I am coming out as a news junkie. I am also initiating a recovery program.
First a little about my addiction. Since 2016, I have been consuming 2-4 hours a day of news, delivered by these MSNBC news hosts: Joy Ann Reid, Rachel Maddow, Chris Matthews, Chris Hayes, Chuck Todd, Nicole Wallace, Laurence O’Donnell, Mika and Joe, Ali and Stephanie, and Ari Melber. My TV news is augmented by my subscriptions to the NY Times, The Washington Post, and Slate. I receive the New Yorker and the Atlantic Magazines. I dabble in CBS, CNN, PBS, and even give Fox News some of my eyeball time. While doing this, I also scroll through my Twitter feed to see what my favorite pundits are saying. For me, these include: Jill Wine Banks, Clint Watts, Maria Theresa Kumar, and Michele Goldberg. Via Twitter, I follow 1,000 people and organizations. I bought the Mueller Report and The Plot to Hack America. To be honest, when not working, I am often too busy watching news to engage in more meaningful or productive activities.
I think that the top three dangers of living inside the echo chamber are.
1. Acceptance of the hosts’ priorities.
2. Adoption of host and pundit narratives.
3. Loss of time for deeper reflection, action, and cause specific engagement.
1. I think that my favorite hosts’ #1 priority is to ensure that every last piece of dirt about Donald Trump is presented, examined and discussed, largely as a lens to reflect on our divided nation. I have enjoyed the collection process — thinking it would lead to a collective awakening, collective disgust, and citizen actions. I do credit this focus on galvanizing groups and the activism that aided the Democrats to regain the House. I like to think that by sitting in front of my TV, and tuning into MSNBC, that I am part of this movement. If you watch as much as I do, you realize that there are daily repeating stories and and pundits and that only rarely do you learn something new.
The dark shadow of such “narratives of the day” can be symbolized by the recent story of E. Jean Carroll. Credible? Sort of. Interesting? Maybe. Game changing? Doubtful. We all lived through the Kavanaugh hearings, right? Didn’t we already learn that credible allegations made years after the fact are not actionable? Christine Blasey Ford was braver and more compelling to me, and yet the we are stuck with Kavanaugh, the frat-boy supreme court justice.
I think E. Jean Carroll’s story is ONLY on TV because it adds to the narrative dirt pile we have on Trump. Judge your own interest. My own lesson is — watching it once is enough.
2. Adopting the hosts’ narratives comes pretty easily when you watch the same story 6 or more times a day. What else might you think? Ask yourself how many times you think of a different angle that is not being explored? I blame the talking head circuit for this unity of narrative. Most nefarious is the fact that you may no longer notice that you have become your own hybrid of these hosts. Are you a “MikaMaddowMelber” mouthpiece like me? Do you miss old news, with interviews of real people, footage from actual locations, different points of view? Do you miss journalism that forced you to think through the information and form your own opinion? My own diagnosis is that opinions and punditry are the causes for my own acute case of “Media Malaise.”
3. So, if you, like me, have been a willing accomplice to the crime of giving your time away, of allowing the media to co-opt your thoughts and reinforce your rage, I think you might want to consider a “detox.” To detox requires a Weight Watchers (WW) style media diet. You need not stop watching all TV — but think of each show as “15 points.” In WW speak this means about half your daily calories. I know this is shocking but take a minute to think about it: 1 show – 15 points! That’s a medium dipped DQ soft-serve ice cream. Not much nutritional value. Short-lived pleasure. Addictive and hard to give up. If you were having 6 of these a day — you would be in a health crisis! If you recalibrate your schedule you can devote more time to more nourishing choices. You can make time for learning, exploring, engaging with the world. Think of these activities as veggies, fruit and lean protein. Oh, and maybe read the Mueller report…so we can find out why Donald Trump was not exonerated. 400 pages of dirt for the Trump pile. Who can resist?