While that is great news – and it is – it somehow just doesn’t quite hold a candle to the other headlines that I have just randomly listed.

Is it possible that this is the only good news I will read about all day?!

Make no mistake: I understand that this is essentially the nature of news.  The best definition of the news that I can ever remember hearing was in the 10 minute introductory museum at the Newseum in Washington, D.C.  It is a video entitled ‘What is News’ and it was narrated by Charles Osgood.  In it he defines the news as a series of polar opposites : love and hate, tragedy and triumph, birth and death, freedom and silence.  That definition has stuck with me and if you really break down every single news story I am absolutely convinced that they can fit into one or more of these listed categories.  If this is true, then I wonder why more than 95% of the news stories that I have seen in the past 48 hours involve the darker side of humanity rather than the lighter side.  I am fundamentally aware that the news is not a feel good affair and that the news editors aren’t trying to put in happy and fluffy stories so their readers can put down the newspaper to feel great about the world.  Their job is to inform the reader of what is going on in the world.  I just don’t know whether to blame the world for how bleak everything is or to blame the editors for depicting the world in such a bleak way.

Normally, the news doesn’t get to me this badly.  I just read it and everything just seems so distant to me.  Gunman in China?  Awful but what impact does it have on me here?  Al and Tipper Gore separating?  So what?  Tropical storms kill 146?  What a tragedy but what can I do from here?  Everything just seems so far away when I am behind the front page of the newspaper or behind this very computer screen.  Most of the time, that is pretty much how I like it.  It would be impossible for me to get worked up over every news story because if I did then I would never have any time to do much of anything else.  However, there are plenty of stories that do affect me directly.  Jobless benefits to run out?  Good thing I’m not on them but what if I need to be soon?  HP to cut 3000 jobs?  Dammit.  More people in the job market to compete with and take potential jobs that I might be looking at.  Fury over Gaza aid convoy aid on flotilla?  Jesus.  I hope this can be sorted out and that it doesn’t escalate into another conflict. 

Is this the norm rather than the exception?

Like I said, most days I can take the stories that both affect me and don’t affect me directly.  I can separate my intellectual reactions from my emotional reactions and I can distance myself from them as well so that the horribly depressing news doesn’t consume me and take over my life.  But for some reason I just can’t today.  Yet instead of sitting here and reading more and wondering why, I’m just going to ignore it.  I’m going to get on with my life and do what I need to get done today and not spend any more time thinking about how tough the world can be sometimes.  Today’s news may be full of death, war, famine, and pestilence but I feel full of life, joy, happiness, and love so I’m going to do everything I can not let the world get me down.  Let’s just hope that this isn’t easier said than done.


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