I Don’t Watch the News – Why Do You?

by Nate St. Pierre on April 22, 2012

I don’t watch the news because I don’t want violence and crime and fear and hatred pushed into my living room every single night. To me it’s a total no-brainer. But from what I can tell, I’m in the minority here – if not in thought, then at least in action.

This is not meant to be a hate post or a rant – I want it to be a discussion. I want to learn. I would honestly like to hear from you and understand why most people turn on the news and watch it. I’ll tell you more about why I think it’s a bad thing, and then you tell me your view in the comments, okay? We’ll chat. Civilly, please. Abusers will be blocked. And I want to be clear – when I’m talking about watching the news, I’m not talking about catching the score of today’s game, or trying to learn about a certain something or other. I’m talking about consistently watching the local evening news as a pastime, as if it’s one of the regular shows you watch. Clear? Okay, let’s go…

I think we can all agree that bad news gets most of the promotion and most of the feature stories, yes? I mean, that’s the stereotypical bad rap on news: “If it bleeds, it leads.” I don’t think we’ll get much argument on this point, but just in case, here’s a representative report – a Lear Center study from 2010 on local TV news in a major US market: http://learcenter.org/pdf/LANews2010.pdf. Crime stories got the lead over 30% of the time, and that’s only crime. That doesn’t include fatal accidents, natural catastrophes, etc, and it also doesn’t include all the other negative reporting from deeper in the show. “The news” is primarily bad news. Fair?

With the negativity being a relative given, we of course have to acknowledge that the next biggest piece of the pie is commercials. Over 25% of any given newscast is given over to advertisements. So my contention is that when you turn on the news, it’s probably close to 50% junk. And to bring in a software development phrase, “Garbage in, garbage out.”

When I looked at the front page of 8 local news sites last night (4 in Milwaukee and 4 in Chicago) in preparation for this post, I found that 4 of the 8 led with violence of some kind. Specifically in Chicago, two featured the stabbing death of an 11-year-old boy. I consider that to be junk – bad stuff coming into my awareness and filling my mind with sadness, pain, fear, and anger. I am well aware that bad things happen in this world. Come on, I’ve run philanthropy projects for three years now – I know how ugly people can be. I label this input and its accompanying affect on my person as junk. They’re promoting this content because it it’s sensational. It’s horrific. It hits people on a visceral level. And for whatever reason, it sells. People repeatedly tune in for it. And I honestly cannot understand why. If someone could tell me the answer, nicely, I would appreciate it.

I am not saying that you’re a bad person for watching this stuff, but I am saying that I can’t do it myself. Let me put it this way: I have a 10-year-old son. Many of you do, too. I would never let him watch the news at this age, at least most of the stories they feature (and it’d be hard to separate the good from the bad in a quick-hit newscast, so one can’t really watch ‘just the good stuff’). I mean, what’s he gonna think when he sees that a kid his age got stabbed to death while playing outside? He’s going to worry about the same thing happening to him. I know, because that’s what I used to worry about. I can still remember one article I read in Reader’s Digest when I was a little boy about a man getting stabbed in the stomach and dying, and for months I was afraid it would happen to me. And that was just some random guy in an article, not a boy my age in a neighborhood like mine in my own city.

But maybe I’m in the minority again here. Do you let your 10-year-old watch the news? Why or why not?

And if many of us wouldn’t let our young ones put all that ugly stuff into their minds, why would we put it into our own? Of course adults can and do ingest so much more poison than kids, which I understand, but when these images and words and stories serve no useful purpose in our lives but to raise up feelings of unease within us, what’s the @%@#% point of watching?

I see two major problems with watching the news on a regular basis. And yes, I’m aware of how sweeping a generalization that sounds, but unless you can show me an easy way to cut out the bad from newscasts and keep only the good, I’ll have to stick with it.

It poisons your mind.
How many times does someone walk outside and get murdered in the city of Chicago in a given year? 435 times, according to the latest FBI statistics. And how many times does someone walk outside and not get murdered in the city of Chicago in a given year? 2,081,425,640 times, according to me (population x days/year x 2 trips out avg/day). That means that the back-of-the-envelope-calculation odds of you getting murdered when you leave your house is 0.0000002, or 1 out of 5,000,000 times. That’s five million, yo.

The odds of you getting murdered in Chicago are so astronomically low that it would be ridiculous to even think about worrying about it. And yet what do you see virtually every night on the news? A report about someone getting murdered. Put that into your brain every day for years, and tell me you won’t get a vastly disproportionate view of how dangerous your city is. And of course that impacts the way you think and act and speak and a host of other things.

Let’s forget about the practicality for a second and think about something a little more abstract. If you’re filling your head with these kinds of thoughts, aren’t you displacing the same volume of thoughts that could be focused on better things? For instance, coming up with ways to make this world a better place, rather than complaining about how bad it currently is? When you’re focused on positive solutions, you tend to see more possibilities. When you’re focused on the negative, you tend to see more problems.

It steals your time.
This one’s easy. Let’s say you spend an hour a day consuming news in one form or another. If most of the arguments above hold true, it’s a very counterproductive way to spend that hour. If you instead spent an hour a day doing something proactive, be it as simple as consuming positive ideas, or possibly the more complex act of creating beauty, how much better would life be for you and even those around you? I guarantee you’d be healthier. 100% guarantee that. And the people around you would probably be a lot better off, too.

So here’s the deal, guys. I’m not saying that life should be all pancakes and roses. Seriously, I’m not even an optimist. But if I have the choice to ingest garbage or create beauty, I’ll take the second option every time.

