No news today

Posted on 2014-July-29 in thoughts

Sarkozy was president of France during five years from 2007 to 2012. During those five long years, the French media switched to full-Sarkozy mode, as if he was the only newsworthy person on this planet. Most newspapers would not hesitate to put his picture on the front page on a daily or weekly basis, news web sites were just ablaze with news reports about what he did, what he had done, what he might have done, what people thought about what he had done or should do, together with editorials, discussions, and debates, all centered around just one single person.

Listening to the radio soon became a chore. The journalists were so overwhelmed with this character that everything had to be brought back to Sarkozy sooner or later. At first it was fun: counting the average number of times his name was mentioned on air brought an average frequency of one every 10 seconds or so. It quickly became old, though. After a few weeks I decided to switch off the radio as soon as his name came up. Survival air time went from one minute to: switch on radio, hear "Sarkozy", switch off radio. He literally neutralized journalism in the country for five years.

Since about that time, I stopped listening to French radios and switched over completely to two other news sources: BBC Radio 4, and Bayern 2. Both have comprehensive programs about all kinds of topics and news about the rest of the world and not just one single person.

The revelation came to me in April 2013 after reading this article:

I realized that most news reports are centered on topics I, at best, only vaguely care about. There is nothing I can do about a plane crash, economy fluctuations, or yet another G20 meeting. I am not trying to reduce the importance of these events, just stressing that there are a lot more pressing topics I need to know about and they are not reported in the news.

Since about a year I stopped reading papers or listening to the radio. No TV at home for the past 20+ years, and I can finally declare myself free of these dreadful news reports every morning. I get today's weather by googling on a tablet and can now dedicate my time to reading sources I really care about.

Every now and then, I give it another try: switching on Radio 4 and Bayern 2 is still a joy, you just have to avoid full hours to dodge news reports. I gave up buying newspapers and removed all bookmarks to news web sites from my browsers. I still get some news from friends and colleagues and occasionally spend some time on a news topic of interest, but overall the net result is quite good. No more stress-inducing news about dreadful things out of my control, no more Sarkozyfication, no more reports of the daily death toll.

Net results: less sources of negativity in my life, less reasons to stress. I have so far never encountered a situation where I would think: "Gee, I wish I had known about that before, I should have listened to the news more carefully."

No news is good news.