Do We Really Need the News

There are two camps of people when it comes to being a “consumer” of news: the “I Want To Know About Everything And Be Emotionally Involved” and the “I Could Care Less; Where’s My Beer?”. In actuality, there’s more like a continuum of people through these two extremes, with most people falling somewhere in the middle, not unlike the typical bell curve distribution.

Is watching the news like watching a train wreck... you just can\'t take your eye away?
Is watching the news like watching a train wreck… you just can\’t take your eye away?

For most folks watching the evening news is a ritual, an unthinking habit. Flipping the switch on to a local channel at 5 or 10pm becomes a behavior much akin to “I’ve always done this, and I’m not sure what else to do with my time, even though I hear about 10% of what I’m seeing/hearing”. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing. There may be a spot or 2 of news that comes through and sticks in their brain just long enough to arouse a sense of caring.

But, is news really good for us? From my experience of watching both local and national news it seems like the majority of stories are run more for the titillation of watching something exciting. Human tragedy, whether by bad luck or bad decision, is a train wreck that’s hard to pull your attention away from. And to watch it, anonymously, from the comfort of our homes is voyeurism.

When it comes down to it, what can the average person really do about the economy, or a pandemic, or a major product recall? Is keeping us informed of the “news” giving us a window of opportunity to act and make our society better, or to aggravate our sense of hopelessness in the face of immovable societal forces?

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