I Didn’t Read The News Today, Oh Boy!

By Jack Canfora

In my experience, there is only one true way to tackle a diet: failingly. This perhaps explains why I am becoming the answer to the seldom asked philosophical question, “What would Orson Welles have looked like if he weren’t a genius?”

Having said that, I’m happy to report that my latest diet has been largely successful: a steep reduction in my news consumption. For most of my life, I’ve been an avid follower of politics and current events. I not only found it interesting (for the most part – financial news will forever sound to me like when the adults spoke in those televised Peanuts specials), but if I can climb on my high horse for moment without hurting it or myself too badly, I believe it’s a basic obligation of a citizen of a democracy to stay informed. Please avert your eyes as I try to dismount: it won’t be pretty.

There. Only fell twice, and they assure me the horse, with some patience and therapy, will walk again. Ever since the 2000 Election, when I was but a young boy (emotionally), I feel that duty has grown even more urgent. And let’s just say that the last four years or so have not been easy on my nervous system. In fact, as the – and forgive my coarseness here – shenanigans of the past administration continued to help drive the world into a bad rewrite of an abandoned Orwell novel, I found myself even more consumed with the events of the day, which seemed to accrue with a speed Chuck Yeager would have found dizzying. I realized it made me edgier (not in the “Oh my god, he’s so cool and daring” way, more the, “What the hell is your problem” way) and an even harder person to be around than normal (a fairly high bar). For much of the summer, I tried to curtail my news intake, knowing that come the fall, I would need to focus on what I thought, in my understated way, was the most consequential moment in American history during my lifetime. And although I felt profound relief in November, by the day after January 6th (I think that was the 7th, but it’s hard to recollect exactly), my anxiety had reached its peak, or nadir, depending on how you view it and/or are comfortable using the word “nadir.”

By then, thank Buddha, my work as the Artistic Director of my online theater company kicked into high gear, and over the next two months, that work consumed most of my waking hours. And though that had inherent stresses of its own, they were at least stressors that I had a large part in shaping and affecting. I allowed – or, more aptly, had little choice – but to stop riding the carnival of continuous chaos that is cable news (I apologize for that flagrant alteration. I will do everything in my power not to repeat that. That was hard on both of us). And while I still feel I have to at least have a sense of which way the wind is blowing, I don’t feel the need, to borrow from Bob Dylan, to constantly check in with my weatherman.

If you’ve felt a similar stress, I cannot recommend a News Diet highly enough. Please don’t misunderstand my, I’m not suggesting you starve yourself of news, but try to limit your intake to bite-sized portions. I’d also urge you to avoid the empty calories of nightly opinion shows, or at least cut back (I can’t stay mad at you, Anderson Cooper, with your eyes I can get lost in for days). Here’s to better news in the days ahead, and less of it.

Follow me, please, on Twitter and Instagram @jackcanfora

Check out my personal blog: http://www.thewritingonthepaddedwall.com

And, one last thing, and then I swear I’ll leave you alone, please check out my online theater, New Normal Rep: http://www.newnormalrep.org

26 thoughts on “I Didn’t Read The News Today, Oh Boy!

  1. I agree with your recommendation. The past four years has made me very skeptical of what I see and hear about current events, which I guess is a good thing. It’s all too bad because democracy depends on a free press. Thanks for your post.

  2. It is hard to find news outlets that are unbiased and focus on the objective facts. More and more, unfortunately, are engaging in this narrative warfare, interpreting events through their preferred ideology.

  3. Completely agree Jack. To a point we need to stay informed. For example, there’s a pandemic outside. So I should social distance, wash my hands, wear a mask and get vaccinated when I can. Beyond that do I really need to obsessively check case numbers and mortality rates? Is that really helping me or anyone else? Great post as always. 🙏

  4. Volcanos, everywhere! Carnage and disappointments, a buffet of sad salad. No thanks, I’ll take the chocolate ice cream instead. I’m going for the Serenely Ignorant-and-Glad-About-it-at-least-Today chubby cheeks. Sometimes you just gotta.
    The reality we’re fed though, seems to waiver wildly according to our viewing history, yes? I am now very careful what words my query strings contain. Don’t you ask what showed up, but it’s just amazing how fast a parent can leap in front of a speeding screen to save the children from Unbidden Pornageddon! Nooooo!
    So yeah, I can relate. A news diet is in order, for sure.

    1. When I was a substitute teacher, when we took the kids to the computer lab we had to be vigilant. Even though the school had state of the art filter and parental control software, somehow sites that were educational – but not in the subject matter we wanted – would sneak thru.

  5. OMG! I couldn’t empathize more. During the past administration, I thought I would lose what little sanity I have. Turning news sources way down helped me survive. I’m no longer cringing at the thought of clicking through the news for my afternoon reads. Although, I think I’m still reading less than I did.

  6. I did that after Trump was elected, and I also divorced myself from friends who were vocal of their support of him. It kept me sane. I’ve been well-informed since before I started voting and was once employed working with Community Organizers so I was in the thick of politics and that didn’t get to me as much as the last four years did.

    Congratulations at managing to save your mental health.

  7. I don’t watch much news anymore. There is nothing I can do about it. Why should I aggravate myself over that which I cannot affect? Give me 30 minutes in the morning and I know everything I can handle.

  8. Jack, I can understand how you are feeling about the news, in particular the political kind. Contrarily, I find myself in a position where I am urgently reading more news because I’ve neglected to be informed in the past. The last administration has awakened me to the perils that I, as an ignorant citizen, have caused.

  9. I’ve had a similar journey except that my body has developed a news intolerance. About three minutes into any newscast, my stomach actually starts to hurt and I have to turn it off. This isn’t metaphor or hyperbole; this actually is happening to me now. And certain channels (I bet there’s no need to mention them) I cannot stomach for three whole seconds; in fact, certain anchors send me frantically looking for the remote or running out of the room entirely if I can’t find it in time to not hear. I guess after several years of increasing intake to an increasing intensity, I’m full up and can’t take more without vomiting. Now, that last bit might have been hyperbole.

  10. A good post, thank you. I retired from teaching political science and I always urged my students to stay informed and get involved. I hope none of them reads this. I swore off TV “news” more than a decade ago. Like John Stewart said, TV news is like a heat-seeking missile, on the trail of disagreement. But now, like you, but perhaps even more completely, I have eliminated “news, “ even the New York Times, from my diet. Reading the news creates stress I need to be without. The latest virus figures and dangers? After a year, I am done with that. I prefer reading about people doing adventurous things, like walking the PCT. No news, more time for exercise, reading less stressful and more interesting things, and writing. Longer walks.

  11. I think like anything it’s important to take news in in moderation. And as AP likes to say, take it with a grain of salt. Be discerning about what you’re reading and viewing, and know when enough is enough.

  12. …it’s so… well, odd. Daily… at least the WSJ (before, when it was the oddest daily gem of words on paper, not after becoming… cheeseburger wrapper,) another at least one national from wherever local was at the time, then weekly monthly quarterly Barrons and the Economist and The World and I and unsteady streams of other things…. today…none, almost. Not even TV talk and talk. Journals, insofar as news, don’t count, I suppose. Data, only or mostly. And one wonders….

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