Michael Hyatt, CEO of Thomas Nelson, recently blogged about his self-imposed media fast. I’d been following him on Twitter while he decided about it, and the fact that he decided to take the plunge after I encouraged him to do so is entirely coincidental. 🙂 But if you’d care to say “great minds think alike” then please feel free to do so.
When Wendy returned from Japan, she saw a headline that encapsulated her entire view of the American media system: “Temporary Tatoos! What every parent should know!” The implication being that there was a hidden danger, and if you didn’t know about it, you were a Bad Parent and your children would meet a Grave End. But now you knew better and could save their lives and souls.
The news media, to be blunt, is not selflessly informing us of anything. Maybe journalism used to have that as its intent, but nowadays, the news media is selling a product. It’s a matter of them asking you to keep returning to them for their service, and in order to do that, they have to create what you perceive to be an unfilled need.
What do papers and TV news want? To sell advertising. In order to do that, they need viewers and readers. In order to get those, they need to provide “news” or something approaching that. My 11 year old laughed, but was later upset, when I explained to him the concept of “the news hole.” That is to say, a newspaper is put together by first laying out all the paid advertisements, and then whatever space is left over is called “the news hole,” and the editorial staff seeks to fill it.
A newspaper owner told me once, point-blank, that if he could sell a newspaper that consisted entirely of ads, he would proceed to do so at once.
Given that, the media “hooks” you to come back by creating uncertainty (“What don’t you know that may kill you?”) and providing a soluti0n (“Everyone else is in a panic but now you know better.”)
Two relatives of mine used to work as park rangers. In the mornings, they awoke to the news and got out of bed at the first report of an unnatural death. Some mornings they’d stay in bed five minutes. Others, they were up like toast out of a toaster (“Fifteen children dead in school bus accident!”)
Do we need that steady diet of adrenaline? Not really. We haven’t hooked up our cable TV. I haven’t gotten a newspaper subscription since moving to Angelborough, and I don’t miss it. I find out enough about the world from other sources. I’m calmer. Sometimes the weather surprises me, but I’m able to cope.
For what it’s worth, Michael Hyatt reports that he’s been feeling calmer and less stressed too. Sometimes what gets trapped in our hearts is really only what we put there in the first place.