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Five Things You Notice When You Quit the News

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I grew up believing that following the news makes you a better citizen. Eight years after having quit, that idea now seems ridiculous—that consuming a particularly unimaginative information product on a daily basis somehow makes you thoughtful and informed in a way that benefits society.

But I still encounter people who balk at the possibility of a smart, engaged adult quitting the daily news.

To be clear, I’m mostly talking about following TV and internet newscasts here. This post isn’t an indictment of journalism as a whole. There’s a big difference between watching a half hour of CNN’s refugee crisis coverage (not that they cover it anymore) versus spending that time reading a 5,000-word article on the same topic.

If you quit, even for just a month or so, the news-watching habit might start to look quite ugly and unnecessary to you, not unlike how a smoker only notices how bad tobacco makes things smell once he stops lighting up.

A few things you might notice, if you take a break: 

1) You feel better

A common symptom of quitting the news is an improvement in mood. News junkies will say it’s because you’ve stuck your head in the sand.

But that assumes the news is the equivalent of having your head out in the fresh, clear air. They don’t realize that what you can glean about the world from the news isn’t even close to a representative sample of what is happening in the world.

The news isn’t interested in creating an accurate sample. They select for what’s 1) unusual, 2) awful, and 3) probably going to be popular. So the idea that you can get a meaningful sense of the “state of the world” by watching the news is absurd.

Their selections exploit our negativity bias. We’ve evolved to pay more attention to what’s scary and infuriating, but that doesn’t mean every instance of fear or anger is useful. Once you’ve quit watching, it becomes obvious that it is a primary aim of news reports—not an incidental side-effect—to agitate and dismay the viewer.

What appears on the news is not “The conscientious person’s portfolio of concerns”. What appears is whatever sells, and what sells is fear, and contempt for other groups of people.

Curate your own portfolio. You can get better information about the world from deeper sources, who took more than a half-day to put it together.

2) You were never actually accomplishing anything by watching the news

If you ask someone what they accomplish by watching the news, you’ll hear vague notions like, “It’s our civic duty to stay informed!” or “I need to know what’s going on in the world,” or “We can’t just ignore these issues,” none of which answer the question.

“Being informed” sounds like an accomplishment, but it implies that any information will do. You can become informed by reading a bus schedule.

A month after you’ve quit the news, it’s hard to name anything useful that’s been lost. It becomes clear that those years of news-watching amounted to virtually nothing in terms of improvement to your quality of life, lasting knowledge, or your ability to help others. And that’s to say nothing of the opportunity cost. Imagine if you spent that time learning a language, or reading books and essays about some of the issues they mention on the news.

You’ll find that your abstinence did not result in any worse cabinet appointments than were already being made, and that disaster relief efforts carried on without your involvement, just as they always do. As it turns out, your hobby of monitoring the “state of the world” did not actually affect the world.

We have inherited from somewhere—maybe from the era when there was only an hour of news available a day—the belief that having a superficial awareness of the day’s most popular issues is somehow helpful to those most affected by them.

3) Most current-events-related conversations are just people talking out of their asses

“Because it helps you participate in everyday conversations!” is a weak but at least meaningful answer to the “What is accomplished” question. But when you quit playing the current events game, and observe others talking about them, you might notice that almost nobody really knows what they’re talking about.

There is an extraordinary gulf between having a functional understanding of an issue, and the cursory glance you get from the news. If you ever come across a water-cooler conversation on a topic you happen to know a lot about, you see right through the emperor’s clothes. It’s kind of hilarious how willing people are to speak boldly on issues they’ve known about for all of three hours.

It feels good to make cutting remarks and take hard stands, even when we’re wrong, and the news gives us perfect fodder for that. The less you know about an issue, the easier it is to make bold proclamations about it, because at newscast-distance it still looks black and white enough that you can feel certain about what needs to happen next.

Maybe the last thing the world needs is another debate on Issue X between two people who learned about it from a newscast—at least if we’re trying to improve relationships between people from different groups.

4) There are much better ways to “be informed”

We all want to live in a well-informed society. The news does inform people, but I don’t think it informs people particularly well.

There are loads of sources of “information”. The back of your shampoo bottle contains information. Today there’s much more of it out there than we can ever absorb, so we have to choose what deserves our time. The news provides information in infinite volume but very limited depth, and it’s clearly meant to agitate us more than educate us.

Every minute spent watching news is a minute you are unavailable for learning about the world in other ways. Americans probably watch a hundred million hours of news coverage every day. That’s a lot of unread books, for one thing.

Read three books on a topic and you know more about it than 99% of the world. Watch news all day for years and you have a distant, water-cooler-level awareness of thousands of stories, at least for the few weeks each is popular.

If we only care about the breadth of information, and not the depth, there’s not much distinction between “staying informed” and staying misinformed.

5) “Being concerned” makes us feel like we’re doing something when we’re not

News is all about injustice and catastrophe, and naturally we feel uncomfortable ignoring stories in which people are being hurt. As superficial as TV newscasts can be, the issues reported in them are (usually) real. Much more real than they can ever seem through a television. People are suffering and dying, all the time, and to ignore a depiction of any of that suffering, even a cynical and manipulative depiction, makes us feel guilty.

The least we can do is not ignore it, we think. So we watch it on TV, with wet eyes and lumps in our throats. But staying at this level of “concerned” isn’t really helping anyone, except maybe to alleviate our own guilt a bit.

And I wonder if there’s a kind of “substitution effect” at work here. The sense of “at least I care” may actually prevent us from doing something concrete to help, because by watching sympathetically we don’t quite have to confront the reality that we’re doing absolutely nothing about it.

Watching disasters unfold, even while we do nothing, at least feels a little more compassionate than switching off. The truth is that the vast majority of us will provide absolutely no help to the victims of almost all of the atrocities that happen in this world, televised or not. And that’s hard to accept. But if we can at least show concern, even to ourselves, we don’t quite have accept that. We can remain uninvolved without feeling uninvolved.

This may be the biggest reason we fear turning off the news. And it might be the best reason to do it.

Have you quit the news? What did you notice?

***

Image by Mike Licht

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Arthur Guerrero December 5, 2016 at 12:17 am

This is so true, I haven’t followed the news on TV for a while now and I really haven’t missed it. It’s just Negativity and people taking out of their asses.

Same goes for sports news. I’m a huge NBA fan but Everytime I try to give a radio sports station a listen, I can’t help but notice how negative the hosts are about everything. Somehow they always know more than coaches and players. They’re always complaining too haha.

David Cain December 5, 2016 at 9:05 am

Sports is an interesting case, because it’s a completely made-up world. But there is a lot of money and emotional energy invested in it. I’m a big NFL fan but I never really want to hear anybody’s commentary on it. After all this time, nobody can predict outcomes anyway.

LeAnn December 5, 2016 at 12:24 am

This is exactly my experience. Years ago, I spent a lot of time “informing” myself…right into a big ball of stress and anxiety. Decided to start avoiding political news (as much as possible anyway) a few years ago and it did my stress levels a world of good. The sensationalism of the news media leads to a false impression of the world. There’s nothing but gloom and doom on the news channels, but look out the window and what you see rarely reflects what is portrayed on the news. We should be more concerned with our immediate surroundings and real people in our lives and should be less preoccupied with false dramas, like political theatre.

David Cain December 5, 2016 at 9:08 am

It is a kind of theatre, isn’t it. It is (usually) based on real events, but serves mostly as a kind of entertainment because we generally don’t act on what we see depicted in the news. There is a ton going on in our immediate surroundings, tons of opportunities to learn and help people.

Zoe December 5, 2016 at 2:16 am

I’ve never really followed the news. It does make me feel out-of-touch sometimes, but I usually end up hearing about any major developments anyway. I found it much more interesting and informative (and helpful) to actually go to a refugee centre and help out, rather than read about it online. I still don’t feel like I understand all of it, but I do have a better sense of the complexity of this particular issue.

David Cain December 5, 2016 at 9:10 am

That’s another point I was originally going to include: we hear about the big things anyway.

That occasional out-of-touch feeling is probably inevitable, but it’s just being out of touch with the pop culture trend of watching a show made of tiny bits of story about various issues.

Dave Hughes December 5, 2016 at 2:41 am

Your article couldn’t have come at a better time. I really need to quit the “news.” For the past year and a half I allowed myself to get sucked into the presidential campaign in the U.S., and now I can’t believe all the hours and emotional energy I wasted.

The real problem, as you stated, is that most of it isn’t even good, unbiased, well-researched and fact-checked journalism – it’s sensationalism and entertainment, and it’s very negative.

Thanks for another thought-provoking article!

David Cain December 5, 2016 at 9:11 am

Glad you’re seeing the light Dave! Give yourself the gift of a month off and see what happens.

Christy December 5, 2016 at 3:06 pm

Completely agree Dave. So much emotional energy wasted.

Christy December 5, 2016 at 5:35 pm

Mr. Hughes, did you attend Colorado College?

Max December 5, 2016 at 2:49 am

Thanks for writing. I actually entered into the opposite experiment about a year ago — one in which I actively attempted to “become informed” by reading/watching world news sources. I hadn’t paid all that much attention to such events prior to that, and diving into such an endeavor was a strange experience. Sensory overload, fear (sometimes masked but often frank) at every turn, repetition, minutiae… All delivered in rapid fashion and as you said only “newsworthy” for a couple of weeks. As if a few hours of coverage would simply fix the refugee crisis after having informed the public about its existence.
It was challenging, and I did learn a great many new facts; but they were arbitrary and near useless in the grander scheme of life. Little tidbits of superficial knowledge to insert into daily conversations and then…nothing. No follow through or profundity of discourse ensued. Because the other participants were working with the same tidbits and factoids.
I attempted again to re-enter the news stream just prior to the recent US elections and was, again, baffled and overwhelmed and utterly frustrated. More fear and ignorance masquerading as confident assertions and bold stances. And copious superfluous mindless drivel consumed ad nauseam.

Giving it up allows for engagement today, now, here. It makes space for actual actions and thought experiments and legitimate discourse and discussion. It allows for the experience of the present.

David Cain December 5, 2016 at 9:16 am

Thanks for this perspective Max. And I think being informed is a good thing, I just think the news is a crappy way to gather usable information. It makes a lot more sense to go deeper rather than broader. Read books and longer articles to get a more meaningful view of fewer topics.

Christy December 5, 2016 at 11:32 am

Could not have been expressed more succinctly. I “quit” the news nearly 23 years ago. I couldn’t take how the negativity was effecting my life. I get what I require with an occasional glimpse at news sources. Being in touch on a daily basis, leads to overload and depression, there is precious little you can do about all the bad things going on in the world. This article is incredibly well thought out and well written. Thank you.

David December 5, 2016 at 2:57 am

Great article David, and how timely it is.

I agree with “The less you know about an issue, the easier it is to make bold proclamations about it”. I feel like the more I read about an issue the less clear the truth becomes, so gathering more information doesn’t even necessarily help me.

