When The Police wrote the lyrics “Too much information running through my brain, too much information driving me insane” (from Ghosts in the Machine, 1981), the US had 3 TV networks and CNN was 1 year old. Not everyone bought into Ted Turner’s crazy idea of news around the clock. We watched the nightly news at 6:30pm and the 11pm late news broadcast was mostly a recap of earlier broadcasts. For me, the only time things got interesting was when there was a hurricane headed for Florida.
Today, it is hard to avoid the news and even harder to find the right balance. I am a reformed news junkie. I used to read more newspapers than I can count. Since then, I’ve learned how to filter information and get the best ROI (return on investment) for my time. Here are a few tips on how to keep up with the news without wasting time.
Focus on Hard News
When I see headlines on celebrities’ personal lives, I never click to read them. How will knowing about Oprah Winfrey’s latest diet or which rock star is in rehab change my life? I have over 100 Paul McCartney CDs and successfully skipped the news about his 2008 divorce. I’d rather listen to the end of Hey Jude over and over again.
I focus on the hardcore news. Events in Ukraine are interesting and so is the missing Malaysian airplane, though I skip the alien abduction theories. Unfortunately, garbage sells, so I don’t blame the media. You can waste an hour a day for the rest of your life reading gossip. Or not.
VOD = Violence On Demand
Reality horror isn’t my cup of tea. I don’t need to watch people suffering in order to have a deeper understanding of the universe. Lately, the mainstream media use gruesome video clips with tempting headlines in order to get attention. Of course it is important to know that people really are suffering in Syria, Iraq and wherever there is daily violence. Skip the VOD but read the deeper analysis of what’s going on.
Let Me Be Real Clear
A few years ago, I found RealClearPolitics. What a brilliant idea! Instead of spending hours reading the news, they collect the most important politics stories of the day in two editions – morning and afternoon. You’ll find articles from the NY Times, Washington Post, USA Today, Time and other news sites. Click and get right to the point. When a president, prime minister or senator writes an important piece, you won’t miss it. It saves me hours of scouring dozens of news sites.
Since then, they have added other topics – RealClearWorld, RealClearTech, RealClearScience.. In 15 minutes, I get all the news that I need.
Nothing Like the Real Thing
I often tell my friends, “Don’t go to a business meeting without taking a quick look at the NY Times, Washington Post and The Wall Street Journal.” In a world with billions of news sites, the big 3 still rule. Sometimes I am treated to interesting articles by Bill Gates, Henry Kissinger and former presidents. Believe it or not, no one covers art, culture and music like the Wall Street Journal. The NY Times opinion page often has fascinating pieces by sci-fi writers and entertainers. The Washington Post gave us Woodward and Bernstein (the two journalists who uncovered the Nixon era Watergate scandal); the Post still blows my mind with deep analysis that no other daily newspaper can touch.
The American Interest has excellent analysis from “the deep center” (non-ideological) that gives me a perspective that I will never get from left or right leaning news sites. When elections approach, there’s no one as honest and accurate as Larry Sabato and his Crystal Ball at the University of Virginia. He often appears on CNN and Fox News. Speaking of cable news, I stopped watching “video news” altogether. I sometimes miss the live action car chases that seem only to occur in southern California. Night time is music time.
A Lot of Help From My Friends
My friends are often the best source of news. They read things that I would never run into and I end up being exposed to new ideas and opinions. Whether it’s an email with a link or a conversation at lunch, I hear different views that shape the way I think.
How much news content is healthy? How much do we really need in order to understand the world around us? To be continued!