Why I Don’t Watch the News

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As a child that was raised on the nightly news, it surprises some people – and definitely my parents – that I have no inclination to watch the news any more. Zero. I’ve had a couple of conversations about this in recent weeks with different friends, and the general consensus seems to be that I’m not alone. It’s one of the reasons I love syndication: I get my world news by proxy through people I trust and indirectly delegate with the task of keeping me informed of such things. But I happened across this quote from John D MacDonald from here that I thought summed up my feelings on the subject nicely:

The trouble with the news is that everybody knows everything too fast and too often and too many times. News had always been bad. The tiger the lives in the forest just ate your wife and kids, Joe. There are no fat grub worms under the rotten logs this year, Al. Those sickies in the village on the other side of the mountain are training hairy mammoths to stomp us flat, Pete. They nailed up two thieves and one crackpot, Mary. So devote wire service people and network people and syndication people to gathering up all the bad news they can possibly dredge and comb and scrape out of a news-tired world and have them spray it back at everybody in constant streams of electrons, and two things happen. First, we all stop listening, so they have to make it even more horrendous to capture our attention. Secondly we all become even more convinced that everything has gone rotten, and there is no hope at all, no hope at all. In a world of no hope the motto is semper fidleis, which means in translation, “Every week is screw-your-buddy week and his wife too, if he’s out of town.”

A little cynical, perhaps, but I really am that tired of the news. Relentless dissection of the inevitable negativity, with the only respite saccharine human interest stories, punctuated by hosts that seemingly can’t control the volume of their own voice. Spare me. I’ll take blogs over that any day of the week and twice on Sunday. To each their own, but I’ll pass.


  1. Have you seen “Bowling for Columbine”? I thought that the thoughts on the news coverage here in the US were really interesting.

  2. I couldn’t agree more. Not only is it almost all negative, but it’s mostly wrong and under-researched if that is a real word. By the time the nightly news comes on, I’ve read both sides of the story 40 times from the net and the blogs.

    Cynical? no. Accurate? You may have predicted the future of news.

    Look to the declined newpaper subscriptions to further support your trend.

  3. In my lifetime it seems that TV news has turned into a warped form of entertainment, akin to rubbernecking, all part of the fight for viewers and ad revenue. Ick. There are far better forms of entertainment IMHO. I’ll pass, too.

  4. wow. and this from people who live in a nation where a great deal of bad news is censored/ignored. Katrina was a watershed in that regard.

    I take your point Stephen, but putting your head in the sand allows abuse by the powers that be. we must keep our heads up.

    I really dont agree with John macdonald. the news would not be relentlessly bad if we started standing up for what is right, and fighting for it, and giving up on passive consumption.

  5. Alex: i haven’t – really should watch that, as you’re the second or third person that’s recommended it to me.

    john: amen. the only difficulty is that if anything, the TV seems worse than the print media, and there are more of those folks every day.

    Claire: rubbernecking is the perfect analogy – it really is, at times, like watching a car wreck in slo mo.

    James: couldn’t disagree more. two areas of pushback.

    first, not watching the nightly news does not mean that i don’t get news. as john put it, i get it from alternate sources – including folks that don’t censor my information. i don’t think declining to watch an hour of car wrecks, violent crime, and financial malfeasance every night amounts to “putting my head in the sand.” if the news kept me abreadst of the things that matter, i’d watch it. they don’t.

    second, i don’t agree. history has shown that there will always be bad news – always. while we shouldn’t ignore that – one reason i’ve tried to keep abreadst of the doings in iraq – nor do i believe its useful to watch the same inevitable string of negativity trotted out by the news each night. standing up for what is right is good advice, but i have no faith whatsoever that will change the inevitability of human nature.

  6. James – Of course you’re right, one shouldn’t stick their head in the sand, and of course I pay attention to the news. I just don’t think the nightly television news is “news.” So I get what I consider news from the radio or newspaper or online or print…

    Take care… ClaireG

  7. Broadcast news is no longer “news”, its entertainment. It exists to get people to watch the ads in between the stories. It is now really no different than any other entertainment programming.

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