This all reminds me of the New Yorker cartoon where the caption is simply: “My desire to be well-informed is currently at odds with my desire to stay sane”.

David Cain December 5, 2016 at 9:18 am

Every issue does seem to get greyer and more complex the more you learn about it, which should teach us something.

DiscoveredJoys December 5, 2016 at 3:07 am

I gave up watching TV or reading newspapers some time ago. I realised that most ‘news’ is now gossip wrapped up adversarial opinion and often factually incorrect or misleading. Who would voluntarily go out into the village square and seek out the village gossip and listen from first thing in the morning until late at night? Especially if you realised that the baker or butcher were paying the gossip to promote their wares?

David Cain December 5, 2016 at 9:20 am

Right… I’m reading Sapiens by Yuval Harari right now, and he says that we’ve evolved to find gossip pleasurable, because back when we lived in small bands it would be advantageous to know who is sleeping with who and who’s not speaking to who. But now that we don’t even know our neighbors, delighting in finding “dirt” on people has just become a kind of masturbation.

wrkrb December 7, 2016 at 5:02 pm

! I must read this book ! That explains so much.

Anne December 5, 2016 at 3:22 am

A timely article. Thank you. I’ve just been on a 9-day retreat during which I didn’t see or hear any news. The effect on my well-being was tremendous: I realised just how much monitoring news events through the day, even on the more reliable media, was dragging me down and increasing my anxiety. I gave up TV news some years ago: an assault on the senses, biased, trivialising and selective. Now I’m minimising the time spent reading online news. I used to read the newspaper while I had my breakfast: this morning I read your article instead! The day gets off to a much more peaceful but energising start if I read something thought-provoking and/or enjoyable or just focus on what I’m eating.

David Cain December 5, 2016 at 9:21 am

I’m glad I could be a part of your healthy start to the morning! Even my rants :)

Geri December 5, 2016 at 3:23 am

I very rarely watch the news…it might be on in the background if somebody else is watching it…I would like to be able to switch off the trending news stories on Facebook/Twitter as it catches me out from time to time….do I miss it when I don’t see it?? Absolutely not….:-)

David Cain December 5, 2016 at 9:24 am

I wish I could do that too. Twitter is especially rife with news these days, and almost none of these people will be talking about the same issues in six months.

Naomi Alexander December 5, 2016 at 4:06 am

Hi David, I get my news from Russell Brand’s Trews (True News) which has the advantage of some humour injected into even the most serious issues. Stops me from feeling so powerless and dejected about everything. Maybe you’d like it: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fDsWemk16D0&feature=youtu.be

David Cain December 5, 2016 at 9:26 am

Humor is a really good way of responding to grim stories. Humans have made good use of it as a tool for coping with and gaining perspective about violence and evil. Kurt Vonnegut’s writing is all humor on the surface, and almost all of it is about deathly serious issues.

Elisa Winter December 5, 2016 at 4:43 am

Just to share. Here’s a copy of my ‘Dear John’ letter to my beloved news source the day after the election. I miss it so much I can hardly stand it. I feel so ME when I read the Times, and yet……

“My dearest cherished NYTimes:
I am going to leave you now. I think the campaign and the result of the campaign has done me in. The Times has been just about my only source of “real” news for quite some time. I have no tv and won’t listen to NPR or local news. I get no magazines and occasionally peruse Google news. Online Times has been great for me.

And yet, something so terrible has just happened and I have to blame the Times, in part. I have to blame the media altogether. You all made this terrible thing happen in ways too numerous to list, in ways that I don’t need to tell you. You all already know what’s happened and why.

I hope the media figure out how not to create monsters anymore. But since monster creation and promotion gathers eyeballs, that will remain a hope unfulfilled. The money’s too tight to mention, right?

I really do love you to bits.”
———————
Not to mention my slash and burn of my facebook habit and all things political therein. I got caught in the trap. Now I’m out. And I’ve got 5 novels going at the same time. I’m embroidering. I am talking to people on the telephone (gasp!). I am cooking lots and lots. I figure gazillions of generations of humans lived in their little local bubbles and did just fine. I am now doing the same.

David Cain December 5, 2016 at 9:31 am

Haha… thanks for sharing that. I feel kind of bad for organizations like the Times. They do great work but they can’t avoid covering (and therefore contributing to) the overblown circus that is the US election. Still, the quality of NYT reporting is several orders of magnitude better than mainstream TV news. I do read their stuff on a regular basis but I filter by topic. But as far as personal enrichment goes it’s hard to beat novels and handiwork.

Celine December 5, 2016 at 5:20 am

I moved from France to the UK in 2001 and i immediately felt how differently the TV news are treated. In UK, the tone, the words and the pictures are a lot more dramatic and scary than in France and i started feeling stressed, as if living on the bricks of some imminent disaster. So after a few months i stopped watching and i started reading online newspapers instead, from several countries. I feel I am very well informed yet relaxed :-)

David Cain December 5, 2016 at 9:32 am

It is really interesting to see these differences. TV news in Canada is mostly vapid and awful but when I turn on the TV in an American hotel room it’s like all of that is multiplied by 10. It would probably help our perspective to see how different countries treat the same news.

Jennifer December 5, 2016 at 6:13 am

As someone has already mentioned, I much prefer to read a post such as this to the news. I have not been a consumer for well over 20 years! Growing up we didn’t have access to the tv-and once I was living on my own, I didn’t own one. We have raised three children without it. I sometimes will listen to the radio, mainly for road conditions. That’s it. I call it my microcosm, and my energy goes to local issues where I can be effective.

David Cain December 5, 2016 at 9:34 am

There’s always a lot to read! I’m honored that you find this site worthwhile.

Paul December 5, 2016 at 6:33 am

The final nail in the coffin of mainstream media for me was the growing awareness that corporate media was transforming the news into one gigantic homogenous Newspeak orgy. More and more, meaningful, independent, regional, local news sources are being farmed out to corporate and global media. Everywhere you look, it is the same watered-down news.

David Cain December 5, 2016 at 9:37 am

Right, and corporate spin is something I didn’t touch here because of length. Even highly reputed organizations are subject to this. I wonder how many Washington Post readers know it’s owned by Jeff Bezos of Amazon.

Sara December 5, 2016 at 6:55 am

My response to those who announce they’ve “quit the news” for their own peace of mind has always been to think that is a position of privilege. I don’t need to know about the protests at Standing Rock if I’m not immediately affected, right? This article is the first one that’s pulled me toward buying into the “no news” camp. I have a question, however – how do you know what issues to read books about if you don’t know what’s going on in the world? This is a serious question. If I’m going to give up the news, how do I know where to start informing myself in in-depth ways. BTW, my current news sources include NPR, the NYT, BBC for America, Russian and Chinese news for America, Democracy Now, and miscellaneous left-oriented newsletters/periodicals such as The Nation, Jim Hightower’a Lowdown, and about 5 others of similar bent. Also my Facebook feed. How do I quit the news (which in my case includes book reviews and interviews with authors, etc) and still know where to start seeking out in-depth information, which does inform my behavior and interactions?

David Cain December 5, 2016 at 9:56 am

My response to those who announce they’ve “quit the news” for their own peace of mind has always been to think that is a position of privilege. I don’t need to know about the protests at Standing Rock if I’m not immediately affected, right?

Yes, exactly, and that’s what I was trying to address in the last point of the post. Being able to decide whether to care about whatever distant issue is a privilege that we generally don’t acknowledge, and I think that’s why so many people believe following TV news is the right thing to do, given a vacuum of direct involvement with any of the issues they cover.

I have a question, however – how do you know what issues to read books about if you don’t know what’s going on in the world?

I should reiterate that this post is about quitting the habit of keeping up with the news in the form of daily newscasts. I’m certainly not suggesting that you shouldn’t care what’s happening in the world, only that “The world at 6” type newscasts are an extremely superficial source of information about the world — they are too broad and shallow, and they’re meant to appeal to our base emotions instead of our intellects. Yet we’ve been sold a cultural meme that they are the foundation of any responsible adult’s self-education about world issues.

As I said, there are a ton of sources of actionable information about world issues, both the ones that affect you personally and the ones that don’t. All I’m saying is that as popular as it is, traditional news coverage is a worse-than-useless one.

Chris December 5, 2016 at 7:23 am

Definitely a struggle. I want to know what’s going on, but I realized that I wasn’t doing anything about it. Instead, I’ve moved the news I consume towards my work – this way it’s relevant. It’s tough when I have a parent who works at a newspaper, so it’s kind of been boiled into my bones to be aware of news. Either way, I’m always better when I take a break from it, but it feels like a diet – better when you’re in it but hard to appreciate when you’re eating that delicious bowl of ice cream (although the news is a really shitty ice cream).

David Cain December 5, 2016 at 4:42 pm

Really shitty ice cream is a pretty apt comparison. Tastes good in a bad sort of way.

aletheia33 December 5, 2016 at 7:33 am

reply to Sara, 6:55 a.m.:
sara,
i resonate with your comment. i recommend the blog naked capitalism, which i check into whenever i need an update on what’s important to be aware of. i think you might like it, given your left-oriented focus–and you may already be reading it!
i agree with other commenters that local and personal engagement is so much healthier and ultimately more useful than just reading news.
at the same time, for myself, having avoided following the news for decades of my life, i now regret it to some extent as i witness the way the powers that be have learned to take advantage of the vast majority’s ignorance of what those powers are doing to them. without the work of investigative journalists, i believe the forces of greed, including the addictive craving for power, will surprisingly soon literally destroy our planet, not to mention the hope of minimal material comfort for the vast majority of its humans. it’s hard to feel that one’s own efforts can help at all on such a vast scale, but in fact they actually do.
i think the trick nowadays, when investigative journalism and any form of dissent is being actively suppressed out by the neoliberal global powers that be, if we are to have hope of surviving as a species, is to find and read reliable sources of internet journalism. and i believe the most important topical subject anyone can helpfully read 3 books about today is neoliberalism.
yes, much of what we call history and current events ultimately does add up to a lot of compulsive thinking and attachment to false assumptions, starting of course with the fact that all of reality as we generally perceive it is simply a projection of our own minds and does not actually exist.
but we are also made to care and to want to help.
and david is not recommending here that we quit doing that.
however, david, i would like to see you post of how you recommend dealing with the threats to our grandchildren’s lives posed by global neoliberalism and its relentless destruction of the well-being of the vast majority of people on the planet. do you think i’m overly concerned about that and am exaggerating the situation we are in? untold human suffering is on the horizon for our species. coping with the anxiety and sense of futility that comes iwth holding that awareness and not simply screening it out (a psychological phenomenon known as denial) is quite a tall order even for advanced spiritual teachers these days.
would you have given this same advice to readers in germany in the 1930s? or would you have urged them to pay more careful attention to the inhumanity of the genocide they were contemplating and abetting? of course, we can’t know how we would have acted, and most of us guess, i imagine, that we would probably not have risked our lives to protect hated minorities.
right now a new mccarthyism is emerging in our own country. and facebook and netflix discourage people from interacting face to face or even leaving their houses for anything but going to work, if they are lucky enough to have a job, and buying essential needs. at what point does one have a responsibility, as a citizen, to speak out–if only to one’s neighbors and friends–to try and help prevent further social breakdown?
do i really want to live in a world where the virtues of “citizenship” are no longer taught or practiced because no one considers them essential to happiness any more?
the spiritual questions relating to action in the world are very deep and hard for even the greatest spiritual teachers to articulate and answer. i hope you will not oversimplify them as you blog about them going forward. 3 books on that subject might be a good place for all of us to start.

