To all News Junkies, Read the News that Never makes the Headlines

Consider these facts:

Percentage of local TV news broadcast time devoted to advertising: 30

Percentage devoted to stories about crime, disaster and war: 53.8

Percentage devoted to public service announcements: 0.7

(Source: CSUN)

How much time do we devote to the news that never makes the headlines?

Dear all news junkies, read the news that NEVER makes the headlines, instead.

You’re probably wondering:

What’s wrong with consuming news daily?

And that’s what I wanna talk with you today.

I. The Types of News I’m Talking about

  • Any type of news programs on TV (weather forecasts, local news, global news, crime reports, stock market/political updates, morning/afternoon/late night news, etc.)
  • and on Radio
  • Any type of daily newspapers (USA Today, The Washington Post, The Daily Telegraph, etc.)
  • Any type of magazines (Money, Bloomberg, Vanity Fair, People, Cosmopolitan, etc.)
  • Any news on social media (Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, etc.)

You get it. I have a low opinion for almost all types of reading/listening/watching news, if I don’t see any direct link to my well-being.

That means:

  • I don’t watch TV, unless it’s already on during family dinner time
  • I don’t subscribe to any type of newspapers or magazines (the last subscriptions I got were with Forbes and Success magazines, both ended 2013)
  • I don’t read any daily newspapers
  • I quit surfing YouTube, unless I want to check out something specific
  • I quit scrolling Facebook mindlessly. In fact, I now follow under 10 pages on Facebook and I check Facebook less than 5 times a day
  • I do spend 15 minutes max daily on Mon-Sat checking out Flipboard app for articles about my interests

Perhaps you’re wondering:

Why make such a big deal? What’s wrong with consuming news daily?

It’s because:

  1. Consuming news is NOT a cure for our ignorance.
  2. Consuming news is another type of entertainment, and if we get hooked, may wreak havoc to our minds.

My friend, below I’d like you to consider these 2 points,

and if you agree with my logic, you can save at least 8 hours a week, in addition to many other benefits, by trying the steps that I set for myself.

II. Consuming News is NOT a Cure for our Ignorance

An argument I often get regarding reading news is that, we need news to educate ourselves about what’s happening around us.

We need news to stay informed,

to get full knowledge before making a stand on a subject,

to know both sides of a story, not merely the one we are told by friends or relatives,

and to acquire full evidence to prove/disprove our beliefs or faiths.

And I agree.

I firmly believe that lifelong learning helps us avoid being ignorant, and is the key to personal success,

if what we read conveys the truth that will benefit our lives.

Unfortunately, that’s rarely the case.

The news that we consume daily, more often than not, presents only one snapshot of the whole picture,

or worse,

a twisted view that serves hidden agendas.

What do I mean by that?

News only gives you one side of the story, the side that the journalist focuses on.

And what do journalists focus on?

The contents that are dramatic, bizarre, and personal.

In other words, the things that catch readers’ attention.

Why our attention?

Because our attention (and trust also) is an asset that news corporations capitalize to make profit via ads, promotion, and affiliate marketing.

And under this formula of making money, a question always left unanswered is that, whether what we read is what the reporters actually saw, or what they wanted us to see.

This leads me to my main argument. I’m suggesting that, consuming news daily is not the cure for our ignorance, because it weakens our ability to think critically.

Critical thinking refers to the ability to process available data to form our own conclusion.

The purpose of reporting an event, however, is not to present the audience with objective data. Information is provided bit by bit, conditioned to make us think in a certain way. Opinions and assumptions dominate facts.

What’s worse?

The limited facts supplied are too often interrupted by scandalous and flashy features, the wow factors, that are individualized, and story-driven, rather than conveying the big picture.

So, the result is that we’re left with insufficient and distorted information, with a lot of noise. This hinders our ability to think clearly,

if we do think at all (another question mark, right?).

Thus,

We hope that daily news comes to the rescue for our fear of ignorance, while the reality is that, to me, consuming them daily acts more like a “fix” for our endless curiosity.  

Now, there’s nothing wrong with curiosity, provided we intensify its power by fixating on very few things,

the few things that directly benefit us.

