Why I Forgo the Mainstream News & What I Do Instead

"The power to question is the basis of all human progress." Indira Gandhi  If we want to grow and progress as a nation, as a species, and as one world, we need to keep questioning and keep searching.
me, after a conference in November

As ignorant as this post title may sound, I assure you I am not simply advocating a "blissfully ignorant" approach to the world around us.  Sometimes, it is hard for people to understand, but it has actually helped me in a number of ways.  So, although the first portion is a little bit less positive than my usual posts, I hope to round it out with some alternative solutions.

I have never really been big on news, or television in general, but about eight years ago, I decided to find my own news online, rather than watch or read the local or national news.  There are a few reasons for this. 

Number 1, it's depressing.  Yah, I said it.  The news is not depressing because "I can't handle it" or "I want to ignore the problems facing our country."  It's depressing because it actually is; and as you know, bad news keeps us coming back.  Debate and controversy have given birth to "news stations" that claim to discuss important issues 24 hours a day.  (Take a look at this article, "24 Hour News Killed Journalism." It's somewhat angry, but points out some of the shortfalls of today's "journalism.")  How often are you presented with the whole truth on an issue?  A whole evening of good news?  Has either happened in your adult life?  I know bad things happen here and elsewhere, but when that is all we focus on, that is all we see.

Number 2, most television news channels are owned by a company--a profit-making company.  Though the idea of a government-owned media is not good, consider that the companies that influence government policies as well as what Americans think/ how we vote/ what we like/ what's "hot" is, in fact, presented by these channels and therefore these companies.  If you become aware of just how profit-driven these enormous companies are, it is less and less appealing to support them. 

According to an article by Tobias Steiner, the vast majority of broadcast and basic cable networks are controlled by the following corporations: News Corporation (which includes Fox channels), The Walt Disney Company (including ABC, ESPN and Disney), National Amusements (including the CBS Corporation and Viacom), Comcast (which includes NBC), Time Warner, Discovery Communications, E. W. Scripps Company, and Cablevision.  And this provides media consumers with what is referred to as the "illusion of choice."  Therefore, news, entertainment programing, and advertising are all interconnected.  News is not an independent and uninfluenced source of information, rather it is a program to make profits, just like other shows.

Though it is from a few years ago (2012), and has thus been changed slightly, take a look at this graphic from Frugal Dad; changes, such as GE's absence from media are addressed in this Business Insider article:

media infographic
Source: Frugal Dad via Business Insider

Number 3, celebrity gossip and their corresponding wedding/ baby/ beach/ divorce pictures and issues are NOT NEWS.  Though I certainly enjoy watching movies from time to time, I don't think it's necessary to know (or "know") the intimate details of a stranger's life.  They might be beautiful/ handsome, sing well, or have a really cute kid, but that does not make it newsworthy.  It's been this way for years, but I find the standards slowly degrading further each year (month/ day?).

Number 4, even local news reports accident/ death/ fire after accident/ death/ fire.  I even saw my husband, a fire fighter/ EMT, working in the background of a news piece one time.  The call was a terrible tragedy, one which I wrote about here, but when that is the only news we get, we start to think that the world is a scary/ dangerous/ fiery place--and it's not, or at least that's not all it is. 

I especially think this is an important consideration for anyone who spends a majority of their time home or alone.  Elderly people, in what I've seen, seem to be particularly susceptible to assumptions about the big, bad world "out there," because they hear it day after day from the news.  Where are the great stories about the wonderful, generous, thoughtful people in your town, your state, your country, your world?  I know they're out there.  Why aren't we hearing about them consistently?

Number 5, with companies' increased use of "native advertising," I have a hard time reconciling my "need" for news and informed opinions with the perspectives from which they arise.  Native advertising, as you may know, is a pretty sneaky way of slipping advertisements into magazines, newspapers, and online media sites in a way that looks like a true article.  If you're interested, the comedic host John Oliver gives a little more information about it, in a funny way, in this clip:

John Oliver -- Native Advertising

What I do instead of watch the news, read the newspaper, and read magazines:

Number 1, I find news outlets that keep me informed without dwelling only on negativity and crises.  Obviously knowledge of some situations around the world is a good thing.  I am not advocating that everyone keep themselves ignorant of world affairs; I am, however, urging you to explore new news outlets that allow you to both hear good news and form your own opinions.  I do this by supporting public broadcasting and reading articles from outside of the US on world news topics.  Give it a try--it's a little work, but it is good to hear a new perspective.

This article, "The Mindful Media Diet: How to Consciously Consume and Digest the News," can help you to change you mind on how you consume the news and how to be more conscious and mindful in your media intake.

Number 2, I make sure that I DO seek out GOOD NEWS each day.  Streamlining your social media sites can assist in this goal.  I have not only eliminated negative people (you know, the constant complainers...?) from my newsfeed {*delete*}, but also sought pages that present beautiful, uplifting news stories.  Examples of these are: Good News Network (and on Facebook) and HuffPost Good News (and here on Facebook).  In my opinion, Good News Network is the better of the two, but decide for yourself. 

Another excellent addition to your social media newsfeed, if you don't already follow it, is Humans of New York.  It is an excellent reminder that we are all in this together and that if you stop to understand someone's perspective/ story/ situation, you can remember to love them where and how they are.  I've found that especially if you start your day with social media, you should try to set yourself up for success by eliminating consistent negativity.

On a recent post {this one} a commenter wrote the following regarding this exact issue: "I have decided to stop watching the news and only read HONY so that I can continue to be reminded of the good in people." - AJ Walkin {Commenter was Jason Strickley}.  Humans of New York and similar, positive, people-uniting projects help to demonstrate that we are all in this together.  They show that we are similar--even when we dress/ look/ speak/ think differently--even when we've had complicated life experiences, past failures, or endured major crises, we share a common experience as humans.  I truly believe that this--sharing individual stories--helps us see, value, understand, and love one another.

Number 3, I try to avoid falling into the trap of constant fear.  The power of fear is that it makes us think we're constantly under threat.  It makes us think our families aren't safe, our neighborhoods are dangerous, and our way of life is under attack.  Fear is what prompts us to give up our freedoms willingly or dismiss others because we don't fully understand how they live/ think.  As Mastin Kipp puts it, "When we feel disconnected, isolated, unheard, unseen, shameful, guilty and alone--fear is the natural response."  But, if we keep ourselves informed but also open to good news, instead of relying on a constant bombardment of bad news (or almost as bad, celebrity gossip), we allow ourselves to rise out of this cycle of living each day in fear and use all of that energy to grow and progress.

Number 4, consider a media or social media fast.  It's like a Netflix binge, except the opposite.  Maybe you watch/ read the news from the same outlet, but you limit how often you do so.  Perhaps you contemplate a week/ month/ few months away from social media.  Find a way to incorporate new habits and behaviors that works for you.

I realize how lengthy this post is, and if you made it down here, thanks for reading!  I hope this helps you to make an informed decision about the information you allow into your home and your mind.  You have the choice to support anything you want!  Choose wisely.

What can you do to change the way you see our world?

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