David Cain December 5, 2016 at 4:46 pm

would you have given this same advice to readers in germany in the 1930s? or would you have urged them to pay more careful attention to the inhumanity of the genocide they were contemplating and abetting?

I guess I don’t see those as mutually exclusive options. Listening to the radio with concern yet doing nothing is probably what most people did in response to the rise of Hitler. From what you said to sara, it’s clear you understand that I’m not suggesting people stop learning about the world or the things happening in it, only that keeping up with the news in the conventional way is quite useless and we should question what we are accomplishing. But I think your advice on reading three books on neoliberalism is a good one and I’ll take you up on that.

Melanie December 5, 2016 at 7:44 am

You are absolutely right . I quit watching the news and stopped getting caught up in the drama 2 years ago. I realized it was just depressing me and I felt manipulated. Now I’m much more at peace. I see blurbs now and then that flash across my phone. It did me no good to get caught up in the chaos. I give to charities that speak to my heart and I pray for the people on this planet.

Randye Kaye December 5, 2016 at 7:49 am

Beautifully done. I recently gave up Facebook for ten days and had a similar uptick in well-being, and wrote about it on my “happier made simple” blog. My kids find it hard to understand that we used to have to wait for the morning paper or the 11:00 news to know what had happened that day, and so we spent our evenings living our lives and still contributed to the world we live in. Thanks for a needed reminder!

Henk December 5, 2016 at 7:59 am

Hi David. Thank you for this post. I quit the news (and TV as a whole) over ten years ago. I have more time, I’m more relaxed, I hear enough about current events anyway. If I get into water-cooler talk when I have not heard about some story, people are more than happy to tell me about it and I only ask questions instead of argue, which gives these conversation a different quality.
A possible problem of this is that many people switch from tv&newspaper to facebook as their main news source. So they only see the stories that fit their own world view bubble, which gives them an even more distorted image of reality, leading to a very polarised social climate (which we can observe in a lot of countries lately).
In addition, more and more “quality” news content (analysis, retrospects, deeper research, everything that is not exactly entertaining anyway) gets hidden behind paywalls, so people switch to the lower quality, free news.

wrkrb December 7, 2016 at 5:17 pm

Are there independent news sources that the people of this thread/David recommends subscription to?

Aga December 5, 2016 at 8:05 am

might i recommend future crunch? it’s sort of the antidote to all the things you say (that are 100% right) about regular news. for one thing, they cover all those “unpopular” and “insignificant” places that we might not be exposed to because… well, who cares what happens in bhutan? and for another, they cover all the good news that regular news sources fail to mention: scientific breakthroughs, encouraging stats (such as the recent article on great leaps and strides in educating the world’s children), positive instances of bipartisan efforts, etc.

http://www.futurecrunch.com.au/about/

i’m so done with regular news. staying informed about the recent american election did nothing to improve my mental health. but there is good news out there.

Angus Hervey December 9, 2016 at 1:28 am

Hey Aga, thanks for the shout out.

And love this post, nice work David.

Ryan December 5, 2016 at 9:20 am

This is so timely for me. I have been subscribed be email to the New York time morning and evening updates for a long time. For the past week or so I’ve been thinking about how it’s just becoming clutter in my inbox, one more thing to take up my time and mental energy. This article inspired me to unsubscribe, so thanks!

Katia December 5, 2016 at 9:22 am

As a former journalist, this practice used to be mandatory for me. While it kept me informed, however, it was also incredibly draining. I believe that there is a way to mindfully watch the news, but it necessitates a calm, resilient mindset, a good BS detector, discernment of which channels deliver relatively unbiased news vs. running commentary and analysis, and knowing when to turn off the tube (I recommend doing so after approximately the first 10-15 minutes of the newscast).

Diana December 5, 2016 at 9:27 am

This post comes at the most opportune moment; the U.S. election coverage caused me far more angst than one would rationally expect, even though I did my best to avoid it.
Question for those that have successfully quit; what have you used in replacement, in order to maintain awareness about what matters to you?

David Cain December 5, 2016 at 4:53 pm

Question for those that have successfully quit; what have you used in replacement, in order to maintain awareness about what matters to you?

Books and articles from good sources. Learn about a fraction of the issues but 50x the depth.

Michael Alan Gambill December 5, 2016 at 9:29 am

I couldn’t agree more. As a former teacher, I liked to remind my students that the news (particularly TV) was not a window on the world as most thought, but a microscope. There is no substitute for getting out into the real world.

David Cain December 5, 2016 at 4:55 pm

No, there isn’t, and we really discount that source of information — what’s actually happening within the bounds of our own senses! Personal relationships and things happening in our own communities are also “current events” and they are important too.

Brenda December 5, 2016 at 10:06 am

I quit watching the news over a dozen years ago. I haven’t missed it for even a second! Now if I find myself trapped into watching it (a waiting room, a friends house, etc) I have a strong urge to escape. I liken it to reality tv, which I despise. It’s true that I don’t always know about some current events when others are talking about them, but I find that they are usually topics of little consequence anyway. As for the important issues, I manage to come across them from various sources that are more meaningful and truly informative. Not watching the news has left me better informed overall I would have to say.

John S December 5, 2016 at 10:23 am

I generally agree with the thesis and conclusions here, although I haven’t gone cold turkey on news per say. In spite of past worries about being underinformed or looking at the “wrong” sources, I’ve taken comfort in minimizing my news diet. I’ve found the cottage industry of news-in-brief mailing lists helpful in keeping track of the major developments and narratives, contemporary issues to look more deeply into through essays/books, etc. I put in just a few minutes’ investment of news reading without the hot air of cable news and their ilk.

My news portfolio, for lack of a better term:
Daily Pnut – general world news

TheSkimm – general US/world news, not crazy about their “Sex and the City” writing style but I glance to see if there’s anything Daily Pnut skipped

Washington Post 5 Minute Fix – political developments in brief

Finimize – Economics presented in such a way that it’s understandable for those of us who aren’t econ/business people.

I followed Quartz Daily Brief for a while, but quit that because it was very business and finance-centric and seemed to assume the reader’s expertise about that domain.

Jen December 5, 2016 at 10:30 am

I’ve been on a low-news diet for years. I resurfaced to check on the presidential election and had a lot of anxiety as a result. I still sometimes jolt awake with fear about how things are proceeding in the US.
I just saw this video about how much fake news is out there, and it caused me to be even less interested in participating in ‘keeping informed’ https://www.facebook.com/Channel4News/videos/10154278672816939/?hc_ref=NEWSFEED .
I voted. There’s nothing further I can do, so there’s no reason to continue to give any of this my attention. The news is harmful to me.

Ante Sewerin December 5, 2016 at 10:33 am

I will not discuss your points but I do not agree on everything. One example, how are the US people get to know on whom they should vote for as the new president? As you point out, the news is valueless but where can you find any general neutral information which helps you to make you vote? I think that most of what is printed shows the writers opinion more or less, as well as your own writing on the matter of news. There might be a fox hidden behind your left ear :-)
In order to be able to take part in any demonstration och sending money for saving children in the Syrian war – you have to be informed somehow today, not waiting for any printed book on these matters. You have to see some news – trouble is having interpreted what i says. Best regards, Ante Sewerin

David Cain December 5, 2016 at 5:00 pm

As I mentioned, this post is about keeping up with what is happening in the world through daily/24-hour newscasts. There are plenty of better sources on current events — generally written journalism is deeper than TV news. It’s not as though you become shuttered in the dark as soon as you turn off CNN. I would argue that no, you don’t have to see some news. It is unthinkable to many people, but news is not a requirement to live. I don’t understand how it was at all difficult for anyone to decide who to vote for in the US election.

Ani Castillo December 5, 2016 at 10:55 am

Ooooh David, this one hits home.

I’ve been trying to quit the news but look this is my theory:

“If there are people having to take all that suffering, the least I can do is learn about it!”

My theory makes no sense whatsoever, since as you say, nothing at all is accomplished by merely learning about a situation.

I do think we need to know about things that happen, because if we don’t, then the Hitlers happen (although Trump is happening right now and we still can do anything about it… from Canada at least)

This troubles me, but reading the news lately has made me incredibly scared and anxious. And I don’t think that helps anyone really!

Anyways, thank you and I hope you’re well!

– Ani

David Cain December 5, 2016 at 5:02 pm

Hi Ani. Hitlers happen whether or not people watch the news. But as I said, if we believe we are involved just because we’re watching TV then we might be less inclined to get involved in concrete ways that actually affect the proceedings.

Matías Almeida December 5, 2016 at 10:58 am

I quit news about 9 years ago and can confirm the findings in your article. It is hard to convincente people to quit the habit. Also quit cable TV about the same time, i’ve not missed it at all!
Nice article, will translate it to spanish and pass it on to my family and Friends (i’m from Uruguay and Venezuela).
Love to read you, keep it up!

David Cain December 5, 2016 at 5:03 pm

Thanks for sharing it with people Matias.

Mark December 5, 2016 at 11:47 am

I disconinued my cable TV service about a month ago and watch no network TV or news now. I used to turn it on every morning and evening and watch news or whatever. Now I feel an urge to sit down and turn the TV on and then realize that it is not there to indulge in anymore and I move on to something else. I feel more peaceful now that my mind is no longer being filled with “what’s scary and infuriating”

David Cain December 5, 2016 at 5:07 pm

There was originally a sixth point in this article, which I cut for length, but you touched on it here. For many or most viewers, the news is a kind of indulgence. We use it a weird kind of entertainment — we want to see drama, we like to hate villains, we like to be emotionally aligned with or against certain ideas or groups of people. But that’s really controversial and would have doubled the word count of the post.

Karen J December 5, 2016 at 6:02 pm

Would love to see a post on that topic, David!

chacha1 December 5, 2016 at 2:43 pm

I quit the news long before I quit watching “live TV.” After we went to satellite TV, and even more so now that we have gone to streaming, what we watch is entirely a matter of choice. But even before, I did not see that turning on the news as soon as I got home from work had more value than winding down from my workday; and staying up till 11:30 to watch the late news had much less value than getting myself to bed at a time that permits a full night’s sleep.

It is pretty easy to adjust a Facebook feed so that “news” stories don’t appear; it is purely a function of what items and pages you “like.” Anyone who thinks of Facebook as their primary news source is someone I wouldn’t want to discuss current events with.