This is a pretty strong opinion piece, but I know there are two sides to every topic. I really want to hear your side. Tell me what you think, and let’s discuss.

(Image source: striatic)

  • I don’t watch the news either. Part of it is sheer laziness. However, I also just have no desire to, for many of the reasons you don’t watch it. I know there are bad things in this world, and life is hard. I experience it every single day with the teenagers and families I work with – I don’t need it shoved in my face every single night on the news as well. Also, many times it just frustrates me or makes me angry. Especially now that it’s an election year. It’s not really informative – it’s just another source of media trying to get attention. So I choose not to watch. There are times I will watch on occasion simply for the fact that I know I need to be informed. I’ve lived here in Missouri for four years now, but I still know more about life in Chicago than I do here in this town, which may or may not be a good thing. Therefore, there are times when I just won’t turn the TV off after Glee or New Girl or something and have local news on in the background. But mainly, I figure that if something important happens in the world I’m going to find out about it whether I watch the news or not. And even though some people may say that makes me ignorant, I don’t mind. I don’t need my life and mind crowded with all of the other “news” out there.

    • Oh wow, I totally forgot about the election year stuff. Yes, that makes it more obnoxious, but I’m going to focus on just the “standard” news situation. 🙂

      I agree with you that if something important happens in the world (or locally), I’ll hear about it through my network (usually much quicker than the news programs anyway).

      I’ve heard the “you need to be informed” argument many times as well, but at the end of the day you’re just being informed as to the topics and the slant they put on it anyway. And I’d rather not be informed about every bad thing – I want to focus on the good. As my dad always told me:
      Philippians 4:8 – Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatwoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things. 

  • You’re absolutely right, Nate.  Local TV news is the worst.  Most of it doesn’t help you make informed decisions in your life or be a better citizen.  And I believe its focus on violence and crime make one (mistakenly) believe that our world is more dangerous than it really is.  Your decision not to watch it is entirely justified.  I myself once gave up television entirely for several years.  I’m edging back into it now, but only commercial-free internet streaming variety.  So far so good.  And the only thing I watch that can be considered “newsy” is Rachel Maddow’s video podcast.

    • I can’t remember a time that I actually DID watch the news, except when I was young and my parents had it one. And like you, I didn’t have a TV for the past few years, although yes, I’m edging back into it with streaming shows, etc. 

      The world isn’t as bad as the news makes it out to be.

  • Sandy Webb

    I used to be a total news junkie. Frankly, I was addicted. Then…..my husband was diagnosed with terminal cancer and survived only 7 months post diagnosis. He was 49 when he died.  It was then that I decided to get rid of as negativity in my life that I could. I started with the news. Progressed to negative people…etc. etc.

    I do turn on the local news in the morning because I have a lengthy commute and I want to know traffic information. I also listen in the morning so I am not a complete idiot about current events!

    • Wow, that’s tough. I was never the biggest believer in getting rid of negativity, etc, but I’ve definitely realized the importance (at least for me and how my body reacts) as I’ve gotten older.

  • I can’t say that I regularly watch the news, it just doesn’t interest me.

    • I’ve felt that way since I was a kid, too. I don’t think I’ve watched the news in over 20 years.

  • I also do not watch the news. When I lived with my parents it was on every night at 6 and 10. Very depressing stuff. Now that I live on my own I don’t want to watch negative news (I also stopped watching horror films for the same reason). And it was always back to back, someone was shot, someone died in a car crash, someone fled the county jail, it is ridiculous.  I somewhat believe in the law of attraction and decided that I needed to focus on being happy and in the moment.

    Negative news sells because its much like a car crash. You don’t want to look, but you just do. Traditional news sources also need all the attention they can get. With internet becoming more and more dominant, I think tv and radio outlets are losing ground. Also, I don’t trust the media to give me accurate information and often I feel like it is spun to benefit someone.

    Negativity vs. Positivity: I don’t know why so many decide to be so negative. It’s a choice. And those that choose positivity should voice it. I could continue to go on my own little rant, but I won’t 😉

    • Yep Melissa, I stopped watching horror movies about 20 years ago for the same reason. I don’t need to fill myself up with any more bad stuff than already finds its way in. And I sure don’t want to be scared all the time. Horror films are one kind of scared, but seeing all the bad things going on around you all the time promotes another kind of scared, you know?

      I’d rather focus my brain cycles on something that can make a positive impact on others.

      You can rant or not on here, or you can write your own response on your own site. 😉

      Always happy to have you – let me know next time you’re in the city!

  • Joychristin

    Hi Nate,

    I agree with you.  I do not watch the news either (I actually do not have TV, but when I did, I did not watch the news).  I believe that what I invest in grows, so I invest in life enriching.  I understand that crime, violence, drama exists–I worked in a hospital in a low income, gang ridden area–however the news tends to sensationalize it for the highest ratings/advertising dollars numbers game.  May we instead work to prevent it and curb it, instead of hype and “celebrate” it. 

  • Cathie

    I agree 100%.  I stopped watching the news awhile ago, and I get so upside about all that horrible stuff that sticks in your head – seriously, don’t even tell me (myMIL loves to do the “did you hear about the…..”)   I have a 9 year old son, and I don’t even like him to hear the news “teasers” because then I have to try to explain, as if I even could.   I also agree that the world isn’t nearly as horrible as the media tries to get us to believe.

    • Cathie

      upset, not upside.  ????????????