Suppose you’re searching YouTube for that famous Stanford speech by Steve Jobs, you’ve found it, and just before closing the browser, you see something about Elon Musk making incredible speech, you may think: “I’ll just watch a bit, it doesn’t hurt!”, and then after a short while, you wonder: “Let see if there’s something else”…

Sound familiar?

Isn’t that how we keep getting lost in the rabbit hole of online surfing?

Curiosity, once spread over multiple directions, leads to the incurable disease of FoMO (Fear of Missing Out). Those who catch it believe they don’t know enough, and are afraid of being caught off-guard by the things that they’re missing out, and so consuming news makes them whole, complete.

Thus, admitting our ignorance makes us want to know more.

But if left unchecked, an eternal desire of wanting to know more, which stems from the misguided curiosity, may eventually become even stronger than the desire to seek the truth.

And that’s why I believe that consuming news daily is NOT a cure for our ignorance, but merely a “fix” for our endless curiosity.

Yep, you heard me right!

Daily news is a kind of mental candy that once you get hooked, may wreak havoc to your mind.

III. An Addictive Entertainment & its Negative Effects

Remember the last time you read news?

How did you actually read the news?

Did you read the article slowly, sentence by sentence, trying to understand what the author wanted to say?

Or,

Did you scan the text, paragraph by paragraph, looking for sensationalized facts, surprises, twists and turns of the story,

and pause occasionally to glance at a photo in the article,

perhaps you might go through the text before or after the picture, if it’s really cool, but hard to see why the writer put it there?

I’m no different.

We don’t read news.

We scan the headlines, sub-headlines, and the text for highlights,

for drama,

for anything that seems unconventional,

anything to shake the minds out of their constant states of lethargy and boredom.

In fact, scientific research on television (1) finds that boredom drives people to the media to seek sensational and arousing content.

We say we need news for self-education.

Yet we treat news, like Rolf Dobelli suggested, as “candies for the mind”, nothing more than another type of entertainment.

And what do you expect reporters will give us?

You get it.

Less education. More entertainment.

Journalism is straying into entertainment. The lines between serious news segments, news entertainment, and news comedy are blurring ~ Drew Curtis

I’ve been working on a subject recently, and it’s about identifying the detrimental effects of consuming news daily. Here are a few of them:

1. News induces fear & negative thinking

The rule of thumb in journalism is that “if it bleeds, it leads”.

Open any daily newspaper, look at the headlines of any category, and you’ll see what I mean.

Just the headlines, please, save you the possibility of ruining a beautiful day of yours.

How can we remain confident about our well-being, and trust that the safety of our relatives and children are placed in the right hand, when talks about the Florida shooting and gun debates dominate most news columns?

It’s hard to remain positive and optimistic, right?

By the way, only one shooting is enough to flood all the news.

So, it seems almost impossible not to be aware of such horrible event.

One might argue that we can’t read only the positive, feel-good stuff, nor stay forever in the holy, happy land. We must face the “reality” out there and be informed of problems our society has.

Question:

  • How many problems out there have you solved already?

None!

  • How many are you solving right now?

None!

  • Are you lazy or just incompetent?*

!!!!

Well, my answer for the last one is “None of my business!”

More questions:

  • How many of the reported problems are happening to you right now?

For me, none!

  • If something bad did happen to you, what good would you get by reading more reports about it?

None!

You see.

We’re not trying to attain world peace, prevent nuclear war, stop global warming, end school shooting, nor win the war on drugs,

NOT because we don’t give a damn,

But because we have very little control (or nothing at all) over such issues, so our concerns make no difference.

The most practical thing we can do is to find ways to ensure our safety, and the safety of our loved ones, should another shooting occur.

Besides, news reporters spend 90% of their time on describing these problems with vivid details, without giving us proper solutions.

Question:

  • Are they paranoid or just incompetent?

Well, that’s why we call them reporters, not problem-solvers. What else do you expect them to do?

Solving problem is “none of their business”.

And why do they keep dumbing garbage (and I think the word “garbage” isn’t too strong here) into our heads?

Because they know we always welcome sensationalized facts to entertain our minds,

and thrilling stories to fulfill our endless cravings to seek an answer for evil actions,

no matter how rare they are, as long as they make sense.