During my workweek, I occasionally check headlines on BBC America, CNN, San Francisco Chronicle, and the local papers of the county where we are buying property. This tells me as much as I need to know about all the things in the world that do not directly affect me and which I cannot directly affect, i.e. “what’s happening.” It also tells me as much as I need to know about local concerns with which I may choose to become involved in a meaningful fashion.

Hamlet December 5, 2016 at 3:02 pm

At the risk of derailing this thread (because it refers to the recent U.S. presidential election), I quote Dilbert cartoonist Scott Adams:

“. . . the stories most likely to make headlines are THE ONES LEAST LIKELY TO BE TRUE. There is a common-sense reason that will make you laugh when you hear it. Here it is.

TRUE STUFF ISN’T INTERESTING BECAUSE IT ALL MAKES SENSE.

In order for a headline to be ‘news’ (unless violence is involved) there has to be a head-scratching element to it. You have to wonder how-the-hell someone could act so inappropriately, sexist, racist, whatever. So when you see “news” about a person’s outrageous behavior revealing their terrible inner soul, the facts upon which it is based are unlikely to be true. News isn’t news until it doesn’t make sense. . . .

That’s what makes a story. You have to simultaneously doubt it happened while believing it happened. When people do predictable things, in character, it is not news. That’s why the news is often fake. Real stuff isn’t interesting.”

David Cain December 5, 2016 at 5:10 pm

This idea is interesting but I’m a little confused by it. He’s saying that everything unusual enough to be “news” must be untrue?

Hamlet December 6, 2016 at 3:36 pm

It does come across a bit confusing if taken literally. I guess one has to take it as “truthful hyperbole,” as Trump himself put it in his book The Art of the Deal. It’s part of the persuasion game that master communicators engage in in order to hammer home a valid point.

Christy December 5, 2016 at 3:13 pm

You have hit more than one nail on the head with this article, makes me feel not so alone in not wanting to be any part of the news environment; it just leads to bad feelings, mind fog, and depression. The world did without news and each lived well in their own environment until fairly recently, I think it is the way we were “built” to be. I live in 3 different countries each year, I see little difference in the news in any of them, all seem to follow the same dismal pattern, although sometimes my husband finds little threads of light in English broadcasts, and online we are finding places where we can read about good things going on, one being “BBC Future”. Thanks for this really thoughtful piece of writing.

Ingrid December 5, 2016 at 3:37 pm

“Thank you , thank you” for sharing this. I always tell my son it’s just bad news anyway, but your article gave me a much better overview of “why” this is the case. It’s also the FOMO (fear of missing out) that is the thing, but you know, we find out pretty quickly through word of mouth if it is significant. I had been riveted to the US elections, but would good did that do me ? Nothing ! Cheers, Ingrid, NZ

Ingrid December 5, 2016 at 3:41 pm

Oh the other thing I was reading the other day was that the world has become too complex for people to process. I would have to agree with that, and watching the news can just make us feel completely powerless as if wars, earthquakes, train crashes killing 20 people and disasters are happening all around us. It’s too much to process. There is only so much suffering we can witness.

David Cain December 5, 2016 at 5:13 pm

Oh the other thing I was reading the other day was that the world has become too complex for people to process.

Are you reading Sapiens by Yuval Harari? Because I am, and that’s exactly what he’s talking about. Our brains are geared for keeping track of about a hundred people and their relationships, yet technology has made it possible to learn bits about far off lands and millions of different lives. Would pre-electricity people really have been better off if they could know what horrible things are happening across the ocean? It’s hard to believe they were missing out on something.

Karen J December 5, 2016 at 6:01 pm

Yeah – NO!
And we aren’t any better off, either!
DeepBreath! Bright Blessings!

Peter Howells December 5, 2016 at 5:04 pm

Great article.
I gave up the news a couple of years ago.
I no longer watch Newsnight on BBC1 or listen to Radio 4 in the morning.
I feel much better for it.
I stay in touch with things by reading longer articles in the London Review of Books, and also Private Eye, both of which are excellent publications.
If you can’t give up completely then at least give up reading toxic racist lying dross like The Daily Mail and The Daily Express.

Gerry December 6, 2016 at 2:41 am

Very true Peter. Those papers are pure poison. I thought it impossible to stop Radio 4 in the morning but just listening to music feels so much better. I will give the London Review of Books a go.
Thanks

Karen J December 5, 2016 at 5:58 pm

I quit the news almost 7 years ago (I still listen to genuinely informative programs, on public radio, on occasion) and I almost immediately felt lighter and more at ease!
Since the American Election, I’ve consciously remembered every day, that “The Higher Power’s Got This”, and no amount of me fretting is going to make a damm bit of difference, so I don’t subject myself to fret-inducing BS.
Thanks for the confirmation and the encouragement, David!

Eric S December 5, 2016 at 7:13 pm

Great article. I’ve long prided myself on being a well-informed citizen, reading news from multiple domestic and foreign sources.

In the wake of the recent US election, I quickly realized that I could not be so well-informed and also sustain my mental health. And – realistically – there is little useful action that I can do day-to-day to “fix” the situation from my perspective.

So I quit reading news, quit Facebook, and very consciously put my head in the sand. I still get some news from some sources, but it’s far less than I used to and it serves me surprisingly well.

One big benefit: I get to sleep FAR faster than I used to. I am loving this!

Eric S December 6, 2016 at 9:15 am

Related: I’ve long described news and political organizations collectively as the “outrage industry” – i.e. those who benefit from keeping us angry and afraid. A friend pointed out to me that by reposting news stories on Facebook that I was becoming part of that cycle. That observation has a lot to do with why I bowed out.

Let’s suck the oxygen out of the room.

David Cain December 7, 2016 at 10:29 am

I think that’s a fair way of describing much of it. Once you step away it becomes so clear that it’s mean to hook us emotionally rather than intellectually.

Blake December 5, 2016 at 9:15 pm

Makes me think of “There is a war going on for your mind”.

If more people could cut out the landslide of misinformation, lies, and general manipulation of the media they would cease to be soldiers of the media. Reality is what the majority rules it to be in many cases and even those of us conscious of the insidious nature of news media fail to keep up the marathon of sourcing and fact checking necessary to safely repeat something or use it to form a firm opinion. Combing the news for information of practical use just directly exposes you to the full force of the collective “Ministry of Truth”‘s brainwashing and wastes valuable time that could be used for the personal growth or investigation necessary to actually form actionable opinions.

It’s an excellent point that there’s something wonderfully cathartic about convincing yourself that gathering information holds intrinsic value, and also seems to excuse a sort of “balancing act” that justifies the consumption of mind-numbing junk media because you’ve has done your part in fighting the good fight against… whatever it is people convince themselves they’re accomplishing by dredging the shallows of mainstream news.

Books definitely need to be balanced out with a fair amount of research – it’s far too easy to get published and it’s ridiculous the amount of credibility that comes from being written. We tell our grandparents they can’t believe everything they get forwarded to their email and then we read one book on a subject and suddenly we’re experts because they wouldn’t be allowed to print it if it weren’t true… right?

David Cain December 7, 2016 at 10:34 am

There’s no reason to believe everything you read in a book. That’s why we should read lots of them. But it is just a deeper medium than news to begin with. The consumers and producers are both bringing much more effort and thought to the transaction.

Gerry December 6, 2016 at 2:35 am

Hi David,
Such a brilliant post with all points covered. I have realised that the news over recent years and particularly this year (with Brexit here in the UK and Trump here in the world) has led to an internal meltdown for what I can process. Today was the first day I turned off. I was in the last camp calm and have been reusing the Seinfeldian Tracking which is brilliant to keep on sitting.
So now I will have 2 crosses per day in red!
On a side note I would be interested to know if you track multiple things in this way?
Thanks Again for this great post.

David Cain December 7, 2016 at 10:36 am

In the past I have had trouble trying to track more than one thing at a time with the seinfeldian method, because it loses the definiteness that makes it so useful. If you get one crossed off but not the other, is that a good day? If you miss one it seems like permission to miss the other. But that might just be my own bad attitude :)

Mel December 6, 2016 at 3:29 am

I love articles about quitting the news. :-)

Even though our teachers at school over the years repeatedly told us how essential it is to read the newspaper and watch the evening news (German Tagesschau was supposed to be very conservative and objective in the ’90), I always found it too boring to get into the habit.

20 years later in Germany I actually feel haunted by the news. On the way to work there are news screens at every metro station, at work the colleagues discuss “their” opinions about the latest scandals, the phone of a friend bings and he announces the newest news and worst is the gym: During my 30min on the crosstrainer I cannot avoid staring at a TV screen and after 30min reading the red banner with the breaking news I am usually really angry because news agencies try to make everything seem so dramatic and I feel manipulated.

However now I am finishing a three month stay in India (main purpose: relaxing at my Dad’s place) and the biggest source of joy and entertainment for me here was the daily newspaper. When it wasn’t delivered for a few days during festivals I was really sad. ;-)
I think the main reason why I liked it so much was that I couldn’t relate to most of the scandals, so no emotions were triggered, but I learnt an awful lot about the country through this newspaper. Also the comic and crosswords page was cool. ;-) And I always finished my reading with a daily article about peace, meditation or spirituality which let me start my day with a positive attitude.

Back in Europe however I will try again to avoid as much news as possible… Nothing to learn from the news there…

David Cain December 7, 2016 at 10:37 am

I think the main reason why I liked it so much was that I couldn’t relate to most of the scandals, so no emotions were triggered, but I learnt an awful lot about the country through this newspaper.

That is really interesting, the way it separated the delivery of information from the emotional attachments. Thanks for posting this comment.

Desidério Murcho December 6, 2016 at 5:47 am

I stopped following news about my own profession (I am a university professor) because they were making me hate the profession. For some reason, reporting news brings out the worse about almost anything. Perhaps because it is always one-sided and superficial; perhaps because it tends to overplay the worse bickering between people. I do not know. But to me at least is depressing. And unhelpful.

General news reporting is of course much worse.

Ellie December 6, 2016 at 4:40 pm

Great thing about skipping the news is, you can always catch up on it later. Even much later — and through the lens of hindsight. Skip the news for the first fifty years and then catch up. Just the important stuff will remain. No “U.S. Invades Grenada!” No reason to spend any time on that. You could probably knock it all out in an afternoon. Then on to the next fifty.

David Cain December 7, 2016 at 10:41 am

Good point. There’s a great youtube channel that does this, called Retro Report. They reexamine news stories from past decades that were huge at the time, and very often the original story was completely wrong, overblown or more complex than it was portrayed.

https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCBh_GM0xQZQRKSU0ZiVbqdg

TimE December 7, 2016 at 1:13 am

Much of the so-called news is just begging to be deconstructed. Once we look past the driving forces that manipulate the minds of the masses, it is obvious to see their means of control. Unaware, we are simply pawns in their world. There is a way. (Take the red pill [https://noagendaplayer.com/listen/736])

In the morning.

