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Posts Tagged ‘news’

I’m a news junkie – no question about it.  I’m sure it started just before I went to journalism school back in the late ’70s, when I was writing for a tiny weekly newspaper in southern Oregon.  As I moved into my public relations career, it became a growing addiction.  I have to monitor the news, I often said during my years in Montana. I hate to wake up and find a client on the front page for the wrong reason.  That had some validity to it at the time.

But then I started teaching at the university level, and it all got worse.  I have to monitor it, I say, because I have to know what’s going on in order to give my student real-world lessons and help them see the changes in our society.  That has some validity to it, too.

But still, I think all that news watching and monitoring may be doing me in.  Most of the so-called news is nothing I can do anything about – yet the news is presented in such a way that I actually find myself asking if I have an obligation to care.  There are a couple of pieces of news this week that may (or may not) affect my life and that have my attention: there’s a former teacher, into child porn,who has escaped prison and appears to be wandering around in the next town over.  There’s a new school bond issue coming up, and I should probably go to one of the informational meetings about it.  It looks like it’ll stop raining by the weekend and I can get out and get more yard work done.

Here the things I’ve learned from the news this morning, however:

  1. Donald Trump has no sense of humor.  That’s actually not news.
  2. If I have a hankering to visit Acapulco, it’s probably best to postpone.
  3. This person named Arias, who has admitted to killing her boyfriend, or fiance, or whoever he was?  Why do we need to be subjected to her entire sex life?
  4.  More and more people are being brought up on sex charges – or sexting charges.  Senators.  Teachers.  A police chief.    A prison guard.  This is new?  Or are we just now obsessed with it?
  5. Our military is going to have a decreased level of readiness because of budget cuts.  They haven’t paid our troops well in years; many enlisted families use food stamps and live in substandard housing.  Who’s the decider on this one?
  6. Hollywood celebrities apparently have great sway with Congress when it comes to gun control.  Either that, or our esteemed Senators and representatives want to see what they look like without makeup.
  7. Japan and China continue to edge closer to war over those tiny islands.  Uninhabited, I believe.  And Korea threatens to launch a missile that will reach those of us here on the left coast.  These things feel like trying to be prepared for an earthquake; I’ve got my supplies stashed in an outbuilding, but should I wander around in constant fear?
  8. Across the (Columbia) river in Washington state, an accidentally released inmate is now back in jail.  Not the first time; won’t be the last.  We jail more people per capita than any other country in the world.  Are staff shortages the real problem?
  9. Diets are bad for you.  Not dieting could risk your health.  Soft drinks are bad for you.  Caffeine may actually be a boon to your health.  Is there an IV nearby?  One that will make these decisions for me?
  10. The game of Monopoly seems to have gotten rid of the wrong piece.  Does that mean the game I keep for guests at my summer cottage is now completely out of date?

I think I’m going to be glad when the post office stops delivering Saturday mail.  I can postpone a whole batch of useless information and bills until Monday.  Meantime, registering as someone with chronic depression brought on by the daily news has crossed my mind. I’m wondering if there’s an app for that.

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Last Saturday, Miami Herald columnist Leonard Pitts wrote an article entitled “Get Ready for Conservative Bible” – http://www.miamiherald.com/opinion/columnists/story/1287092.html.  The column appeared in this morning’s Oregonian, my daily newspaper.  Pitts makes a more universal point in talking about the fact that the Conservapedia web site is “correcting” the Bible according to conservative principles and interpretations.  That point is this: we are becoming a society where we only have to listen to, or read, information with which we agree.  Here’s how Pitts puts it in his column: 

“Rather than trust those beliefs to stand or fall in the free market of ideas, some conservatives now apply a kind of intellectual protectionism. So now you have your conservative newspaper, your conservative radio station, your conservative university, your conservative “facts” and, apparently, your conservative God, and you may build yourself a conservative life in a conservative bubble where you need never contend with ideas that challenge, contradict — or refine — your own.

“But here’s the thing: When no authority can be regarded as unimpeachable by both right and left, when no fact can be universally accepted as such, when anything you prefer not to believe is automatically dismissed as a product of “bias,” you impoverish intellect and render informed debate impossible.”

Those of us engaged in tracking new media and teaching it; those of us engaged in public communication of any type, whether making a living or just following trends, have been worried about this for a long time.  No, not worried about conservatives taking over the universe; worried about the larger point of how people are tuning out information, opinions and dialogue with which they disagree.  Complicating the issue is that it had become increasingly difficult to sort out truth from opinion from entertainment.  Witness the mainstream media last week, falling for the story of a complete 180-degree turn by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce on its position regarding climate change:  http://theplumline.whorunsgov.com/climate-change/whoops-reuters-acknowledges-that-hoax-story-on-climate-change-could-have-moved-financial-markets/ 

News moves at warp speed anymore, and in trying to keep up, much of which passes for news is just not credible stuff.  How do we educate our young people to have discerning minds without turning them into complete cynics?  How do we once again grow a country which is intellectually rigorous and willing to consider different information which may actually change our minds?  These are questions we’ll be having to answer for a long time in the future.

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