The Six O’Clock news deluges us with crimes, fires, scandals, and crises at a rate of a story every two minutes. CNN does the same. There usually is little we can personally do about these news items. After watching the news it is easy to feel a little down and powerless. The few features on lifestyle issues are usually so simplified and sketchy as to be of little value. In short, the TV news programs are not good for our health.
So what is the alternative? There are radio programs (e.g., NPR–National Public Radio’s programs) that give the headlines and then go into more depth. There are some TV programs that do the same. Newspapers with their daily time frame tend to have the piecemeal approach as TV. If you need the paper for other purposes anyway, you may want to skim the news. Weekly or monthly newspapers and magazines tend to give a more thoughtful approach to news. Newspapers and magazines have the advantage of letting you pick what you read.
If you just want the highlights of the news so you can feel you at least know about major events, you can tune in the five-minute news summaries on many radio stations (including NPR). Radio has the advantage of letting you do something else at the same time. Print media allows you to clip information that you want to save. If you listen to talk radio, ask yourself whether it lifts your mood or leaves you aggravated and frustrated, and judge it by your answer.
During the World Trade Center disaster and its aftermath, many people have been spending hours a day watching or listening to the news. Typically such news is very repetitive and speculative. Especially in times of tragedies we need to discipline ourselves to go on a news diet and only watch or listen to a reasonable amount of news.
Just as inane jingles from commercials slip into our minds and memories even when we think we are tuning them out, the news makes an impression on our mind. We want to be good citizens and know what is happening in our communities and in the world. But we need to do it on our terms so we feel we have the big picture instead of a confusing hodgepodge of isolated details about bad news.
Of course, what’s bad news to one person may be good news to someone else. One evening Johnny sat down at the kitchen table doing his homework while his mother watched television. His mother let out a shriek. “Johnny! Johnny! China has just launched a nuclear missile toward the United States.” Johnny looked up from his book with a confused expression. “Do you understand what this means?” his mother implored. All excited, Johnny quickly replied, “No school tomorrow!”
The bottom line is to consciously choose how we want to learn about “the news.” Give preference to news sources that give the big picture and give minimal weight to “piecemeal” news. Of course, if you don’t like the news, you can do something to make some good news.