  • Matt Peters

    I don’t watch a lot of news, but I do read a lot of news. If I had my choice, I’d choose to read about revitalized neighborhoods, kids winning science fairs, or cures for diseases. But, on the other hand, I also read the negativity, the sadness, and the horror, because I believe it keeps my own life in check.  It keeps me from being selfish and hung up on my own really, really, trivial woes. Oh, gee, I need to repaint my bathroom? Yeah that’s tough, I should share my hard times with a parent who is burying a child, or a victim of a natural disaster. Yanno?

    Which totally does not invalidate anyone else’s perfectly good reasons to not watch the news.

    • Yep, I think  it’s definitely a good thing to stay grounded in reality and realize the struggles going on around you, but to keep that balance so you don’t wallow in it all the time to the point of paralysis.

      • Pamela

        No body does that. This is your point of view, because that is how you define watching the news. You’re assuming that when people watch the news that they define it as wallowing in it all of the time to the point of paralysis. That is the way you interpret watching the news; there are other people who define it differently. There are some of us who can watch the news, hear what they hear, see what they see and forget about it and move on to something else. This part of their day becomes past history and they move on with the other aspects of their lives. They only watched it once just to be informed and they moved on with the rest of their day and when night time comes, they have forgotten all about what they saw and heard earlier and they were able to relax, lighten up, and enjoy themselves. That’s how I watch the news; that’s why I don’t have a problem with watching it. It only becomes an object of fear if that is the way you appraise it. My husband thinks very much like you do about the news; we have different views, but I still love him. I just feel so sorry for him that he feels he has to be in such a state of fear and anxiety all of the time over nothing. We don’t live in a plastic bubble. He turns the channel every time the news comes on; this is not a realistic way to be. It does not solve the fear problem; it makes it worse. Face life, no matter what it throws at you, that’s the only way your children are going to be made strong in this world. If you are afraid, they will be afraid too.

  • Very interesting post, Nate.  I’m surprised the only people commenting are anti-news.  I majored in journalism and one of the reasons i didn’t go into broadcast is because of this exact reason. I can’t handle all the negative and after first hand personal experience with negative news (my highschool was on oprah) i lost all respect for how news gets twisted and portrayed.

     I did go into media spot buying for a while- and I’ll tell you – its all about the Nielsen ratings. It’s a business. Sensationalism and drama sells. The network wants to stay in business and it will attract more viewers that way. It wants to outdo its competition. The do gooder who raised money for the homeless shelter or the family that died in a plane crash on their way to their child’s wedding – this triggers an emotional reaction and people are more likely to tune in.  Sadly, it is human nature to be interested in the dramatic and the gossip.Not daily, but if am getting dressed in the morning and want to watch TV, I’ll usually put on the news.  I don’t like the negative clips, but I do like to have an idea of what is going on in the world around me, outside of my bubble. I think its important to be aware of current events. They usually cover some national or world topics in addition to the local BS -so I find that more informational than watching Saved By The Bell. But I agree with you, I don’t like infiltrating my mind with all the negative.and election time – no one hates election season more than media buyers. that takes all of our inventory! and its all bashing and negative and I could go on… but I digress. 

    • I’m actually really surprised that no one’s come out on the pro side, either. I had expected a bit of a pushback, honestly. 

      And yes, I was wondering if it was all about the business, too. Like, does more sensationalism equal more money? It sounds like you’re saying it does. In that sense, it’s almost as if these programs are no different than a typical Wednesday-night drama, and it needs to be shocking and give you cliffhangers, etc in order to grab more viewers and higher ratings and sell more expensive ads and blah blah blah, yeah?

  • azbuckeye

    Interesting discussion!  I used to watch and read the news faithfully.  Then my work schedule began crowding out the news.  Then the internet made it easier to read (and watch) the news when it is convenient.  But recently I have made a point of watching (DVR-ing) the local nightly news. 

    Of course I am very much aware that the news I see (and read) is selected and edited.    But then if I avoid news, I’m selecting — de-selecting — news as well.  I would rather be aware of what the media narrative is and remind myself that what I see on the screen is like an artist’s rendition.

    Would I let my 10 year old daughters watch the news?  Yes, we did, back in Chicago.  Today, those grown-up daughters live in a large Arizonan city.  One keeps her kids away from the local park; the other never locks her door.  My wife has recently accepted the folly of always locking a glass door and has stopped locking it during the day.

    BTW, I also let my 10 year old grandson join us in cooking dinner for homeless people at a local shelter.  He has not developed a fear of becoming homeless.  Perhaps the solution is to involve people in enough alternative activities that their perspective is not established by a single narrative?

    My greater concern is with watching the stories preceding the news.  The series “Friends” way-back-when influenced young people in how they saw normal social relationships, and that series’ successors reinforce the message today.  The plethora of cop shows teach viewers that it’s good to violate people’s rights because it’s for a justified cause.  And the whole line-up of MSNBC shows from Morning Joe to Rachel Maddow provides a  violently distorted picture of society — a picture that viewers are assured is real.

    How about this — the problem is not watching a little news.  The problem is being able to watch too little news!

    • Man, this one’s really interesting – a good pro/con analysis. I love the idea of DVRing the news and keeping up with the stuff you need and want, vs. a lot of the junk. Good point.

  • Kjsbelle

    I avoid the news as a rule because I find I catch enough through other people telling me things. Perfect example was the other day while watching the Muppet movie I said something about putting an obnoxious  Muppet in the dryer  to quiet him down to which my husband replied…”Oh, did you hear about that?” I said “No. and I don’t want to.” as my mind ran wild with oh God don’t tell me someone put their baby in a dryer… I still don’t know what he was referring to.

