Why You Should Stop Reading News
Winifred Gallagher: “Few things are as important to your quality of life as your choices about how to spend the precious resource of your free time.”
We spend hours consuming news because we want to be well informed. But is that time well spent? News is, by definition, something that doesn’t last. And as news has become easier to distribute and cheaper to produce, the quality has decreased.
Rarely do we stop to ask ourselves questions about what we consume: Is this important? Is this going to stand the test of time — say, in a week or in a year? Is the person writing this someone who is well informed on the issue?
“[W]e’re surrounded by so much information that is of immediate interest to us that we feel overwhelmed by the never-ending pressure of trying to keep up with it all.”
— Nicolas Carr
There are several problems with the way we consume news today:
First, the speed of news delivery has increased. We used to have to wait to get a newspaper or gossip with people in our town to get our news, but not anymore. Thanks to alerts, texts, and other interruptions, news finds us almost the minute it’s published.
Second, the costs to produce news have dropped significantly. Some people write 12 blog posts a day for major newspapers. It’s nearly impossible to write something thoughtful on one topic, let alone 12. Over a year, this works out to writing 2880 articles (assuming four weeks of vacation). The fluency of the person you’re getting your news from in the subject they’re covering is near zero. As a result, you’re filling your head with surface opinions on isolated topics. Because the costs have dropped to near zero, there is a lot of competition.
Third, producers of news attempt to hijack our brains. News producers perpetuate a culture of “tune in, don’t miss out, follow this or you’ll be misinformed, oh wait, look at this!” As you consume more and more of that kind of news, you have less and less time for what matters.
Fourth, the incentives are misaligned. In part, because there is a lot of competition, most news outlets feel compelled to offer free news. After all, everyone else is doing it. However, when the news is free, you still need to pay people, so you move away from a subscription model that was selling static ads to a captive audience to a model that’s selling the audience to advertisers. Page views become the name of the game, and the more, the better. For a lot of people who create news (I won’t use the term “journalists” here because I hold them in high regard), the more page views they get, the more they are compensated. A lot of these ads aren’t just impressions; they’re also giving information about you to the advertisers, but that’s another story.
I could go on, but I think you’re starting to see the picture now….
READ THE REST at Why You Should Stop Reading News, and then stop reading news.