Why I Don’t Read the News
I woke up as my phone started buzzing. The Associated Press news update shone brightly back at me, confirming that the second Ebola victim traveled on a plane a day before showing symptoms.
Groaning in slumber, I shut it off and turned my head away. I needed a half an hour more of sleep before work started, and the AP felt the need to disturb my slumber with breaking news that really wasn’t. The app pinging at me was only kept out of an old nasty habit of wanting to know about current events. Now I just take a quick peek and keep going.
It’s not like I don’t know what’s going on in the world. I do; I think this generation is better informed than any other generation before it. We are saturated with information. But at the same time, I will not get dragged into the media climate anymore. I won’t tune into the so-called “Fox fair and balanced” or the “this is CNN” buzz that we are fed. I’m too tired.
I should care more about the news. I’m college educated and majored in journalism. I was a reporter before I became an editor. My eyes were wide at the world back then, hoping that somehow I could deliver the news to people and help make this country a better place to be.
Charles Kuralt and Walter Cronkite danced before my eyes and made me want to reach higher to help shape the media landscape. I read the news every day, keeping up to date on current events and being well aware of how things worked. Meanwhile, I entered the workforce as a journalist. The pay was awful and the hours were long, but it was the passion that fed me more than anything and the hope that maybe, just maybe, I could make it to the top.
But as I entered the field, the passion was clouded with men who would tell me on a daily basis I wasn’t good enough for it, using my faith, my then-upcoming nuptials and my writing abilities (or according to them, lack thereof) against me. The old boys’ club wouldn’t let a woman steal their thunder. When I switched over to the editing desk, I found that club easier to deal with because of my considerable talents as both an editor and manager that couldn’t be challenged as readily. But not even these were immune to the recession. Nothing was, and journalism suffered tremendously during that time.
As my desperation hit and I was willing to take anything, I ended up jumping from job to job, only to end up in a series of layoffs. When my marriage crumbled, a move back to Los Angeles made it even trickier. I was coming into one of the worst economic climates in the country expecting to find work as an editor when that was always the first position a company eliminated. And as I interviewed, I watched hundreds of doors slam in my face with a shrug and a “no.” I had to keep moving forward even when my arms were tired from treading water.
Yet somehow I kept reading the news: CNN, MSNBC, AP and plenty of others. Every day it was the same stories, although the details would vary: The Republicans were trying to limit women’s rights, look for more oil and give banks breaks because having money made you special. Democrats talked about giving the people back control and helping them, yet their spines shook as it was time to get there. The world was constantly in a state of crisis, every day with war in some little corner of it, and deaths became words wagging across tongues. There were the talking heads yelled at each other about whose fault it was, with each one saying even more outlandish things than other in order to get attention among the millions of voices talking all at once. There was more fear than actual news. The corporate interests of news outlets (as the majority of them are owned by large corporations looking to make money) overruled the need for information. News judgment, or at least the way I knew it as a reporter, was gone.
The goal was who could get the most clicks, not about actually getting the unbiased information across. And being in the journalism world, I knew how many journalists were willing to compromise their ethics in order to get the best story to beat the others — and even if they don’t want to do it, their editors are begging them to. They would transform it from the issue at hand to whatever created the headline that would gain the most attention.
There are still the people out there who want to pursue pure journalism, give people the information that we need in order to see the ills in our society and tackle them head on rather than the superfluous information that tells us to freak out. Yet the arguments for such things are often given head pats of being cute and then told to go play in the corner.
Meanwhile, I was left every day reading the news and finding the same thing again and again. And the more I saw it, the more I glossed over it and moved on. I knew the basic issues, but I never bothered to read more. As my monetary situation crumbled in recent years and I have been left barely keeping my life afloat, all I could think was, These news outlets aren’t paying my bills. They aren’t really helping me and they aren’t really interested in anything except my clicking. It’s just making me feel even worse about life and humanity. Why should I pay attention?
Perhaps it’s my apathy at America at large, how we have gone from a system where it’s for the people to one that’s more for the large bank accounts. But as the world beat me down, I have became exhausted. Like the slamming doors of job interviews, how could I keep coming back to the same thing day after day hoping that it will change and more often than not finding that it never does? In looking for a better life for myself, I didn’t have a choice in facing those doors. As I feel the depression taking over my body while I’m stuck surviving and not truly living, I have a choice in bringing more darkness into my world. Which means removing depressing influences, and that includes the news.
It doesn’t stop me from feeling wrong about it.
The truth is I want to care about the news, about the world. Somewhere inside me is still that college graduate who wants to change things. She still wants to make it better and feels that she can somehow. She’s smart, capable and determined and wants to be well educated on the issues, discussing them thoughtfully without being attacked for her belief systems. She doesn’t stand for reading the news and going, “That’s a damn shame.” It’s why she became a journalist: To wake up the world. It was this young woman who the journalism world tried to quash. Although she is quieter now, she refuses to go away from my heart.
I don’t want her to give up the fight. I want to tell her that there are others out there like her who want to go to battle for the heart of journalism, who will join in with her voice of reasonable dissent against the media status quo. That there are ways we can take back control of this mess and make people feel empowered instead of stuck in a terrible world where we are helpless, whether it’s through the media or any other form this culture takes. We deserve better as citizens of the world.
But in the meantime, I do what little I can. So I’m going to keep surviving, and in the meantime shut down the media noise. I have enough to worry about without the news’ help.