Giving Up on the News

My husband watches both the local and national news on television every day.  I stopped watching it a long time ago. Yet we're both news junkies. 

We both read two local newspapers, the New York Times online, and the Economist magazine, not to mention dozens of articles suggested by Twitter, Facebook and email friends. We do care about our community, the US and the world. We often watch Bill Moyers' Journal, Rachel Maddow and Fareed Zakaria. Okay, and we watch Jon Stewart.

But how does one find out what's actually happening around the world? Here's a quiz that asks things your news source probably hasn't covered. I can tell you that mine didn't. Click the link and take the quiz to see what I mean.

There's a reason why journalism gets such a bad rap today and why news sources in general, from television to newspaper, are taking a hit. Here's what local and national TV news have to offer viewers:
  • Someone was killed.
  • Someone shot up a place.
  • There was a flood, fire, earthquake or hurricane.
  • Some celebrity got in trouble.
  • A spectacular car, plane or train crash.
  • A criminal trial that goes on and on.
  • There was an election. There were winners and losers.
  • There was a poll. And another poll.
  • There's a new Coke or a new color of M&Ms.
  • A politician made an assertion (that was not fact-checked).
  • There will be weather.
Other than the last one, none of these (unless I live in the area of the flood, fire, earthquake or hurricane) informs me of anything I need to know. None of our news sources informed us of the important developments in the Gapminder Test.

When I taught social studies, I did not teach "current events". I focused instead on "current issues", those ongoing concerns that were shaping our world. An event happens, dominates the news for a day or more, and is replaced by the next event. If it's a violent event, it makes us subconsciously more fearful and suspicious of others. Not a helpful thing. An issue though informs us on a whole different level. We might learn how incarceration rates have skyrocketed since the War on Drugs and Three Strikes laws. We might learn about the struggles to survive in Gaza under the embargoes. Instead, we see footage of a missile strike and the damage it causes without any awareness of the underlying situation.

I get discouraged that tabloids and celebrity rags have displaced news magazines in checkout lines. I get discouraged when so many Americans can quote headlines but don't seem to know any background. I get discouraged when politicians or campaign ads are able to state the most outrageous lies and actually influence thought. 

When I was a kid, my parents tuned in to Walter Cronkite every evening and subscribed to the newspaper. My father was a news junkie and read as many as five different newspapers daily. Trying to keep up with him was impossible but he was my role model for staying informed.

Today my license plate advertises BE N4MD. 

To do so, you have to work a little to locate reliable news sources. Please?