    I make it a point not to watch others misfortune. I don’t gawk at car accidents (ever since my good friend was killed in one). When I was in grade school I remember people pulling over on the side of the road to watch my house that was on fire burn and I hated them for making my tragedy their entertainment.

    I choose not to be part of a group that sensationalizes the most awful event in a person’s life. I do my best to keep my boys from being directly exposed to news and rather teach them to respect others right to privacy and how one choice in life can change it forever. Good or Bad.


    • Wow, I had the same experience the other day with someone saying something about “that dryer story,” and I left the room. I don’t want to hear about that crap. At all.

      You’re right – other people’s pain should not be my viewing pleasure. Amen.

  • I don’t watch the news because I don’t watch TV at all, but I do occasionally read news articles online. What I don’t do is set aside regular time to read through a newspaper, and I wrote recently about how some people of an older generation think that that’s a sign of the decline of engaged, educated citizens, but I disagree. When someone challenged me on the importance of regularly getting news from a reliable source, I explained all the reasons I don’t consider newspapers an ideal source of information.

    In my experience, when people argue about this, it comes down to the question, “Do we have a moral obligation to stay informed of what’s going on in the world?” And I don’t think we do, because we can’t be informed of everything, so we have to pick which things to be informed about, and I’d rather be informed about the particular topic areas I’m most passionate about and am going to act on than to get a broad, shallow understanding on a bunch of things I’m not going to do anything about. Not that those are the only options, of course, but I don’t think that the way today’s generation gathers news is inferior to the way our parents gathered news.

    • azbuckeye

       Glad you wrote so I could learn about your blog. 

      Recently I had a email discussion with a friend about antebellum slavery.  It was clear that we both knew conflicting things and argued from  conflicting assumptions based upon those conflicting facts.    It may be that I was 100% right and he was 100% wrong — or more likely the facts I knew — A, C, and E — were correct and the facts he knew — B, D, and F — were correct, and the ways we drew our assumptions from them were both half-valid, because each of us only recognized half of the relevant facts.  However, each of us could reference communities that would support the narratives we each accepted.  It turned out to be a discussion better off dropped.

      A 19th century humorist said it’s better to know nothing than to know what ain’t so.  I suppose.     The problem, tho, is in knowing what should not be known.

      I’m not sure the answer is to only know about things that we choose to be interested in.  While we may not have a moral obligation to know everything that’s going on in the world, if we limit ourselves to the fun stuff, then how effectively do we live out the gospel?

      • Note that I didn’t say things we’re interested in, as in “fun stuff,” I said, “the particular topics areas I’m most passionate about.” So for example, I have friends who are very involved in human rights organizations and follow news about human trafficking issues very closely. On the other hand, I work in education and am more likely to follow news about education reform and write to my senators about that. If I were to read the newspaper every day I would get a lot of information about a lot of different things — this murder, that bill in Congress, this Middle Eastern conflict — and I would do absolutely nothing with most of it. I feel my time is better spent going deep on the area of education and related areas, being extremely informed and up-to-date, and taking action that will have the biggest impact. Another thing I wrote previously is about how awareness is meaningless without action, and given that we have limited time and energy I think focusing that on areas where we’re most likely to take action to make the world a better place is a better approach than having a shallow knowledge about a whole bunch of things that someone in a newsroom decided you need to know about but which you’re not actually going to act on in any way.

        • I love reading discussions like this between other people on topics like this – I get to listen in and learn. 🙂

          I just want to say that my favorite part of all of this is your comment that we all have limited time and energy, and should focus on where we’re most likely to take action and have the biggest impact. In fact, I may see another post coming from this idea of ours, and the hot-button topic that it always seems to rear up from – politics.

          People always get on me for not being politically informed and active, and I always say, “That’s just not my battle. I have other things I’m working on.”

          Yet for some reason that doesn’t seem to be a good enough answer. Yeah, I should do a post on that…

        • azbuckeye

           You’re right:  You said passionate.  I equated that with fun and should not have.  My excuse is I tend to have fun getting into passionate issues, including the ones that make me angry.  (If people didn’t enjoy being angry, why else would they get angry so often!)
          And you’re right again; we all have limited resources for awareness and responding.  So we can’t know productively about everything.  And yeah, I stopped getting the daily paper when I realized I was spending an hour and a half to read stuff I didn’t need to know.  (Now of course I spend even longer on the internet — reading stuff I don’t need to do anything with — like this blog and yours, but what the hey! )
          However, it’s helpful for me to be aware of what’s going on *out there* so that I can exercise opportunities sometimes.  One example — one night I came home and my wife was upset and said she needed some money.  It was for a kid she saw on the news who needed funds for a bone marrow transplant.  We’re not normally aware of kids like that, but the news made it possible (Eph 2.10).  Kinda like Nate made us aware of needs.  Had I not wasted time on the internet, I would never have known of Love Drop.
          I’d say the world benefits from having both foxes and hedgehogs, but would far poorer if it had only one or the other.

          • WubberDuckie

            Good example of epigenetics right here, “I tend to have fun getting into passionate issues, including ones that make me angry”.

  • I’m a total news junkie…
    guess that passion for journalism follows me wherever I go. Though I do
    have one rule: no news before bed. It disturbs my sleep.

    • I will certainly not question why it disturbs your sleep. I will simply point to the entire article. 😉


    • I’m not sure I see why a passion for journalism would lead one to watch local television news.

      • I’m not sure why a passion for athletics would lead one to follow their local sports team.

        Oh, wait…

        • One presumes in that case that the locals on the field are actually doing athletics or a reasonable facsimile thereof.  

      • I’m not sure why a passion for athletics would lead one to follow their local sports team.