Eric December 7, 2016 at 5:45 am

Great post – all my life I have been a news junkie.
After the recent election, I stopped cold turkey and am better for it.
In retrospect, it was really a way to escape the now.
Your observations are spot on, thanks for capturing a feeling I have had for a long time.
I take great solace in seeing others recognize the same
Keep up the posts !

Kate December 7, 2016 at 12:57 pm

I quit watching or reading the news regularly over 6 years ago. I can attest to your findings that it didn’t change how much I knew, in fact, I learned more in those years about the world in general. I now use a quick email from TheSkimm daily to keep up with everyday conversations, but beyond that I avoid it as much as possible. I’m happier for it and not any less informed.

Chris December 7, 2016 at 3:30 pm

I quit watching TV during the OJ Simpson trial in the 90s. Too many “breaking news” interruptions about what the prosecuting attorney was wearing and various other trivial nonsense. I switched over to reading monthly magazines, listening to NPR and, later, a few trusted websites. All tend to focus on the bigger picture and less on the daily noise. I feel I’m better informed than many.

However, when I did watch TV, I noticed the same overriding negativity you mentioned. During my travels I noticed that news programs in every city followed the same formula (I some various arrangements of the following order):

1. Cover all the bad things that happened in your City
2. Cover all the bad things that happened in your State
3. Cover all the bad things that happened in the Country
4. Cover all the bad things that happened in the World.
5. Sports
6a. What the weather was like today (already lived it, don’t need it explained).
6b. What the weather will be like tonight (might be of some utility, but I’ll be sleeping)
6c. What the weather will be like tomorrow (finally something I can use).
7. Business news/stocks
8. Some random “feel good” story about injured/lost animals getting love or the generous act of some individual (portrayed as something so rare it merits special mention; in spite of the fact that if you carefully observed your day you would notice these acts [big and small] happening all around you).

Herbert December 8, 2016 at 10:49 am

It´s been one year since I quit watching TV News, deleted facebook, deleted all news apps in my phone. I agreed with every word you said up there.

Angus Hervey December 9, 2016 at 1:31 am

I love this article, it’s so true. Despite the brilliance of so much journalism, the media’s excessive focus on the negative has created a story about our world that distorts reality, divides us and limits our ability to respond effectively to the challenges we face.

That’s why I spent the last year compiling stories about how the world is actually becoming a better place. I did that because I think there’s an urgent need, and opportunity, for a better story about ourselves, our planet, and what’s possible.

Here’s a list of 99 Reasons Why 2016 Was Good Year.

https://medium.com/@angushervey/99-reasons-why-2016-has-been-a-great-year-for-humanity-8420debc2823#.nf3z7nlec

Economic and political progress, renewable energy, the decline of war and violence, animal recoveries, some wonderful conservation successes, more sustainability, more generosity, and amazing strides forward for global health.

COD December 11, 2016 at 9:46 pm

I needed that article. Thanks.

David Robertson December 9, 2016 at 12:49 pm

Probably one of the best articles written on this I have ever read (confirmation bias I suppose). Apropos for the media times we live in.

Kamil Devonish December 9, 2016 at 1:00 pm

Couldn’t agree more. The commodification of news is now complete what with the major outlets getting Trump all but elected for the sake of revenue. It’s not a glimpse at the world anymore, its just pornography. It’s just the spectacle of current events. And like porn, it encourages people to be satisfied watching something that is meant to be experienced directly and first-hand ie our world.

Alex December 10, 2016 at 12:26 pm

Very interesting article – and a timely one too. I’m getting sick of the daily news and am planning on cutting down on what I read and watch.

Do you have any sources you recommend for more in-depth journalism?

Karin December 12, 2016 at 12:43 am

I haven’t watched TV news for almost 20 years (unless visiting someone) and without boasting, I think I am very well informed about what is going on in the world.
I read widely – books, opinion pieces, blogs, and yes, news websites. I strongly recommend The Guardian https://www.theguardian.com/world as well as the BBC. Some US ones are Huffington Post, The Atlantic and New Yorker

VisitorX December 12, 2016 at 9:57 am

He asked for more in-depth journalism not for in-depth Propaganda.

Anon December 13, 2016 at 2:56 am

Totally unhelpful and you just look like an arse. Confirmation of point 3.

j84ustin December 13, 2016 at 8:16 am

Anon: Where’s the lie?

Colin December 12, 2016 at 6:28 am

I second the recommendation of The Atlantic (or Harper’s http://harpers.org/), and would also add a couple: the London Review of Books http://www.lrb.co.uk/ contains deeply researched articles related to current events in each issue, alongside its more literary-focused items; and Longreads https://longreads.com/ has a good email newsletter you can subscribe to, providing a curated selection of longform articles from various sources.

Ben December 13, 2016 at 9:29 am

The Economist and the Wall Street Journal are pretty unbiased sources of quality journalism. The Economist, in particular.

Source: http://www.businessinsider.com/here-are-the-most-and-least-trusted-news-outlets-in-america-2014-10

Larry Sanderson December 14, 2016 at 7:54 am

The Wall Street Journal is owned by Rupert Murdoch, who also owns Fox News. If you think that’s unbiased, you live in a very alternate reality.

indianbadger December 14, 2016 at 10:08 am

The News part of WSJ is actually pretty unbiased (of course, it is biased towards business!) stuff. The opinion-editorial pages are garbage, as you suggest.

adam December 11, 2016 at 1:50 pm

Thank you for this. I’ve been trying to tell family members this for a long time. People who used to read a lot of self help/education books and worked on becoming better people changed to “being informed” every night with useless information. I’ll be sharing this one.

David Cain December 11, 2016 at 4:19 pm

Thanks for sharing it Adam. Once you step outside the news market it seems crazy how committed people are to this idea that news is a moral requirement for a respectable adult.

Joe December 11, 2016 at 10:53 pm

Unfortunately reading self-help books is almost like watching news, feeling less guilty about wasting your time. People hardly need more than one or two and frankly, the majority of self-help books is just a money-milking cows for their authors.

Greg December 11, 2016 at 2:04 pm

I guess we should all just ignore the state of the world because it has nothing to offer us. Same for our country— who cares what problems our fellow citizens are undergoing so long as they’re not affecting us personally, right? It’s not like you can get involved and impact any meaningful change. Why bother calling your state representative or joining a boycott? It’s not going to do anything. Just let the politicians we elect and the big businesses we support handle all the pressing matters of our time, because they always have the best interests of the common person in mind. And so what about that emergency food or product recall? It probably doesn’t impact me. I’m going to go ahead and light this giant trash heap on fire, because so far as I can tell the environment is doing a-ok in my neck of the woods. Some violent offenders escaped from prison nearby and are on the loose? A child was recently abducted in my town and police have released the make and model of the car that was used? There’s a deadly storm about to strike? Pfft. Sorry, I don’t check the news. Ignoring reality is just easier sometimes. Some even say it’s bliss.

Angela December 11, 2016 at 2:35 pm

It seems you missed the point on this one Greg. For things that immediately impact you like the weather or an amber alert or recalls, the news stations can be useful because they will play this information. You can find this information on the internet too. The author is not saying all news watching is pointless and bad. He is saying that watching the news just so you feel like your an informed, smart citizen and anyone who doesn’t is uninformed is highly untrue. I read way more than I watch news because typically someone who has taken the time to write a book on say the environment or politics or social issues, has actually taken time to think meaningfully about it and is way more informative than a news piece written up that day. You are not ignoring reality just because you don’t bombard yourself with negativity 24/7. I know people are being shot in the streets, I don’t need to watch every video or see every photo to be conscious and aware of this fact. Plus, watching the news doesn’t automatically mean you’re going to get involved anyway. I am much more informed on the state of the world by reading books by people who are experiencing it, have lived through it, and have researched it rather than news reporters driven by ratings and sensationalism.

David Cain December 11, 2016 at 4:12 pm

Ignoring the news is not equivalent to ignoring reality, and the fact that you and many other people see them as the same thing is exactly the point. Did you even read the article?

Primal Prosperity December 13, 2016 at 9:22 am

Greg, Do you think that everyone in the world can, or wants to own a TV to “watch” the news. There are plenty of resources to get news. A simple radio where you can listen to NPR will also get you any weather emergency updates you need.

Md. Lutfar Rahman December 11, 2016 at 2:15 pm

I have quite watching news from last 3 years. I feel great now. If anytime for any reason I watch any news on any serious topic (mostly negative), I feel my tension is growing. I start to feel hopeless. So, I am happy as unconcern. Moreover I used that time on my career. That time has really paid me back.

I know this article is true (I am the proof).

Shobhit December 11, 2016 at 2:57 pm

My biggest concern for quitting news is about my investment decisions. How would you guys would know stock investments, general state of economy without following news?

May be this should go with investing in SIP on index funds :)

David Cain December 11, 2016 at 4:15 pm

I don’t understand… you can just look up the value of your investments, you don’t need to get that from the news. As for “general state of the economy”, read long-form articles on it. Surely there are better sources of information on making investment decisions than the news.

Mike December 12, 2016 at 2:26 am

This one is tricky, as I prefer to stay away from the news in this aspect as well, but a lot of markets are about at-scale reactions to simple (and frivolous, fear-mongering, you get the idea) things that news provides.

Overall, I tend to think like a lot of other generally good financial advice: you’re playing the long game, which the news is NOT.

Jon December 12, 2016 at 12:59 pm

A big part of investment is psychology: what do other investors feel about a particular investment. That is heavily influenced by the news. So to be a good investor, you need to watch the mass-market news, or at least enough of it to get an idea of what investors’ input is.

John December 11, 2016 at 5:56 pm

Though it has a provocative headline, this commentary seems frivolous.
People shouldn’t freakin’ “quit the news.”
People should quit the crappy “news” outlets. CNN and *most* daily television news is shit. (That opinion isn’t based on political lean; FOX “News” is far worse.)
CNN just isn’t anything close to journalism anymore, if it ever was.
So, quit CNN. Quit FOX. Quit MSNBC.
Staying informed requires some effort. And the crappy outlets are the easiest. And cheapest. They’re like junk, fast food.
So, seek out legitimate journalism. From a variety of sources.
Our country will be better off with a more-informed populace. Not less.

In summary, if the author went through this story and replaced “the news” with CNN, I think there would be a legitimate point. But the generalization here of the news is flawed.
Furthermore, that generalization is irresponsible. Lumping all of “the news” together and suggesting that it be avoided further weakens the entire institution of the press. And, as Pulitzer once said, “Our Republic and its press will rise or fall together.”

Trevor Price December 12, 2016 at 4:34 pm

How about “quit TV news”?

Trevor Price December 12, 2016 at 4:39 pm

Great thoughts, David. Have you read Neil Postman’s _Amusing Ourselves to Death?_ He covers this topic pretty well, demonstrating that TV’s primary strength is entertainment, and thus most any broadcast on the medium will tend to cater towards entertaining viewers.