Again, once left unchecked,

curiosity always ignites a burning desire to know more,

to demand an explanation for anything,

especially the “unthinkables”.

2. News is addictive 

Like other kinds of entertainment, news is addictive, especially for those suffering from the disease of FoMO. These people always feel there’s a lack inside of them, and news gives them precisely that, something to fill in the void.

And, unlike other entertainment, it’s easy to convince people that they need news daily to stay informed. Nobody wants to be labeled ignorant.

To make matters worse, news is available, and accessible everywhere,

online or offline,

on hand or over the air,

in writing, audio, or visual,

for a fee or for free.

Free!

How do you resist something free?

Really hard, indeed.

Until we learn its hidden costs – our attention, our time,

our misconception, for taking a piece of truth to be the truth,

our mental energy, for adding one. more. thing. into the already long list of things that we worry about.

3. News distracts us & distorts reality 

If news does little to help us solve direct problems we face in our lives, then more news would distract us from pursuing what really matters to us.

One advice from productive experts we often get is keeping our office desk 100% clutter-free.

But what about having a mind full of junks?

We live in a time when everything is reaching out for our attention. News is just another form of attention vampire, who sucks ours away from what’s truly important.

Even worse, consuming news daily pushes readers further into a reality distortion field, in which disasters, murders, rapes, lies…are the common themes.

People say that they read news but don’t give much thought about it, and before long, most will be tossed out of their brains anyway.

Yeah right!

Do you know what’s remained after the news is gone?

The details gone. Sure! But the drama stays.

The stories forgotten. But the fear lingers on.

Old scandals replaced by newer ones. But the trust’s lost and remains broken.

The lone-wolf shooters detained and faced justice. But their followers magically appear everywhere.

The mass murderers immobilized. But not their modi operandi, which have already become mainstream.

IV. How to Get Rid of the Habit

I’ve learned that consuming news daily is an expensive (in terms of what it costs me to consume it) and unhealthy (for the mind) habit.

For over a year, I’ve taken proactive steps to replace the habit for more conscious reading.

This might sound contradicting to what I’ve said so far, but yes, I do read news. I appreciate high-quality writings, as well as investigative journalism. The world needs more passionate journalists, who care and want to contribute to humanity.

I spend about 15 minutes daily on Mon-Sat (1 hour on Sunday) on Flipboard, which tailors to my interests.

You can save at least 8 hours a week by following ANY of the below steps:

1. Plan your week

Planning ahead avoids falling into the trap of mindless consumption.

Open your calendar, mark the times when your favorite TV shows broadcast during the week, so that you can turn the TV on to watch only those shows, and turn it off the moment they are over.

Do that, and you’ll get ahead of the pack, who spends about 2 hours and 22 minutes daily watching just local news, according to Nielsen’s Local Watch Report (2) in 2017.

2. Be mindful of the habit

Record the amount of time you’re spending to consume news each day. Realizing how much time you’ve wasted will ignite the desire to stop consuming news mindlessly.

3. Consume news deliberately

Before dwelling on any news, ask yourself this question:

“Does what’s being reported here allow me to make better informed decision(s) regarding my life, my career/business, not in the future, but now?”

If the answer is “No” or “Maybe”, skip the trash. Like Jim Rohn said, you might find something valuable by going over the trash, but I wouldn’t do it.

4. Consume news proactively     

Stop getting news from TV & radio.

Why?

Because you don’t have control over what being broadcast.

All you can do is switching channels, and more often than not, end up consuming something else that adds little real value to your life.

And that save you roughly 3 hours from 8-11 pm, so you’d better plan alternative activities for the time freed up.

Perhaps a more healthy hobby of yours;

use it as study time, developing your skills;

or build a part-time business.

5. Control online media consumption

Ditch the TV, use social online media instead. But consume it intelligently.

  • Use a personalized news reader app that provides only topics that you care about (I use Flipboard, available both on iOS & Android; or you may try News on iOS or Google Play Newsstand on Android).
  • Schedule 15 minutes each workday for “news” time.

Don’t say “Well, I’ll just read whenever I have time to kill”. We have a lot more time to kill than we’re aware of. 15’ is enough to cover the real “new” issues, more time just make you read the repetitive.