        Oh, wait…

    • I’m not sure I see why a passion for journalism would lead one to watch local television news.

  • azbuckeye

    OK, maybe watching the news is not all that necessary:  http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=oK1xSJPHdCU 

  • sel

    i just wanted to give some quick feedback since you specifically encouraged discussion, and i appreciate that. to be honest, i haven’t read all the comments (yet?) so i may not be adding much. 

    anyway, i remember not liking the news from a very young age, probably under 10. my mom watched it often.  i didn’t yet know why i didn’t like it, i just knew it gave me an uneasy, edgy, almost nauseous feeling.  i’ve avoided it since then, although i’ve always had a passion for writing and (quality) written journalism.
    as i’ve gotten older, and am spending time at mom’s house again, i’ve lightly inquired as to why she watches the news. usually, the answers are: so there’s noise in the house (she’s lived alone since i moved out as a teenager) and so she can know what’s going on. my personal opinion is that it also involves her having something to talk about. she’s better at having superficial conversation than discussing deeper concepts, and i think watching the news helps her feel safe staying at that level. it is something that has always bothered me, and luckily we’ve been able to have more meaningful conversations over the last few years, though i’ve been encouraging genuine communication for a long time. 
    to her credit, she sees right though the ‘games’ of advertising, and will openly critique most television (and print) ads. but there’s something about that ‘magic box’ that she adores, and i’m not sure i’ll ever understand it. 

  • It seems you are not the only one that does not watch the news…I only watch it when I need to know the weather and can’t find a report online that is detailed enough or when there is a feel-good story advertised…Every time I see any other new stories (headliners), it depresses me.  Even the headlines I read on my homepage are enough to feel sad about the world and how things are…the news makes it seem like everything is bad, and there is very little good out there…which just is not true!

  • There are an immense amount of dangerous memes floating about that will harm you or convince you that you are going to die. I prefer the ones that will enlighten you in a significant way. I do not watch the news. I already know there are some bad people out there. I also know that the good-hearted far out-number the bad. Hulu I watch for entertainment, but even they have a constant barrage of anti-smoking campaigns using people who have horrible conditions who all blame it on smoking. Truth is I met a 101 year old man back in Kansas and asked him what was his secret. He told me a little whiskey and a cigar and two meals a day. I hate the drug commercials, that disclaim, or I really should say, claim, that a possible result of taking their miracle pill to fight depression, is suicide. It is like they are saying try our pill and we will not blame you for killing yourself if it fails to make you happy. I am not saying all meds are bad, some really do allow you to live better lives. My kids do not get to watch a lot of tv and I do not buy war games for them to play. I told them the other day citing I think it was Morgan Freemans,through the wormhole, that most likely they were going to live 700 years or so and not only did they believe me, they were delighted. My point is I agree with you, be careful what you tend to believe, it is like a magnet. I try to practice kindness and share knowledge with people. I lived in Haiti for 4 years and if the first-world depressed were to travel there, well they would see people with nothing still laughing. TV and the ads put way too much pressure on the weakened minds of people who have been barraged with negative memes their whole lives. I do not watch the news. I turn of the sound for commercials.

  • Angela

    I don’t watch the news much I have been accused of being ignorant or not caring what’s going on in the world but I prefer to learn of sad stories which I can actually do something about and then at least I can feel I am doing something to help support my family, friends or those in my community. Nate you would like this broadcast they have in New Zealand, Good Sorts, a story about everyday people doing good things. You do have to have the news on to see it but I usually just catch this bit when my boyfriend is watching it. Really heart-warming stuff 🙂

  • Drapeta

    I would like to add to the discussion.  I do not watch the news at all for reasons that have been mentioned before.  My addition is that I really detest it when someone sends me a link to something ‘funny’ and it turns out to be someone on fire, or crashing into a car or falling off a bike.  The second I see it coming I shut the browser down, or just don’t click it.  Words are power, and sometimes you don’t even want to have someone describe a video to you.  I have hung up skype conversations for less.

  • Liz

    I dont watch any news. I enjoy the rock I live under. 

  • Okay, I’m late to the party, but here’s my take. I watch the news every single morning. First of all, I studied political science in college, so there’s a part of me that’s really drawn to current events. But I watch the news for a couple of reasons. First of all, I have a need to be informed about what’s going on in the world. Ignorance bothers me. Second of all, this is kind of tied into the first part, but if I don’t know what’s going on how can I ever make a positive change? I guess the news doesn’t get me down because it sets me into motion, thinking how can I help fix this? And because I’m able to keep it in perspective – I know that one murder in Milwaukee doesn’t mean the whole city is full of murderers. I generally don’t worry about it happening to me (I worry about car accidents, but that’s more because I’ve been in one so I have that past traumatic experience). And the news doesn’t always focus on the negatives. Take this past weekend for example – the Sikh temple shooting in Oak Creek. I was watching Fox6 this morning and yesterday morning and yes, they talked about the bad stuff , but they also talked about how the temple president died trying to stop the gunman, about what a good job the police did from keeping it from being a worse tragedy, took the opportunity to inform people about the Sikh religion, emphasized the Sikh community’s willingness to forgive and the peace surrounding them, and things like that. I choose to focus on the positives in the bad and also how I can work to change the bad. Oh and I never sit down and watch the news exclusively – I’m almost always working on something else at the time and completely tune out the commercials. And I hope to teach my son how to watch the news someday with a critical eye and with perspective. 