Other forms of media have their own strengths and weaknesses, e.g. informing, provoking, uniting…

David Cain December 13, 2016 at 4:01 pm

I agree we should seek out quality information, and I do. I am interested in what happens in this world. But the criticisms I made here still stand. Why do we consider it a moral imperative to follow the “newsworthy” events happening in the world when we generally don’t do anything about them? Why is it better to keep abreast of 50 issues superficially instead of one to a meaningful depth of knowledge?

Joe December 11, 2016 at 5:59 pm

I quit the news over 15 years ago, and it was the, literally, the best decision of my life. I realized that news is mostly someone coming into your home and telling you something awful, frequently wrong, sensational, biased, fear mongering, or, for local news in particular, stupid.

Now, when the news is on the radio, or I’m at someone else’s house and the TV news is on, I realize just how demeaning it is to me and the subjects they cover. And I can’t even stand to listen to it. So I don’t.

psatgm December 11, 2016 at 6:05 pm

As someone who went from reading the Boston Globe every day, watching the local news, and catching HNN for 30 minutes a few times a day (back when they were still a news network) to a complete stop years ago, I find people look at me funny when I tell them I stopped watching the news after they bring up some current story or bit of trivia they saw recently.
When they ask my reason I tell them it’s too depressing!

Xah Lee December 11, 2016 at 9:48 pm

gloating here. Haven’t watched TV since 2000. Don’t own a TV since 2000.

Anil December 11, 2016 at 9:51 pm

Great thought, saving time (thousands of hours) and focusing only on meaningful information.

Adam December 11, 2016 at 10:04 pm

Reminds me of all the articles I read on how fear increases consumerism and how the media plays a role in that. Get off the mainstream feartising media and feel a whole lot better. Doesn’t mean you wont research and inform yourself about whats going on, but its likely to mean you wont have someones agenda forced down your throat.

samer December 11, 2016 at 10:59 pm

It is the choice of your sources for watching the news, yes, it is tricky .

alien cockroach December 11, 2016 at 11:12 pm

Quitting news made me a better listener at the water cooler conversations. It is my new source now.

Ben Dover December 12, 2016 at 12:35 am

I quit watching the news a long time ago because of all the reasons this article states. And also the stuff you should be informed of is kept from you.

Lennaert December 12, 2016 at 12:55 am

When I moved to another country, I automatically stopped watching the news. I couldn’t understand it anyway because of the language barrier. I’ve never felt so clean in my head as now.

Payal December 12, 2016 at 1:39 am

I completely second this point 5) “Being concerned” makes us feel like we’re doing something when we’re not

Mike December 12, 2016 at 2:23 am

I agree with everything espoused here and actively discuss these points with other people who try to guilt-trip me into consuming more news, regardless of source. The negativity bias and sampling bias (among others) are particularly bothersome for me, particularly in the aftermath of this election in the USA (and it doesn’t matter which “side” I’m on: it’s pretty evident). Also, point #5 is particularly well-taken. Thank you for this.

A question I’ve been juggling regarding this, however: how does this scale? Should it? When I discuss these points with others on my own choice to not do it, it’s pretty clear that they really won’t ever change their mind on this, hence the guilt-tripping you mention. Perhaps these news systems fall into the same “hook” model with variable rewards that social media and other products provide: we don’t know what we’ll receive, so it invokes FOMO in a way.

I’d like to think any and all of us could realize this and switch off, but I suppose there is this social aspect to it as well, to discuss (some of) these items even though most of us have no idea what we’re on about. In my case, the disappearing plane in the Indian Ocean was one that I recall missing during my “no news” diet for a period of time and watching people speculate and argue was at best, amusing and at worst, atrocious. Part of me was happy to not have to sling the b.s. around, but on the other hand, it was still isolating. I’d like to believe I’m in pretty “informed” social circles (beyond just “information” that news provides to my colleagues/friends), but the junk seems to win out a lot.

David Cain December 13, 2016 at 3:37 pm

I think the FOMO aspect is a big reason people are averse to quitting. But as you know there is hardly any sense of missing out once you ditch it. And the big stories get to you anyway, for whatever it’s worth.

Erling Storvik December 12, 2016 at 2:31 am

I agree about the negativity issue, but keep in mind that a “common ground” – as we normally get from watching the news, also contributes to a common perception of reality. Many people need that shared piece of reality to keep somewhat safe and in control. If you don’t need it, it should be fine to quit, but try to spend some of your time to dig into what’s is really going on around the planet – the good and the bad.

honkytonkwillie December 12, 2016 at 3:15 am

This topic is discussed frequently on the No Agenda podcast, by John C. Dvorak and Adam C. Curry.

They watch the news (so you don’t have to!) and each week they de-construct the biggest stories from around the world, revealing the truths behind – and the motivations for – the news that’s given to consumers.

Ken Kong December 12, 2016 at 5:19 am

I like the premise of this article. The media (the vast majority of the media) is a cesspool of misinformation and manipulation. On the balance, I found more misinformation than information. For example,

WMD. That circus was obviously false. A faked dossier? The media didn’t want to know the truth, or, all the wrong questions were asked until it was too late.

Feminism. If there’s a group committed to hate, this is it. The media drives their prejudice aggressively without question. Domestic Violence is something only men do (supposedly), 80% of suicides are male (never mentioned), over 75% of homeless are male (either lied about as supposedly even across genders or never discussed), incarceration is over 90% male (often reported as men deserve it and women don’t). I could go on and this crap is never challenged! Check your national stats register to confirm these figures. Alternatively, set a filter in Google for 1 Jan 2015 to 31 Dec 2015 and search on text or images to confirm what is being said (eg. Domestic violence reporting ignores male victims in every media outlet I could find).

Manipulation and personal attacks. Prior to the election in the US, I was trying to compare policies of the 2 leading candidates. All I could see was personal attacks on Trump’s hairstyle and orange skin. Anyone that supported Trump was an idiot and poor white trash. One commentator even said that 98 of the top 100 media outlets were anti-Trump and that wasn’t enough to sway the readers. Whether you like the man or not, the media didn’t want to discuss his policies other than his crazy wall idea.

Now, we’re not talking some media outlets, we’re talking the overwhelming majority of them, across the western world. I can accept bad news. I can accept news of natural disasters. What I can’t abide by are liars, manipulators and sexist assh}%*s. I don’t want to be told what to think. I am tired of the aggressive gender bullying that loathes the white male. I’m tired of blatant lies. By dumping the media and scanning sections of the Internet and a few very select media outlets, you get some idea of what’s going on without most of the brainwashing.

I gave up on mainstream media a year ago. I haven’t looked back. I often have people tell me I’m insightful so my personal media boycott does not seem to have harmed me. It simply lowered my frustration levels and helped me see more clearly as I wasn’t being indoctrinated with garbage. I still seek out what I’m interested in. However, I scrutinise my media outlets very carefully.

In case you’re wondering, Al Jazeera is one of the better outlets. However, I take some reporting from Al Jazeera with a grain of salt. YMMV.

Kashif December 12, 2016 at 5:23 am

Some people won’t watch TV or read newspapers but then they take their “news” from social media which is as bad as the MSM.

Steve December 12, 2016 at 5:37 am

I think your are right to an extend, but it heavily depends on what kind of news you watch. If you only watch the rolling news channels for example, then yes, you are spot on.

However, there are some news programmes that take a more thoughtful ad analytical approach. At least, that is the case in the UK. Perhaps what you are really complaining about, is the state of news in the United States?

I think the issue is the way most the “mainstream” news is presented, not that following news is inherently bad.

William Mize December 12, 2016 at 5:52 am

Rolf Dobelli’s white paper “Avoid News” goes into this particular issue in GREAT detail. It’s a mandatory read these days, I believe.

a December 12, 2016 at 6:16 am

what is Aleppo?

Miro December 12, 2016 at 6:27 am

Hi! Good stuff, I agree with everything after 2 years of not watching TV.
I would like to add something to the argument.
It’s not only the news on TV. It’s the “news” websites also with their clickbaits. And facebook viral posts… And youtube… And Netflix…

We desperately need to go on an “Information diet”.
As the saying goes: “Garbage in, garbage out”

Be mindful about the information that you are exposed to, and try to filter the input. The news are just a part of it.

Nadeem, LitVillage.com December 12, 2016 at 7:03 am

Very well said. One of the most refreshing pieces I’ve read in a long time.

As the others have said, the mainstream news is just sensationalist chewing gum for the masses. It’s aim is to shock and keep you hooked, not to give you a rounded insight into what’s happening in the world.

You are much better spending your time reading something worthwhile and genuinely though-provoking such as the Economist or London Review of Books ( http://www.lrob.co.uk ).

Maggie December 12, 2016 at 7:21 am

HAVE YOU ALL LOST YOUR MINDS.

Every single person who thinks “shutting off that awful news that makes me so uncomfortable” is playing right into the hands of people who prefer an ignorant, easily manipulated citizenry. Yes, the news is ugly, yes is can make one feel sad and hopeless. But it is your CIVIC DUTY TO BE INFORMED ABOUT THE WORLD AND YOUR PLACE IN IT.

Yes, that can be hard – but suck it up, buttercup, and do your duty.

David Cain December 13, 2016 at 3:41 pm

Did you read the article? Quitting the news is only quitting a particular kind of information product. Why not learn about five or six issues to a meaningful level of depth by reading books, rather than keep superficial tabs on a hundred issues, understanding none of them and then forgetting them in three weeks anyway?

Rob December 12, 2016 at 9:50 am

Great piece as the many who actually read it have already said.

We got rid of the tv when our kids were born. Too much toxicity comes screaming through the screen from the mainstream news. Would you turn your kid over to a raving, screaming nut job just because he/she works for a network news organization? When I want that kind of stuff in my life I can turn on sports talk radio or listen to death metal!

There are better ways to stay informed. Like reading this site ;)

David Cain December 13, 2016 at 3:55 pm

Thanks Rob. Regardless of the usefulness/quality of the information, it certainly is corrosive to the mood and that does have a real effect on our lives.

Kris December 12, 2016 at 10:35 am

For some reason the email list signup will not accept an @riseup.net email address. This is a well-known non-profit email server with a long history of helping grassroots causes. Can you modify your email list signup so that it will accept riseup.net? Thank you.

gron3g December 12, 2016 at 12:34 pm

You might as well substitute the word “television” for news. Quitting tv and getting those hrs back every day is life-changing…

Lyn Chamberlain December 12, 2016 at 12:46 pm

I choose where to read or listen or watch the news.
I read articles that interest me – I still use the BBC website for news but have grown very alarmed at the lowest common denominator approach. Sensationalism, fear factor, some items are not well researched in terms of balance or sometimes fact, therefore the picture is distorted to make it news worthy, Who decides what topics make the lengthy headlines and what news is not deemed worthy, of time of inclusion.
I still like Radio 4 news, but I do not regularly watch listen or read.
My withdrawal from mainstream has happened over the last 4 years, but I am very interested in world and home news, but being interested in the state of UK politics, I feel the BBC is biased towards those in power, after all they hold the purse strings.