Besides, the filtering question in step iii. will cut off 90% of the irrelevant stuff already.

  • For long articles that seem to take longer than 15 minutes to read, save them using Read-it-later apps (Instapaper, Pocket), or the Reading List feature on Safari for iOS and Chrome for Android.

Then, you’ll have 1 hour on Sat/Sun to finish them.

6. Focus on self-education, instead

So what about those waiting times, travel times, etc.?

These periods are reserved for real educational reading.

You know what I mean:

books,

audiobooks,

professional articles,

personal development stuff (like this site).

Whatever you’re interested, there’s a book for that.

These sources provide much more in-depth and reliable knowledge compared to daily news.

Having them stored in your phone reduces the possibility of checking up the news during free time.

7. Eliminate the need to check up social media 

Unsubscribe/Unfollow social media pages that you liked. Most of the news is either fake, sensational, or marketing-biased.

8. Reread the old stuff

Instead of reading more of the “new” stuff, consider revisiting the old stuff, the ones that you’ve found really useful.

Repetition is mother of all skills (From someone wise)

Repetition also allows you to ponder about the good things one more time, give them deeper thoughts.

For example, I saved this beautifully-written article from The New York Times by John Herrman (3) for later review to improve my writing.

V. Stop being a Consumer, Become a Creator 

Instead of consuming, try to create. Now, before you start whining, please hear me out.

It’s taken me 6 days to have this conversation carried on so far. And I’m not done yet.

It means, for me, it’s not another damn thing on the to-do list that I’ve got to do to keep you guys on EnjoyYrJourney.

It’s something I care, I believe.

Now, how many of you will I get through, of that I do not know.

But you won’t believe the joy and satisfaction I’m getting out of this painstaking work. And the pride I have for my creation is equal to that a mother has for her baby.

For consumers, this article is just one of the many that they’ve stumbled upon, a piece of information to be digested.

But for your friend, it’s a belief,

a contribution, and influence (hopefully),

a piece of my dream,

my learning,

my experience,

a piece of me.

Now, my friend, tell me, which side would you like to be?

What are your hobbies?

What are you passionate about?

What do you dream of?

What is something you’ve always wanted to do but never done before?

Are you afraid of being judged for letting that madness inside of you out?

Give it a try, you don’t have to show it to the world. But the joy, and the fruit, of working on something that matters to you is far more than the entertainment you get from passively consuming news, day. after. day.

Perhaps you’ve been hesitated to try because of fear of failure. You’re right. Mistakes and failures are inevitable on any journey to pursue what we want. 

But fear not! For I’ve a comprehensive guide to deal with this issue. I call it the Art of becoming an Awakened Dream-walker. The art shows you how to take advantage of all the challenges and obstacles on your journey, so that failure no longer frustrates, but inspires and enlightens you on your path.

Head here for the guide.

If you benefit from this post, share it with your loved ones, so that they benefit, too. When somebody shares, everybody wins!

and until our paths cross again, enjoy your journey!

 

* My favorite “motivating” question from Jeff Bezos, reported in Brad Stone’s book (4), which excerpt published by Bloomberg.

 

References

(1) Perse, E. M. (1996). Sensation seeking and the use of television for arousal. Communication Reports, 9(1), 37-48. Retrieved from https://doi.org/10.1080/08934219609367633

(2) Nielsen (2017). Q1 2017 Local Watch Report: TV Trends in Our Cities. Retrieved from http://www.nielsen.com/us/en/insights/reports/2017/q1-2017-local-watch-report-tv-trends-in-our-cities.html

(3) Herrman, J. (2018). What I Learned from Watching My iPad’s Slow Death. Retrieved from https://www.nytimes.com/2018/02/06/magazine/what-i-learned-from-watching-my-ipads-slow-death.html

(4) Stone, B. (2013). Jeff Bezos and the Age of Amazon: Excerpt From ‘The Everything Store’ by Brad Stone. Retrieved from https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2013-10-10/jeff-bezos-and-the-age-of-amazon-excerpt-from-the-everything-store-by-brad-stone#p1

Author: Rumi Tran

A vEgEtAriAn/A wAnnAbe Artist/A DreAmer/A PsYcho