    • PK421

      So you watch propaganda every morning and treat it as if it’s actual useful information? If you are trying to make the world a better place, you are reacting to the past instead of creating a positive vision for the future and bringing that into reality. Otherwise, you are trying to fix the past. News keeps us ignorant because it only presents one side. No matter how much you watch, read, whatever, you will still be ignorant and you have been poisoned with the violent imagery of the news and given a skewed image of reality. Even a show that does present both points of view still has a bias and you are going to be influenced by that bias.

    • Quincy Lee Stephen Bingham

      I would go as far as to say it makes you “ignorant” to watch the news, but I will say that there are much better, unfiltered sources of information and most importantly, uses of time. News sources online are often times 10x’s more accurate, numerous, thorough, and up-to-date then anything you can catch on television. The opportunity costs of watching the news are astronomical, in my opinion. Most high-impact long term results require time, care, and patience, yes even political ones. In order to remain focused you can only do so much during any given moment of time. The news is simply a distraction, because it’s a revolving door of things that are not only are mostly negative, but at the very least they have no real positive affect on what you’re focusing on at the moment…even if there is a small segment about something you are directly involved in, it will be give or take a half a minute to a minute tops and then right back to the carousal of irrelevant information that is nothing more than information junk food and is distracting us of what we need to focused on. I suggest finding a steady RSS feed online that is highly relevant to what you’re working either at work or in life.

  • WubberDuckie

    I think it comes down to epigenetics in that people handle hormones differently. For instance, I do not watch the news because I do not react well to surges of adrenaline. The chemical cascade caused by a surge of adrenaline in my body may effect any given person differently. I try to keep in mind when asking another person their perspective that there is the possibility that I may never truely understand their personal reasons due to genetic differences. As for your article, I understand you are a writer encouraging reader involvement for obvious reasons and that I add an uptick to your viewer numbers. Happy holidays!

  • Adam

    All my news awareness comes from Satirical sources which mock the establishment. I kind of know what’s going on in the world but I don’t take it too seriously.

  • Rob Barsony


    This “news” we watch on tv or read or listen to on the radio does not reflect, for most people, what is reality in their lives. It means nothing except to feel empathy for those who are suffering. Unfortunately we feel less for those suffering beside us than those thousands of miles away. That’s because those who may be suffering beside us are not recorded on television. in the same way , those suffering rape and burns and murder all over the world are not being seen either until the cameras start rolling.. Did you ever notice how much rape is going on in Darfur until the BBC leaves the area? Well, IT’S STILL HAPPENING..Nothing has changed. It’s just not packaged for you. So I believe that this empathy is false and being generated by our natural tendency to be empathetic, but as a direct result of media agencies wanting to sell commercials. Thats money. Get it? people are being sucked in to watching reading and listening to a very small portion of fatalities that would be perceived to best suit us so that ratings will bring money. Let us understand that tragedy is all around us. Don’t allow television to make the population in western worlds to use us and made us feel that we are affecting change just by listening/watching/reading it. Don’t make yourself feel better simply because you are not one of those people you are watching. find other ways to find happiness and joy. Be involved in the community and then write/recorded it and let the population feel empathy for others’ joy and not their pain.

  • Nate

    I don’t watch the news and I agree with what you said. I find that amazing how the world views the negative side but not the positive. and you know if you try to tell people this they will tell you that you are burying your head in the sand, and the way I see it is that if you view only the negative in this world than YOU are burying your head in sand for not realizing the positive in the world and that life can be beautiful if we set our minds on the right things.

  • Chloe

    I completely agree. I hardly ever watch news. Problem is when something especially tragic happens it’s all anyone wants to talk about. Like the bombing in Boston. That’s all people want to talk about. Before that it was those poor children who were murdered at Sandy Hook. But I guess I still am doing better emotionally then the people who watch news everyday. At least I only have to deal with the major tragedies.

    • Pamela

      Maybe people talk about it all of the time as a means of coping with it. No one ever stops to remember that we all have a public face that we all put on in order to guard against fear and anxiety in public. What seems like everyday gossip is nothing more than a group of people who get together for the purpose of talking about the things we fear the most that we don’t dare in a direct way let others know that these are things we fear, we disguise it as gossip so that we can reassure ourselves along with others that we are not alone about the unsettling way we feel about these subjects. People sometimes use this as a way to free there mind of all of the fearful thoughts jumbled up in their minds so that when they’re alone by themselves there thoughts won’t jump up and go “boo” and then fall apart at the seams. This is the unconscious and natural way that society copes with life and all of it’s fear and uncertainty. When we don’t talk about things they don’t just automatically go away, we just stay in denial that’s all. Denying is lying without even knowing that you are lying.

  • Chloe

    Truth is television all together is very negative. We’ve already covered the news. Then we have the talk shows which have become “You are NOT the father” ridiculousness. Men denying their children, women so uncaring about their bodies or future they don’t even know who the father really is. I use to think court shows were safe. Harmless. They may not be as bad as news and talk shows but they are not harmless. Today I caught a segment of Judge Alex where one cousin sued another for money she loaned her that she claims her cousin spent on wigs. I thought it was tacky for this woman to take her cousin on national television and humiliate her like that. She accused the woman of being obsessed with wigs, eyelashes, tattoos, the woman admitted to all this and more. I have no idea why, I guess she felt because cameras were on her. But how awful to do that to a family member. 1,200 dollars is a good amount of money, but to humiliate your relative like that? Sorry for going on and on, but this topic about negativity in the media has been on my mind for a while. I seem to be the only one who notices it, so im glad I found a like mind who just wants to turn off the negativity.