Chris December 12, 2016 at 2:46 pm

To all the commenters responding here to gloat about how uninformed they’ve become since they quit “the news”, you should be ashamed of your ignorance not proud. And to the author, you stopped making sense the instant you conflated CNN/FOX/MSNBC with “the news”. American TV network news is not “the news”, its junk news.

“The news” includes courageous news reporters reporting on assignment from various dangerous locations around the world and shining light on injustices, some of which have been committed in our (your) name. “The news” includes courageous investigative reporters, risking life and career in the pursuit of truth. By all means, stop watching American junk news. But you betray your poor critical thinking and general ignorance when you make it clear that junk news is the only news you know.

David Cain December 13, 2016 at 3:53 pm

I think you are getting bogged down in varying definitions of the word “news”. The points are clear, namely that having a superficial awareness of dozens of issues that you’re doing nothing about is not particularly helpful, but everyone treats it like an important moral obligation for a responsible adult. Journalism is important and there are journalists doing wonderful things. The deeper the information they can give us, the more useful it is. We all have to choose what information is worth our time.

dkilmer December 12, 2016 at 6:54 pm

I’ve noticed some additional things:

1. I find myself thinking in a more general, “philosophical”, historical way. The sense is one of having a wider perspective rather than more distance.
2. I find myself thinking a lot more about things that are happening more directly around me — as if one sort of information had been crowding out the other.
3. I’ve gotten way, way more done on projects that I care about (mainly fiction and programming). Some of these projects could be more useful to the world than whatever would come out of reading the news.
4. The “takes” that I was reading – even ones by really smart writers – seem really myopic to me now. It’s as if political opinion writers are also people who get most of their information from the same news sources I’m reading. They have no special access to things.
5. Like the cigarette thing: all of the hot takes and news items of the moment now feel like really loud background noise that I didn’t notice was there at all until it turned off. There is a sense of quiet and directedness to my thoughts that is allowing me to think better about what matters and what doesn’t.

I think the most important point you make is that people can get a mistaken sense of causality. I’ve heard so many people say, “This is why we need to fight. This is why you need to stay engaged.” What set of actions does fighting entail? What does “engagement” mean in terms of causing the things that I want to happen to happen?

I don’t have a civic duty to read the news. I have a civic duty to be a good citizen. I’m starting to think I’ll be a better citizen without the news.

David Cain December 13, 2016 at 3:50 pm

These are all great points, thank you. Particularly the second one — I think we have really lost touch with the nuances of our sensory experience, as we’ve become more and more preoccupied with some abstract mental map of “the state of things”. Real-time sense information is the most vital information we have, and shutting out the circus makes it come alive again.

Sam December 12, 2016 at 11:35 pm

I totally disagree with almost everything you said here. I have been a news junkie since the eighties, then got into it, in news gathering and covering events. I have learned many things that prove you wrong, worked with CNN , Al Jazeerah and many others. I am better informed on many issues, such as health matters, politics and many other things.
If you are unable to sort out the propaganda and PR fodder by now then it means you have been watching the wrong channel way too long.
Many news outlets, as you mentioned, have their own agenda and priorities when selecting your “meal” of news. It is your job to select an alternative to get you the best sources and evaluate them. In the age of the internets there are many alternative sources that I really on to see what the mainstream media is avoiding/missing. If you feel helpless about what is happening then it is mission accomplished for Holywood/fox/cnn. That is what the way they want you to be. Since the anti Vietnam war demonstrations in the sixties, the US establishment has been working to undermine any way US students could interfere in US foreign policies.

Anon December 13, 2016 at 3:02 am

A lot of this stuff can apply to any news, not just the news you get on the main channels. Its always designed to get some sort of emotional response – but I would argue that it isn’t useless as long as you keep a perspective about it and critically analyse what is being said. People are too busy these days to spend hours reading “in-depth” about one particular story. So i’d rather get a lot of little nuggets of “news” than spend 3 hours being an “expert” on the refugee crisis. If you have all this time to read around then good for you but I doubt many people do. So just assuming if you “quit” news everything will be fine is completely wrong.

VisitorZ December 13, 2016 at 4:28 am

Actually it’s you who look like an ass with your ad-hominem attack, but please keep reading Huffington Post, BBC and The Guardian..The bastions of journalistic integrity lol

Rick Rose December 13, 2016 at 12:17 pm

“And I am sure that I never read any memorable news in a newspaper. If we read of one man robbed, or murdered, or killed by accident, or one house burned, or one vessel wrecked, or one steamboat blown up, or one cow run over on the Western Railroad, or one mad dog killed, or one lot of grasshoppers in the winter, – we need never read of another. One is enough. If you are acquainted with the principle, what do you care for a myriad instances and applications?” – H.D. Thoreau

SIRENA SEDAT December 13, 2016 at 3:20 pm

Check out Truthdig online! Great news source.

Steve Darden December 13, 2016 at 4:14 pm

Your essay is just about perfect. The Avoid News concept needs all the support we can give it. “New is to the mind what sugar is to the body” to quote Rolf Dobelli, proprietor of Zurich Minds.

https://seekerblog.com/2011/03/07/avoid-news/

Walt Garage December 13, 2016 at 10:16 pm

I had gradually been reducing watching local news, because I really didn’t feel I was learning anything by learning about all the fires, shootings and random deaths in the city.

My big break with the national TV news came while watching the Twin Towers burn. I was watching and watching and hearing the same things and seeing the same things over and over again and realized it was just like being hypnotized and I really was not learning anything.

Today I keep up with the news by seeing what bogus content is posted by others on Facebook then tracking down the truth of the matter. I also have some non-news sites that I check almost daily such as azspot.net (which is how I got here) as well as some science blogs.

Walt Garage December 13, 2016 at 10:22 pm

Just to add – I believe I am well informed compared to others I know (I guess we ALL feel that way!). I also find that people don’t generally ask me about that (enter tragedy name here) that happened in (some place) so I don’t need to know about them.

I am saddened when I check a national news site and see that the top story is about a bus crash in some country that killed a bunch of people.

Jonas December 14, 2016 at 10:20 am

I agree on most things said here, and that the news content is made to sell issues or keep people tipping on their toes, however point #2 does not reflect my own experience very well. Watching the news in the morning let’s me know if i should bring my rain-suite or not, what roads are currently congested by morning traffic. Today i read about a guy helping immigrants in my very nationalistic country. I contacted the guy and gave him my blessing, knowing that it will be a well needed counterweight to the internet-heros that will troll him for doing this. A few months back i was made aware that my phone-provider have been charging people too much, and was able to use this information to leverage a better deal when i upgraded my phone. Even water-cooler conversation-material can turn out to be helpful. With all this said, i largely agree with what you are saying.

David Cain December 15, 2016 at 3:33 pm

These are generalities of course. We have all acted on something we saw on the news. But how many dozens or hundreds of hours of news consumption does it take to inform the odd helpful or useful thing we do in response (again, for most people)?

Checking traffic or weather isn’t really what I’m talking about here obviously.

Caroline December 14, 2016 at 11:07 am

Well said! Look forward to finding and reading more good stuff from your site. Thank you.

Wogan December 14, 2016 at 11:16 am

I agree with the overall point to this story – “news”, as produced by mainstream outlets, should not be mistaken for authentic insight, and really shouldn’t be used as an input to shape worldviews.

It’s still better than nothing, though, and can actually be pretty vital when it comes to political issues. News media is often the only way to draw attention to scandals that politicians prefer remain secret. A lot of public good can be done that way – even if the citizenry are not as fully informed as they might have been.

David Cain December 15, 2016 at 3:38 pm

Right, and I hope it was clear from the article that I’m not proposing we banish the news, or that the press doesn’t serve a purpose. I wouldn’t want to live in a society with no press. But that doesn’t mean the habit of newswatching makes us meaningfully informed adults, or that not watching it means we are uninformed.

Simcha Goldberg December 14, 2016 at 1:09 pm

I am not a social activist. I read anything not to better society but to bring a better self to the table. My objection to current news is that it is usual poor prejudiced thinking. There is neither creativity nor philosophy. (I consider Ideologies as neither “thinking” nor “free imagining”.)
There was a time when you could read thr New York Times, even The Village Voice, and be surprised. Whether is was Jonas Mekas or Arthur Krock, agree or disagree, to read them you had to use your mind.
Now what are called “new sources” pretend only to be “fact sources”. (ignoring blithely that facts only have meaning and nuance within context, sometimes a rich, complicated context.)
This phenomenon is a function of the “Digitalized Age” which wants to know things in terms of “Number”. Judging films by how much money they take-in their first three weekends is an example.
In short the News Industry today, and it’s customers, deserve each other.
For Progressives it’s the drone from the pulpits of their secular churches.
For the New Right, it’s justification for their fears.

Jessica December 14, 2016 at 1:39 pm

I share many of the same opinions. Plus this one: when you cut out mass media, you realize that really, you’re only ingesting the same stories over and over for months with very little development.

If a story is truly important, you will hear about it.

edwin December 14, 2016 at 4:26 pm

I also quite the news about 8 years ago. Now I can’t stand to see it. I was over at someone’s house and it was on and I had to ask them to please turn it off because it was very annoying and they were blabbering on about absolutely nothing. It was actually making me somewhat angry. Now I can’t stand to see it.

Frank December 15, 2016 at 5:44 am

You allude to this in the article, but it seems that you are really suggesting the your readers find higher quality news sources rather than “quitting the news”. In some respects this article commits the same sins as the low quality news sources it criticizes. It seems to me that it takes an extreme and challenging position that is intended to trigger a reaction in people. I believe a more useful article would have focussed on how to identify quality sources of news and encourage people to think critically about what they are being told (maybe even do some independent research) rather than simply accepting everything they hear from the media outlets or blog articles.

David Cain December 15, 2016 at 3:46 pm

I certainly could have defined what I meant by “news” better, because there are a lot of different takes in the comments.

Your general point of thinking critically is conveyed clearly enough though I think. But I wanted to encourage people to think critically about a particular cultural belief, which is that responsible adults keep track of “the news” — the popular world issues at the moment. I also shared my opinion on “better sources”: long-form written media and books.

Kurt December 15, 2016 at 7:02 am

Picked this up from post at kottke.org. Nice. I don’t watch news – hardly ever; the danger for me is paying attention or getting distracted online. I take periodic breaks from the ‘news’ – news fasts or news sabbaticals. Extremely helpful to my mental health. IT IS SO EASY TO GET SUCKED IN. Thanks for your viewpoint. By the way, I don’t consider weather and traffic as news, but I increasingly consider sports as news – peculiar how that is happening.

Larry December 15, 2016 at 8:49 am

“You don’t know what you don’t know”. Yeah, you don’t have to watch the news, but you also don’t ever know what you’re ‘missing’. You are just ignorant of your ignorance. I agree, there’s definitely more productive things to do (learn a language, science or other hard, useful facts), but if you’re not watching the news just so you can bingewatch Game of Thrones, I don’t think you’re doing yourself a favor.

