COMMENTARY

Dealing with the Never-Ending News Cycle

Jaci Clement CEO & Executive Director, Fair Media Council
Jaci Clement is CEO & Executive Director of the Fair Media Council

Today's news is highly repetitive and available on demand. Here's the thing: You get to decide when to demand it.

Perhaps the reason it’s so easy for the public to feel victimized by news coverage is simply this: Time. 

 The foundation of our civilization is based on beginnings and endings, all based on time. Our internal clocks tell us to work in the daytime and sleep by the moonlight. We go to school for a certain amount of time during the year, with each day broken down into timed allotments for such things as math, science, recess, and lunch. From school, we go to work, where time continues to dictate where we need to be, when and with whom. We carve out our days around the time to eat, work and relax. For most everything you can think of, including our relationships and friendships, there’s a defined beginning and a defined ending. 

And then there’s the news.

What’s interesting here is none of this reliance, this conditioning, built around time is true with news today. A life connected to technology means the news is always there, always changing, on its never-ending quest to bring you the latest developments, even if there really aren’t any to report. And that’s what makes it so unwieldy, so hard to grapple with when everything else in our lives has been designed by the very architecture of our civilization to be reduced to rations of time.

It explains why, when you plop down on the couch to watch the 24/7 news channels, that you don’t know when to get back up. On some level, it actually makes sense to expect to watch CNN, FOX News or even News12 until it ends. Yet it doesn’t. And the net result of what we’re left with is a public feeling overwhelmed and, at times, panicked by the news. That’s especially true with today’s news. And, as we so readily learned from Sept. 11, 2001, is that news coverage of events, particularly historic events, is what defines our memories, as well as our psyche.

What all of this means is simply this: It’s up to you to put the news on a schedule that fits your life. Today’s news is highly repetitive and available on demand. Here’s the thing: You get to decide when to demand it. Create time allotments for it just as you do for virtually every other element of your life, and that feeling of victimization will diminish. 

In terms of best practices, you want to maintain a mix of news from local, regional and national news outlets, to give you a full perspective of what’s happening and why. You also want to rely on newspapers — whether in print or online — to give you a basic understanding of why a story or event is important and how it may impact you. Television, radio and online-only news should be relied upon for updates throughout the day, based on when you allow it into your life. The different types and formats of news all serve different purposes, and that’s important to know because one doesn’t preempt another. Instead, you need to incorporate them all, in order to best inform, enlighten and yes, protect yourself and your family. 

Take control of the amount of time you devote to the news, and be the victim no more. 

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