  • MEL

    I am definitely with you on this subject. I know this post is about a year old but timely for me. Today is Friday May 10, 2013 and I have decided not to watch the news anymore. It is not that I don’t care what is going on in the world it is just that all the bad news is causing me pain and depression. I cannot, nor do I want to become desensitized to violent crimes. Anyone who has been watching the news knows the horrific crimes that have been happening in the world. One in Cleveland Ohio that is especially disturbing to me and has grounded my decision not to watch the news. Like you said garbage in garbage out. I would rather occupy my mind with healthy thoughts. Philippians 4:8

  • Laura

    I don’t remember when I last watched the news. I got fed up of the ‘ OMG the world is a terrible place so you’d better stay inside before you get murdered or raped or your kids all join gangs and prepare for nuclear war that will destroy the planet unless we manage to destroy it first by global warming… etc etc on and on” picture it paints. Meanwhile the sun is shining outside and the birds are singing and MY life is good, sorry to be selfish but I care about what goes on in my life, and what goes on in the life of my family and friends. In some situations I will give money or time to help out a needy cause but other than that I don’t give a damn about what is happening in the rest of the world. And besides its not like I can do anything about most of the problems on the news, oh look a new strain of super bacteria: TO THE LABORATORY!!! Er… no. So why therefore should I expose myself to problems I can’t solve, that just creates stress and worry.

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  • Ben ibrahim

    I love watching the news. It keeps me up to date with current events, I don’t want to be ignorant about the world around me. Also, I plan to become a news anchor or reporter when I grow. It’s an ideal job for me because like I said I’m a news enthusiast and I look good on tv.

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  • serena

    Is ignorance bliss or does knowledge set you free?

  • Ky Bux

    I am a junior college student at a small, private university in Ohio. I enjoy talking with the people around me and enjoy our daily interactions, and usually I am content without knowing much more about the world unless it affects me directly somehow–yes, I am selfish. Subsequently, I do not watch much news. But recently I have begun to feel a sense of responsibility to know more about the daily routine of the world I live in. I have been trying to find reasons to watch the news more frequently and I came across an article that made sense to me. Here a a few of the reasons in favor of watching the news:
    1) It helps remind us that our world far bigger than what we experience–we’re not that important.
    2) It reminds us to have compassion for people who suffer.

    These reasons may not be important to you (as I’m sure they are not for many others), but they seem relevant to me. And concerning the negativity that comes from watching the news, isn’t it somehow fulfilling knowing that you can witness such crime and destruction and still find compassion and humility in the midst of it? To simply avoid the existence of evil in our world, I think, is really to succumb to it. Knowledge, even of negative, depressing aspects of life, is never a bad thing.

  • Ruben Cornejo

    It’s for the same reason people like horror films. It appeals to a primal instinct in us. We’ve quickly evolved from mankind being in constant peril (hunting, tribes at war etc) to having this neat little cage we call society where acts of violence and hate are frowned upon. It vicariously fulfills us. And whoever is running these fear campaigns through the news knows it, and takes advantage of it for profit.
    Two cents.

    • Pamela

      That is total nonsense. Some of us who watch horror movies just want to have a little fun. I am a collector or Universal Classic Horror movies. I grew up watching them and I credit them to being the reason that I am strong enough to watch the news, face things that would normally make me afraid, and handle just about any difficult situation that comes my way. Don’t look for the fear and anxiety in life’s challenges. Look for the ability to gain courage, strength, and confidence so that you can help others, in particular your kids in the face of adversity. If you break, run, and hide every time you see something that is a little unsettling, how do you expect your kids to face and handle the not so pleasant things in life. What’s to be afraid of? If you use wisdom in all of your undertakings and study psychology you can open up your mind to a whole new way of seeing things. My biggest fear is that people who love to live on the fear side of things will never find the courage to face fear and teach their children to be strong. When you are scared and fearful about every little thing what kind of message does that send to your children? They will copy you and teach their children to be afraid as well, another generation of scared, fearful, angry, irritable,confused, and anxious people.

  • beau

    I am with you there Nate:). it is bad for the mind…..great post

    • Pamela

      Living in denial, self-deception, and as a relic of the past is worst for the mind. We don’t live in the enchanted world of Oz for crying out loud!!! You watch the news, be informed, forget about it and move on to something else. It’s just part and parcel of your day, you don’t dwell on it, you move on!!! What is so hard to understand about that. Am I the only person who understands this? I am studying to be a therapist, and a therapist above all people should not be afraid to watch and hear the news! It’s all in the way you appraise things. If you label the news as frightening then to you it is frightening. The worst thing that happens to people in this world is when they cut themselves off to reality and become ignorant. The worst thing in the world is when you are sitting with a group of people in public and you have to feel embarrassed because they are all talking about current events and because you don’t watch the news you have to sit there, nod your head, say umhum, ahha, because you don’t know what the hell they are talking about! The news is just too important to screen out of your life. It does not hold all of life’s answers, not at all. But if you don’t want to seem weird, strange, and an outcast to others, what other choice do you have but to watch it. We mustn’t be so thin skinned that the slightest bit of news, bad or otherwise sends us into hysterics. This is nutty on the person’s part, not the new’s. Let’s be for real hear, no one can get you all worked up but you. It is how you appraise situations. It is how you decide to react to what you see and here.

      • JAI808

        You should only give your mind things that are needed to improve you and make you better. Everything else is garbage. Totally and irrevocably useless mental garbage..