Megan December 15, 2016 at 10:06 am

So, then I wonder, what sources do you like best for getting the information that you need?

David Cain December 15, 2016 at 3:52 pm

“Need” is a bit of a weasel word here. We assume we watch the news out of a genuine need to be informed but I think it’s mostly a desire to for entertainment, a sense of importance and identity, sentimentality, the thrill of anger and other motives we should probably question.

As I said in the article, we all must choose how much time to invest in learning about world and local issues and on what sources we’re going to spend our time. I think written material is generally better than video-based material, and the longer it is the more likely it is the author is concerned with accuracy over sex appeal. But even long, well-cited nonfiction books can be biased, erroneous, irrelevant.

joncr December 16, 2016 at 7:55 am

You make a mistake to use “news” in relation to cable TV and the web.

“News” is something produced by “reporters”. Cable and web sources typically employ few, if any, reporters but rely, instead, on the few remaining sources of actual reportage to provide fodder (aka “content”) they leverage to generate audience attention and ad revenue.

More broadly, it’s naive and foolish to look for one single source that can deliver 100% objective and accurate news to you in a few minutes each day. That can never happen. The biggest weakness of people consuming news seems to be our failure to understand the motives and interests of the news providers and how that impacts what they create. People expect news to be ” truth”, and it can’t be,

John December 16, 2016 at 8:43 am

This is a great post and it inspired a couple of points and counterpoints to me and I am guilty of keeping up with the news from a variety of sources (but very little TV news). On the downside of current media offerings, I think most of us are not fully aware of how much news programming is driven by ratings, though David makes this point. A lot of us grew up on the notion of journalistic integrity, and an assumption that there are legions of earnest reporters out there searching for truth wherever it leads them. But, sadly the days of Woodward and Bernstein have faded slowly into a huge industry driven by individual stardom and advertising dollars, and we as consumers of this industry have slowly adapted to soundbites and infotainment in place of solid and sometimes unpopular journalism. I have discussed this point with a well-known TV news personality that I know who agrees (off the record) that programming is largely driven by entertainment value and ad dollars (i.e ratings). When that is the motive, vs. an innate drive to find and report the truth, then the end product obviously changes significantly. I remember when the USA Today came out and was widely criticized for its color pictures and dumbing down of stories to soundbites (‘a mile wide and an inch deep”), but an interesting exercise might be to put side-by-side say 3 editions of the WSJ from 25 years ago and 3 editions from the current version to see the differences, or even count typos from where it was to where it is.

There is a definite degradation of quality and depth, not to mention a huge increase in non-financial information, like copious copy on the latests fashions or lavish homes of the rich and famous (I keep thinking Robin Leach is going to be on the tagline). Financial news though is infotainment specifically focused on fear and greed.

The stardom factor also impacts what a journalist will or will not print or disseminate out of fear of being cast out of the inner circle or losing the privilege afforded to the media stars — which makes sense if you assume that most people will act in their own best interest. Do you think a Megan Kelly or a Lester Holt would do a story that would jeopardize their TSA Pre status, invitations to “A” list events or subject them to scrutiny, investigations or accusations of violations of the Espionage Act?

It is an interesting read and commentary on the media if you happen to read Glen Greenwald’s book on breaking the Edward Snowden story and Snowden’s difficulty in finding a major news outlet willing to take on the story. The same reluctance to publish was shown by a WSJ reporter in the Big Short, because he didn’t want to be the one to rock the boat against the housing machine and he liked his six figure job. It is also well known that even 60 Minutes, a “TV News Magazine” that purports to adhere to journalistic integrity initially buried the Wigand whistleblower story about big tobacco out of fear from reprisals.

If that is not enough to quash faith in the media, the proliferation of fake news stories and the ad dollars around that is perhaps another reason. One poster asked the question of where to get better information. It feels like we have an unmet need to provide in-depth, unbiased, and accurate facts through an unfiltered source, free from interference by any government, big corporation, or profit motivation (the initial goal of freedom of the press that has been so watered down by prosecutions of reporters and strong financial, legal and cultural motivation not to rock the boat). Not sure how that could get funded today as print media is going away, and I don’t think enough people would be willing to pay to subscribe online when most news content is free (along with pop-up adds and promoted stories design to sell you something you don’ t need).

But to David’s point, if most of us are not willing to get involved to help fix a problem we learn about, what is the real value in knowing about it, regardless of the source’s integrity? It provides a bit of a false sense of security or a false sense of “doing something” by staying informed, but his point is well taken. If your source is TV news or even internet sound bites, you probably are not really that informed in the first place. And then, how many of us are guilty as charged (raising my hand), that no matter how many times we are saddened or incensed by the news, we don’t choose to take an affirmative action to help.

On the contrary, I would add though that through news, people do learn about issues, tragedies and problems, and enough people do help that makes it worthwhile to get people informed. Through news, we get volunteers showing up for national disasters, donations to the Red Cross, and aid to foreign countries after a Tsunami. Some of us understand why we as the world, need to take in Syrian refugees. The flashlight is the first step to improvement, and perhaps if even one more of us did one more thing to right a wrong, then news can still have a positive purpose, no matter how bad it has become. How often has a socially-conscious company, a non-profit, or a mission started because the founder heard about the plight of XYZ on the news?

Elisha de Jonge December 16, 2016 at 3:37 pm

Im lucky to watch the news once a week. great post.

George December 18, 2016 at 5:20 pm

Welcome to the information Era.

Lisa December 19, 2016 at 4:11 pm

Brilliant observations and a great case for not watching the news. I have not been a news-watcher since taking a graduate level course in college (over 20 years ago) and learning how horribly the news outlets skew what they’re reporting. I do not think of myself as ignorant and can keep up with most conversations just fine. Granted, I do read the news online everyday for my job. But just enough to know what’s going on, and knowing I can investigate further is something really piques my interest.

My Mom, however, is a news junkie. And I think it’s mainly for what you stated in reason number 5. For some reason it helps her feel like she’s riding herself of guilt that she can’t do anything. I sent her your article, and because she’s super intelligent I’m hopeful that she will finally turn off the constant stream of CNN and MSNBC she has on every day.

Thank you for sharing your observations on what happens when you quit the news. I think you’re spot on!

Judi Storer December 22, 2016 at 9:19 pm

As a final year Law student, mostly interested in democracy, human rights and the environment, I indulge in the news so that I know who to write letters to the next day, to protest against their appalling policies, or who to call out for deceiving the public or behaving unconscionably, or which politicians to ring to register my disapproval, dissent, praise, encouragement or support, or what products/companies to boycott, or what information, I should seek out to better my knowledge and understanding of something that was the subject of a news article.

For me, the news informs me as to how I can contribute to making the world a better place – what are the most important issues, who is most in need, where are the worst atrocities? When I converse with people who do not watch the news, or get their news from facebook, I am appalled at how ignorant they are, and consequently how selfish many of them are. The most important thing in their lives, is how much they had to pay to buy some luxury item they don’t even need, and they have no idea how that money would have made a massive difference to the lives of the starving, the disabled, the homeless, the war torn, refugees, asylum seekers, children’s education, health and safety in undeveloped countries, prevention of child slavery and prostitution, or women suffering from domestic violence.

I think not watching the news is a good excuse for remaining ignorant and then not having to feel guilty for being selfish, and not taking action to help people who are suffering. If you don’t know about it, then how can you help? Many people I talk to, say they were unaware, and that is their excuse for doing nothing, but I sincerely suspect that even if they were aware, they would have done nothing about the issue anyway. By not watching the news people can remain egocentric, without having their conscience pricked or their compassion challenged.

I only got to read this article because it was linked to one of the journalism sites I subscribe to. If I had not been reading the news, I never would known that Raptitude.com existed, or read this article, or been able to contribute this comment. I think it is more important to choose your news carefully, rather than boycott news altogether.

Julien Klepatch December 23, 2016 at 1:45 am

I had a very similar thought process as you a couple of month ago. I havent followed an news since sep2016.

Feels fantastic! More free time, more energy, and I finally got rid of this urge of “checking the news”.

I recommend it to everyone!

Jan Meier December 25, 2016 at 2:29 am

Great post. I stoped (binch) watching news during my exchange in Japan. If I’m on the ther end of the world, why should I care about local news? Soon I stoped caring about global news. Instead I started to spend more time reading longer articles, discussions about topics I’m really interested in.

After a while I realised that I became much more relaxt and even more important aware of my doing. No more thoughtless checking of the hottest bullshit that is going on. Usually m reactions are anyway: “Why would that matter” or “Please write something more substantial.”

What I found really helpful for me is using a web service where you can store the news article you would like to read. And if you come across something you think interesting, put it there. But then don’t read it right away. Instead read the articles there in the chronological order you saved them. Once you come to the saved article, some days will have passed. If the article was just yelling journalists, giving shallow statements about hottest news, you wont read it. You rather go for something you really get a profound analysis and throw away the other article.

For everyone who enjoyed this article heres another, very similar one: https://medium.com/the-coffeelicious/why-i-stopped-watching-reading-the-news-3-years-ago-and-why-you-should-too-8e0ec4d6f29b#.7gqa1ovrm

Dave Barnes December 25, 2016 at 10:55 am

I quit watching news 100%.
I quit reading news, except for business news–and if it mentions The Pumpkin, then I stop reading.
I am still in mourning.

R Raghavendran December 26, 2016 at 3:18 am

Thanks for an eye opening article. You are right…most of the time spent on watching endless news and news replays can be spent doing something that can give one, a so to say, measurable benefit at end of day. And your point is more relevant now, when it takes only a click to forward endlessly, such news links to group members in whatsapp, etc.

Rich December 26, 2016 at 1:11 pm

The news is deplorable and those who watch it are only feeding the devil to make it stronger. Unfortunately people must enjoy watching the negative news stories otherwise it wouldnt be on still. Support evergreen and positive stories and do your part in the world and stop watching at all costs.

For the first comment that said you get the traffic and delays from the news you’re wasting your time. Waze and Google maps on your phone is updated in real time and will tell you the best route to take updating during your drive if an accident happens. There is NO excuse to watch the local news unless you want to be fear driven in life.

Ken January 6, 2017 at 6:11 pm

I gave up broadcast/cable TV in 2004, when I moved to Vermont, and haven’t regretted it for a second. I felt the constant replay of the horrors of 9-11 were a form of mental abuse against all Americans, so I “tuned out”.
Now, I listen exclusively to NPR (although selectively now that Comrade Cheetos is taking over) in order to discover the main topics of the day, then if they’re of interest, I’ll find another source and investigate them more deeply.
It’s up to all of us to stay informed, and not just accept being ‘spoon-fed’ whatever the corporate-media or establishment-political wants to believe is important via their media outlets.
While you’re at it, try reading Howard Zinn’s, “People’s History of the United States” for an alternate perspective. http://www.historyisaweapon.com/zinnapeopleshistory.html

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