“The man who reads nothing at all is better educated than the man who reads nothing but newspapers.” - Thomas Jefferson
Around 2 years ago I stopped reading and watching mainstream news. I don’t read a single newspaper, offline or online, and I don’t watch any TV at all. I recently…
The founder of incredibly usable social media tool Buffer doesn’t read or watch mainstream news at all. And he says that makes him happier and more productive. Ever try doing that? Think it’s a good approach?
I’m delighted that he’s happier and more productive. I can’t decide whether I want him voting, though. He can’t possibly be less informed than people who live in partisan echo chambers, but still, his ignorance of the news troubles me if he’s helping choose the direction of the country or his community.
One thing I would point out is that he never said that he doesn’t read, or that he’s uneducated. He can know plenty about things that might be relevant to a political debate just by reading professional reports of social science fields, talking to people in his community, drawing on his personal experiences in the real world. The “news” he refers to (repeatedly using the phrase “mainstream media” intentionally) cherrypicks what information to share, and often slants in in a way that makes it more sensational to keep people watching. “News” outlets don’t have to be the middle-man for information, though.
Current events in politics are certainly hard to keep track of without the help of mainstream media, but I find it exceedingly easy to just read the statements made by the candidates themselves (on their own websites, perhaps) or watch the speeches and leave out the newscaster’s commentaries on what I should think about them.
It takes a little work to be informed without a news team doing all the research beforehand (and then presenting it to you with a punchy musical underscore), but the question he underlines, I think, is- do those sources of news even give you anything that’s relevant or accurate in the first place?
Perhaps to be truly informed, we have to do all that work no matter what. And watching or reading their “junk food” is a waste of time.
Exceptions I would make: a moderate dose of world news affairs, but choose your source wisely.
I would also add that I think it’s more of a criticism of the modern news industry than reporting itself. The ideal of distributing information and discussing events is a basic good, but the practice that’s almost always put into action is a waste of time.
It’s hard to argue with that, although as a journalist I certainly hope what I do isn’t almost always a waste of time. Yes, Joel writes pretty well, and he seems smart and thoughtful about the choices he’s made.
My original, knee-jerk comment was going to be something snarky like, “Just don’t vote, and you and I will get along fine,” but then some of what plainenglish said occurred to me, and I decided to be a little more thoughtful myself. As I indicated above, I’d trust Joel in a voting booth as much as I would somebody who only watches Fox News or MSNBC.
Thanks, plainenglish, for articulating what I wasn’t able to put into words.