  • Dennis Teel

    This all boils down to one’s sensitivity..I’m an ordained minister and one of the most positive people in the world..i watch horror movies btw,as they really don’t scare me,they’re exciting however.The news doesn’t cause me to to feel scared or negative..I pray for many victims that i see on the news every night. Many people watch horror films,actions films and view them as just entertainment..a good movie..they don’t dwell on them afterward. I believe some are prone more to sensitivity when watching these things than others.many who grew up or raised before the 70’s and 80’s never got used to curse words onscreen and the violence in the films and of course still have a problem with it regarding their sensitivity to it. many who were raised during those changes,still feel a strong sensitivity.In regard to viewing or not viewing those things mentioned,people are different,not wrong.I don’t bash or insult or intimidate people that don’t watch those kinds of programming or shows any more than they should bash me or someone else for watching those things(ie,news or horror films)..to each his or her own in that regard.neither one is a sinful act (to condemn one for either is legalism).this is a great article..enjoyed reading the author’s point of view.

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  • Pamela

    I would watch the news, but because my husband thinks just like you do about it, I’m forced into pretending otherwise. I love my husband, he’s the most wonderful man in the world, it’s just that we don’t agree on the subject of watching the news and I know that we will grow old together. I by nature am a writer and in order for me to create and write about what I see, hear, and know about in this world I feel that I need to watch the news. Sure, there are a lot of bad things to report, I’d be the first to admit that, but some of us are built a little more tougher than others who feel fear every time they watch the news. I believe in facing things head on, whether it’s good, bad, ugly, or in between. I can watch the news and here about horrible things without flinching one time, because I’ve trained myself that way. You cannot hide away from the reality of what goes on in this world, not without being affected strangely by it. It is absurd to teach our children that we live in a perfect world where nothing bad happens to other people. Being overly protective can actually do them more harm than good. Yes, I do let my children watch the news, because it is reality of the way the world is. Whether you know it or not they get stronger when they do know about what’s going on. When you are afraid, it teaches your children to be afraid. It all depends on the way you react when you watch the news. I’m one of those people who can watch the news and forget later on about what I heard and go on to something else. I don’t replay scenes later on in my mind and scare my self to death wondering what’s going to happen to me and those that I love. That’s nonsense; that’s not the way to watch the news. You watch it because it gently, maybe not always gently reminds you that we don’t live in a perfect world where bad things don’t happen, and you watch it because we need to be informed about what’s going on in our world and our neighborhood. I don’t like living in some plastic bubble world where we’re all happy, smiling, and in denial about what really does and does not happen. This is a good way to set your kids up to have bad mental health later on when they grow up, not to mention it makes your kids think as they get older that you and everything you do is weird. Unless you have generalized anxiety disorder, schizophrenia, or even obsessive personality disorder it does not make sense to not want to watch the news, And yes, I am going to college, studying to become a therapist. Only weird people go around being scared to watch the news. If you can understand that the news is not meant to torment you, then you can understand everything I;m saying. You can’t live in a world where you’re uninformed about the events taking place around you; you can become strange, outdated, confused, and ill-prepared to face life as it comes. I feel that I can face anything in my life, whether it is good or bad. I don’t fear, run, and hide from reality, and I teach my kids the same. You can see beauty, that’s all well and good. But beauty turns into horror, if something hits you by surprise and throws you into a state of panic because you’ve taught yourself to cut yourself off from reality and fear everything you see and
    hear. Just be open to the fact that being in the constructs of reality is always better than deceiving one’s self.

  • Pamela

    I love horror movies; especially the old classic horror movies. I’m a collector of Universal and other horror movies. Halloween is my kids and my favorite holiday. I own over 120 horror movies; I add to my collection all of the time. It’s always good to lighten up and have a little fun; you only live once. What the hell!

  • amberladeira

    Much of what you posit here, Nate, is spot on. However, there ARE good reasons to watch the news: (1) Locally, you are informed about travel problems, so can take another route or mode of transportation; (2) farther from home, you might want to alter your travel plans if there are any anti-American and terror activities or natural disasters current in your destination; (3) Some news is positive, interesting and informative, such as Summer sky-watching opportunities; (4) If you rely solely on the web for your political info, what sort of accurate, informed choices will you be making at the ballot box? The web is largely unedited, the news is still a bit better. Our choices affect many, by the way. Ignorance may be bliss, until negative reality eventually wends its way to you and yours; (5) Less information limits job opportunities, as well as some social ones. There is more, but then, I’m a 71 year old intellectual with wildly diverse experience, still a reader. I better stop now before becoming completely obnoxious!

    • JAI808

      I think what he meant is watching the news in constant basis or perhaps, for recreational reasons. Kind of like watching a new episode of Game of Thrones or something…

  • JAI808

    First of all, let me just say that I loved your math calculation about chances getting murdered in Chicago. I find that to be a very smart approach in demonstrating facts with numbers. Math is always the champion.
    I would also add that out of that small percentage, chances of being murdered are much more elevated for the individuals conducting a criminal life than for the “normal” folks.

    As far as your question goes, sadly, I cannot provide you with a counterargument because just like you, I’m one of those people that doesn’t watch the news anymore.

    Simply put, I cannot allow myself to feel weak, depressed, sad and fearful anymore.
    Watching the news makes me realize how insignificant I am in the big picture.

    Can I go in the middle east and tell everyone to STFU and stop killing each other, and instead have some cotton candy party and call it a night?
    Can I go tell to all the counties to stop spending people’s tax money for weapons and instead invest that money for education and cancer research?
    I could go on and on with many examples, but the answer will always be the same: NO

    So here I am, just a small woman that suddenly feels like a small dot in the Universe, surrounded by the good and the bad.
    I think it’s absolutely great to know the difference between the two, but constantly reminding yourself about the negativity will only drain energy from you. An energy that can be utilized for something much more productive.

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