Since writing Post No. 1 in my MSM detox series, I’ve been a bit more zealous about not exposing myself to local corporate media, mainly stuff.co.nz and nzherald.co.nz, instead going to the Radio New Zealand website and Scoop.co.nz for “news” and checking out a few (but not many) blogs (and never ever ever reading any comments) for the occasional spot of commentary. And, for those who haven’t waded through that first post, I’m not on Twitter or Facebook, so that’s easy to avoid.
Anyway, since quitting NZH and Stuff altogether and in a more concerted fashion, I really do feel a whole lot better for it. (I should have mentioned that I gave up so-called TV News over a year ago. Just ugh! So I don’t visit their sites either. More than a few additional benefits from that decision below.)
Radio New Zealand isn’t into click-bait; their headlines are a bit of a trip back in time to the days when headlines were pretty straight-up: theirs seem intended to inform not sensationalise. Which brings me to the issue of “breaking news/scoops”.
Who Cares Who Got It First? Not You!
Forget about who gets it first. Who cares? Sure, the journalists do. But you don’t need to. Really, think about it: unless there’s a tsunami coming or some other disaster you really really need to know about (and then you should turn on the radio anyway because your internet is probably about to cut out), why would you care who “got” Kim Dotcom’s driving conviction (I actually don’t know, obviously, but I saw it just now on RNZ). If it’s important, my proposed news provider of choice (RNZ) will pick it up eventually. If it’s not important (again: “Jessica Biel Goes Shopping in Auckland”) then it’s better than you not know. It’s better that this rubbish isn’t cluttering up your valuable working memory. It’s better that it isn’t evoking some emotion you’d rather not be having. It’s better that you save the “tut tutting” and getting your undies in a twist for important stuff.
Quitting TV News is Good News
Quitting TV News doesn’t only give immediate relief from suffering through wads of pap and button-pushing rubbish – and btw, they almost never cover anything that everyone else isn’t already covering, so you’re missing no actual content – it also has the important flow-on effect of protecting you from endless debates on blogs (and presumably twitter and FB, but I’m not there, so don’t know) about the “terrible” “Shocking” “unfair” “biased” etc. coverage of X, Y and Z by Paddy Gower or Tova O’Brien or whoever happens to be the loathed TV journo du jour. And I know for sure that debating “biased TV coverage” is a pit with no bottom, a vortex that never stops spinning, a sink hole that will keep on sinking as long as you’re spending any time in it. You know it’s true.
“Yeah, yeah,” I hear you countering, “but TV News has so much impact on public opinion, it’s important to know what they’re saying/reporting/doing.” Really? Maybe if you’re the PM’s (or someone who’s on TV a lot) PR flak you need to watch it. But if you’re just you, how is knowing what “most people” are watching on TV of any use or interest to you?
At this point, I can no longer count on the fingers of both hands the number of times someone has said to me – in so many words – “what about what X said about Y”. Well, here’s the conversation, based on some TV crap I didn’t happen to know about:
Person: “What about what X said about/did to/did not do about/for/to Y!?”
Me: “Oh, I hadn’t heard that.” (Am suspicious it must have been on TV.) “Was it on the TV News?”
Me: “I don’t watch TV News, so I don’t know about it.”
Person: (After slightly shocked pause.) “Well, it was all over Twitter, too.”
Me: “Uh, I’m not on Twitter either.”
Person: (After another slightly shocked pause) “Facebook?”
Me: “So, anyway, tell me what did X say about/do to/not do about/for/to Y anyway?”
Person: (Is losing interest because s/he is now going to have to try to explain it to me in his/her own words and s/he is starting to realise the whole thing might have been crap.) “Oh never mind.”
Me: “But I assume it was important?”
Person: (Adopts slightly defensive tone.) “I think so.”
Me: “So tell me.”
Person: “Oh just bugger off.”
No, that’s not really how it ends. That last bit was just for kicks. Either the person tells me about it and we have a discussion or I say I’ll keep an eye out on RNZ or Scoop or go to the source (one can often go to the site/blog of the actual source to get the story, whatever it is) and check it out.
Did I really need to see it on TV News? No. Meanwhile, I was reading a really really useful and interesting book about New Zealand history, or politics, or a novel or a good magazine, or watching a classy movie on DVD. I’m calm, cool, collected and unruffled, while my interlocutor is just all steamed up about Latest Manufactured Outrage That Is Based on an Anecdote. (I won’t start in on TV News living in Anecdote-Land. Who cares about science or research when you can dredge up poor Sally Watsername who is terribly upset because [insert outrage du jour here].)