Two days ago my family returned from a vacation to San Diego. On the morning we left, our last pre-vacation newspaper was delivered. Since we did not have time to look at it, we just put it on the kitchen table. After we returned, I sat down and looked through the now-outdated paper. Although the paper was only 10 days old, many of the news stories already seemed irrelevant.
That got me thinking. I had “missed out” on reading the paper and listening to the news for 10 days, and what had I lost? Most of what I had missed was already out of date. I don’t consider myself to be a real “news junkie,” but I do usually read the news sections (and of course the comics!) in our local paper while I eat breakfast or lunch, and I listen to news radio while driving in my car. What if I stopped doing that, and instead read or listened to something else? What would I lose, and what would I gain?
It is considered axiomatic in our culture that an intelligent person will keep him/herself informed about “current events.” But considering the almost unimaginable quantity of information generated each day, how much does a person need to read to be “informed?” The news that we receive in the paper or on the radio (or on TV, but I rarely watch TV) is highly filtered and contoured by the news editors according to their own understanding of what is important and what will increase the size of their audience. Some stories that get the spotlight are really of trivial importance in the big picture, while other events of great significance in the long run are not included at all. (Do I really need to know the details of a bizarre murder that took place 10 years ago in another state?)
The Internet provides much more complete coverage, but the sheer volume of information on blogs and news sites makes it impossible to even overview the day’s news without spending every waking hour trying to digest the information. I wonder how people managed 200 years ago? They had newspapers back then, although I’m not sure how often they came out. Probably some people read them. But for the most part they could be blissfully unaware of events around the world, or even in the next town. Somehow they muddled on.
I’m no Luddite, and I’m not suggesting that we bury our heads in the sand. But I wonder how productive it is to consume all the news produced by the major media. I have a feeling that we would benefit from being much more selective in what we read and hear (or watch). Manybe the top story of the hour isn’t really worth our time. Perhaps we could spend some time trying to understand truly significant events or trends, but also spend time reading books written before we were born.
That’s one of the frustrations that I have about the world of blogging. Many bloggers take a “news reporter” approach to their writing, and rush to report what is new and cool. Much of what they write is not worth reading a year later. Obviously there are many exceptions, and I strive to be one of them. I want to write articles about timeless spiritual truths that will be worth reading ten years from now (which is an eternity in the world of blogging). A tall order, I know. But is already enough senseless drivel on the Internet.
Meanwhile, I haven’t changed my news reading/listening behavior yet, but I am looking for a more discerning way to learn about what is going on in the world.