News Diet

There was this fella by the name of Scoop Nisker who did news on the radio ‘back in the day’ in the Bay Area. I can’t remember if it was KSAN in San Francisco or KTIM in Marin but he would do these news stories that were sort of unconventional. Very 70s, man, like those great old rock stations were before the corporate takeover of our airwaves. Mostly I remember his tag line: “if you don’t like the news, go out and make some of your own.”

That’s my new ethic. Not that I’m much of a news-maker, just that I don’t really like the news. Never have, really, but felt obligated as a citizen to watch, listen, and read so I could ‘be informed’ and all that rot. We live in the Information Age, my friends. Any idiot can ‘be informed.’ It’s not hard. Everywhere we go we are bombarded by information. One can hardly find a beer-drinking joint these days that doesn’t run the television constantly. Really? Do we have to have the TV on? I like to watch a ballgame or two, certainly, but sometimes I just like to shoot the shit with the regulars. But asking a bar to turn off the TV is like asking them to turn off the taps. Seems we need to be guzzling electronic jibber-jabber along with our ales.

Screw that. I’m going on a diet. A news diet. A media diet. We live in a land of plenty. We have lots of food and it’s available all the time and it is pretty damn cheap and convenient. Look at the consequences: obesity, heart disease, diabetes, etc. So we limit our intakes, right? We cut the fat and the sugar and all that and try to do portion control and try to have healthy snacks and whatnot. There’s a diet out there for every kind of eater, all with the same goals of losing weight and improving health. That is, we know we have too much and we have to have schemes for controlling our behaviors so we don’t over-indulge.

So why can’t we have a news diet? Don’t you think we get too much of that shit? I do. I find my brain rotting from the overload. Our electronic media are everywhere. We carry them around with us, fer chrissakes. There’s no place where you are free of the electromagnetic stream. Even in my favorite watering holes everyone is pulling out their damn gizmos instead of talking. Or just shutting up and drinking. Yeah, I know I sound like a grumpy old man. I don’t mean to, I have no beef with technology. I’m typing a blog post, after all, that’s something I couldn’t do not long ago, and I enjoy this freedom and opportunity to blather on and on about pointless stuff. If you are concerned, as I am, about information overload, then STOP READING and go outside and play.

There I go, telling you what to do. There you go, reading when you should be out playing. I have no prescription for anyone else. I know I need a diet, that’s my reality. Yours, I hope, is something else entirely. Along with my news diet, which I hope will improve my health, I have some other peeves. (Why do they have to be ‘pet’ peeves? Aren’t ‘peeves’ good enough?) Like going to Raley’s and being subjected to that truly wretched musical crap they pump through the store-wide speakers. Gag me. Does pop music have to be part of shopping? I’m sure the corporate geniuses worked it out and decided it was soothing and keeps the customers from throwing things. Or makes us hungry so we buy more, something like that. But it makes me want to run away. It’s a funny thing about pop tunes, many of them are genuinely good but the endless repetition of the same ones over and over again in both original and ersatz versions ultimately robs them of any artistic merit. I remember the early days of MTV where you could see Bruce Springsteen’s “Born in the USA” video at least a dozen times in a day. Great song, terrific artist, but after a week or two you never wanted to hear it again. Doesn’t that make you sad? I don’t want any more fine things ruined by excess exposure.

So, I’m going to make my own news from now on. It won’t be earth-shattering. I don’t do much that’s exciting. I don’t know any terrorists or illegal immigrants or attention-whore celebrities. I do know a lot of wonderful people who seem to like me despite my poor attitude. The news I make with them won’t be anything to read about but I expect I’ll find it interesting and fulfilling.

I’ll tell you what—I think we should all create more and consume less. Instead of sucking on the electronic teat we should be investigating, exploring, building, inventing, learning, and growing. Shit, there I go again telling people what to do. I think I should eliminate “should” from my vocabulary!



4 thoughts on “News Diet

  1. I have refused to watch televised news ever since the 1980’s. It is, in my view, a waste of time because you can get the equivalent “information” without the bias inherent in every spoken word in less time by reading. And the few times when watching news seems paramount, such as 9/11 or the 1989 earthquake, only reinforced my belief. That is because they keep cycling a very small amount of information that has the effect of keeping one (me) on edge and nervous, without adding to it or providing, well, anything that would be of help to understand. As tv became more and more ubiquitous, I came to believe that it was a threat to our democracy. Not because of the information, but because of the bias. How little did I know, because then the internet came along. Sigh. And now I question whether we still have one (a democracy, not an internet). Any idiot cannot be informed. Any idiot can have an opinion – but that is not being informed, and neither an opinion nor information is sufficient to make one wise. And so that is mostly what we have – opinion. That is most of what news is, these days. I get suckered into Facebook leads and Yahoo news items and FB posts from friends all the time – I’m trying to not do as much of that because most of the stuff is useless if not intentionally misleading. All those articles about Trump on Huffpost and Useless, all of them. Probably didn’t convince a single person in the entire country to vote other than they intended to. But they very possibly led people to believe that an outcome was in the cards that didn’t happen. And that was misleading, intentional or not. Yes, I still read newspapers, and they have bias too, but necessarily less than tv because you don’t hear a human voice or see a facial expression. I think it’s important to be informed if you want to be an effective citizen. But the idea that the immediacy of television is a benefit to understanding is a myth. If you think about it, there are very few things that have an impact on you that you would have a bigger benefit from hearing on tv than reading in the newspaper. Do you live below a dam? Ok, there’s one. Not much else. The things I need to hear immediately are about friends and relatives. Whomever is elected president is important, but my hearing it at midnight instead of the next morning – not a bit of difference.


  2. Yeah this constant need for instant updates is nuts. So much stuff that happens is just stuff that happens, it doesn’t make a difference as you say whether you hear it now or later. The TV sound bite really is just that, a bite. The whole meal would take too long!


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