Several years ago I went on a “news diet.” It wasn’t that I was a news junkie or anything but just that I felt my exposure to talk radio, the morning newspaper, Google news headlines and the evening television news wasn’t adding anything of value to my life. Some people get all worked up over watching or reading the news. Not me. I don’t take it personally when a politician acts like a politician. And entertainment news rarely got beyond Who’s Doing Who, Who’s Leaving Who and Who’s Got a Thumb That Looks Kinda Like a Toe. Digesting this garbage is like sitting with a bowl of candy during a bad movie. Neither have any redeeming or nutritional value and yet we continue consuming both until they’re used up. But unlike that bowl of candy, the news is never used up. It’s never ending. I suppose that’s why they call it news. If it wasn’t a growing body of knowledge, it would have to be called something like Sames.
So I canceled the daily delivery of the newspaper, switched to using my iPod in the car instead of listening to the radio, changed my homepage to avoid Today’s Headlines, and stopped turning on the television at night. And do you know what happened; what I missed? Not a whole heck of a lot. In fact, people I trust tell me about the most important news items of the day, along with their own personal slant — free of charge! It was rare that I completely missed something that was truly important. Hollywood plodded along whether or not I was present to witness the social minutia that occurred daily. And politics continued to be political. In short, the only thing I missed was the daily comics (though I prefer reading Funny Times anyhow). And I gained a bunch of time and headspace that I could devote to the really important things like updating my Facebook status or figuring out how to make my Blackberry act like a guitar tuner.
The fact is that news is a business and there are few really important occurrences. Much of it is exaggerated to stir the public into feeling great danger, fear or uncertainly. “This next story will may save your life, keep your kids from harm and possibly prevent an explosion in your own basement. Stay tuned.” Or we might be exposed to: “What does the earthquake in Haiti mean to your safety?” The news agencies create a need for their product and, by feeding that need, keep you hooked and buying more.
I’m not saying everyone should be ostriches and ignore what is going on in the outside world — though it is working well for me. I just think that more people might benefit from switching off the news and focusing more on the things for which they can make a difference. Forget about Haiti for a while and go help your elderly neighbor with her groceries. Turn away from the latest flood and assist the deluge in your own community. Of course you can make some bit of a difference worldwide but doesn’t charity begin at home? Aren’t there problems close by that you can really have an impact in helping?
Though some may argue local charity is short-sighted and selfish, I disagree. It is not selfish to place our energies where we have the most impact even though that place might be right next door. In emergency medical situations, you are taught to secure the scene of an injury or accident and ensure it is safe. The first act is ensuring your own safety. After all, what good is an emergency medic who is too injured to help others? There is an important lesson here. Secure your own scene and that of the area close to you before you worry about spreading your influence far and away.
Brett L. Kinsler is a chiropractor in Rochester, NY who continues his news exposure currently.