Real News or Real Housewives?

Real Housewives of Beverly HillsMy last Surviving Seattle post talked about quieting the noise – the volume, the clutter, the shrill voices that come at us constantly – the chatter from the radio, network and cable TV news, blogs, newspapers, magazines, documentary films, and above all internet websites. From the beginning of the information age the challenge has been to sort and select information, assess its value, and not be overwhelmed by its volume as we try to make effective use of it. The amount of information available is a luxury but also a challenge. How do we manage it as we strive to be our best selves? We can’t be at our personal best if we don’t manage the intake.

I no longer have the demands of a full time job and that gives me the luxury of free and unscheduled time. If there’s fresh snow at the pass I can grab my skis and jump in the car. If I want to go to a movie I can go at 4pm when the crowds are light and the traffic flows. If I want to write something I sit down and write without having to cram it in between work, dinner, and bed. But I like structure and work definitely gives the day structure.

Too much time gives us things like The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills or Jackass. Discipline gives us Op-Ed columnists like Thomas Friedman or David Brooks, which brings me to the point of this post – where do we go for news of current events and how often do we go there?Friedman_

The personal computer and the internet have changed the way we access information. Newspapers, once the primary source of most current events, are struggling to stay alive and to maintain their status as reliable generators and distributors of the news, But, they have lost audience share because readers can get the same news at no charge on their computers. Seattle is just one example of how the internet has changed the news landscape. For most of the 20th century the Seattle Times and the Post-Intelligencer competed to deliver the news to the local population. By the end of the century it had become financially difficult for the two papers to co-exist and a joint operating agreement was crafted to enable them to continue. That worked until the internet took a share of the pie and the P-I went out of business – like the Cleveland Plain Dealer and the San Francisco Examiner. Even the venerable New Orleans Times-Picayune has gone to three day a week distribution. I guess that’s how the free market works, but these changes remove reliable sources of investigative journalism and make it more difficult to assess the credibility of news sources.

None of our adult children takes a daily newspaper. They get their news via the internet or from network or cable TV. It is definitely a way to filter the news but it’s someone else’s filter. I look at internet sites when I’m not at home, but my normal day begins with the New York Times (Marilynn takes the Seattle Times) and CBS Morning News with Charlie Rose and Nora O’Donnell and by 9 o’clock I have looked through all sections of the paper and heard breaking news from two reliable news anchors. During the day I might check headlines at The Huffington Post or CNN, maybe even Fox News to see what the enemy is saying, but I try to limit my time at any one of these sites. Marilynn listens to Rush Limbaugh in the car. I can’t do it, but it is a noise option.

What you miss when you go to the internet are the small articles on the inside pages of the paper – the local news, the obituaries, the theater and book reviews, the articles you notice as you turn the pages. I think it’s worth keeping these things in mind, and it’s why I subscribe to two newspapers and several magazines. If we don’t support them they will disappear and with them the investigative reporting that uncovers the stories behind the stories.

There is good news coming from the TV side however. With TiVo, On Demand and Direct TV we can be selective about what we watch and when we watch it. We don’t have to stay up until midnight to see the late night shows and we don’t have to be home at 2pm to watch Charlie Rose interview a world class economist. I love TiVo and know that I am making better choices about content because I use it. Here’s to making good choices and becoming a well informed citizen.

Real News not Real Housewives.

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