Thursday, May 6, 2010


1 a: a report of recent events
b: previously unknown information
c: something having a specified influence or effect
2 a : material reported in a newspaper or news periodical or on a newscast

How do you get your news? The television? Radio? Internet? Periodicals? Maybe you're like me and the answer is None of the Above. I don't watch, listen to or read the news with any regularity. In fact, I pretty much do all I can to prevent the headlines from making their way into my day. This isn't a passive act on my part - it's an active choice. When I was at the beach with friends last weekend, I spent part of Saturday morning discussing this with a friend. Here were some of the reasons I shared with her.

A Culture of Fear:
While the primary definition of news is a report of recent events, I believe much of the news reported is not useful information, but salacious soundbites. If an event doesn't elicit an emotional response - fear, revulsion, superiority on the part of the viewer - it's not reported. I refuse to buy in to this. In fact, it's the same reason I refuse to install an alarm system in my house. I will not make my home a place of fear. I feel safe here, but I'm not going to put up barricades to keep it that way. That would do far more harm than good. I feel the exact same way about the news. Hearing events that are happening far away doesn't empower me to help - it makes my mind start playing the "what if" game.

Single Track Sound Bites:
Most methods of receiving news do little more than arouse an emotion. They don't give enough information for the recipient to form his or her own opinion. And while I don't want to just passively accept someone else's opinion, I frankly have enough to think about without pondering the problems of the world. So I find I'm better off discussing an issue with my husband (who is far better informed than I) in order to get past the sound bite mentality. This means that I get my news second hand and I only get it when J or I think it's important enough to discuss. Which leads me to another point...

Going with Your Heart: I am doing my best to address the issues that I feel strongest on my heart, whether they are at the top of the news cycle or not. I feel like I am better served to have a narrow focus on the issues God puts on my heart so that I don't get overwhelmed and have scatter shot efforts at many issues. If I focus my energy on ministries we are directly involved with, I believe I can have a far greater impact. I want to be clear that this is the way my heart and mind work. I do think there are others who are called differently and may feel as connected to Zimbabwe as I do to Rejoice Ministries right here in my neighborhood. And I believe they should honor that connection.

Depending on how and where you get your news, you may have guessed that part of what has prompted this post at this time is that things are very bad in my hometown of Nashville: current estimates are that more than $1 billion worth of damages have occurred. Many of us here have been shocked and saddened that the national news hasn't made more people aware of our circumstances. (This is best articulated here.) In an effort to keep myself minimally informed, I recently subscribed to The Daily Beast, a service that sends me an e-mail with five headlines each day. Nashville hasn't made their top five headlines at all. I kept waiting for it to happen and finally realized - it's not going to happen.

AP photo

This affirms my distaste for the news because I agree with many who have said that the reason it's not making the top headlines is because Nashvillians have responded with humility, volunteerism and caring instead of looting, viciousness and hoarding. This tragedy makes me want to keep living in Nashville. It also makes me want to keep shielding myself and my children from the news. It makes me want to be sure I know my heart and respond to my callings and that my daughters do the same. That will be far, far better than being led by news whose only lasting effect is to make us more fearful of others and less certain of ourselves.

photo by tabithahawk / CC BY 2.0


Anonymous said...

I respect your take on world events, but I subscribe to the "more is better" news-camp myself. I am sorry for what is happening in Nashville, but I confess that I worry more, at the moment, for our beautiful Gulf and its innocent wildlife. Christine H.

Chris and Tiana said...

Love it. I'm worried about the Gulf too. It's a horrible tragedy, but why can't the news cover both of these tragedies? It's because broadcast companies are businesses and have to broadcast what sells. That's unfortunate because more coverage might have meant more charitable donations and aid for people who really need help right now. It's so sad.

RBM said...

You are the third person to facebook/email/blog about that "We Are Nashville" post. I have to respectfully say that article truly is not accurate. I have been reading/hearing about Nashville on NPR, CNN, FOX,, The Daily Show, and even our local news here in Shreveport has carried the story more than once. And (except for The Daily Show and NPR), I observed all those stories when I was passing by televisions at my allergist, on the base, or as a sidebar checking my email. I only purposefully listen to NPR and watch The Daily Show as regular sources of news—I am in agreement with you about avoiding all other commercial news media. And I first started hearing about Nashville regularly beginning on Sunday, before that article was published on Tuesday. My husband also heard about the deaths and flooding in Nashville from his deployed location via BBC and CNN World on Sunday.

I know that the commercial news media is not covering the Nashville story as much as they are the oil spill and the failed terrorist attack in New York. But they are covering it more than the “We Are Nashville” blog piece insinuates. And other avenues such as NPR (which I respect much more) are doing a better job of more detailed coverage. And it is SO unfortunate, but true that commercial news is in the business to make money and thus report on hot-button items as you describe.

As a personal example, 34 American servicemen and women were killed in April in Afghanistan alone, a 200% increase over deaths there in April 2009. I can’t think that I have seen that on the news very much either recently given everything else happening. It sometimes feels to military families like our loved ones continued deaths and deployments are old news and/or too depressing to be reported (unless some sensational event happens). But even though our story is often ignored by commercial media, they continue to fight and we continue to wait for them to come home. And sometimes our stories are reported.

All these stories are equally important and in an ideal world should be reported equally, but aren’t. But people are more aware of Nashville than many, many other stories. More and more people ask me every day about my family and friends in Nashville, so please do know that our thoughts and prayers are with you all and your voices are being heard.

WordGirl said...

Great points, all. I especially agree with RBM's comparison of this to reporting on military updates. In fact, the reason I stopped listening to the news altogether was the Iraq war. A was old enough to ask me questions every time NPR reported on it and I just grew weary of explaining why people were dying to my four year old. I also agree that NPR is the best news source - and perhaps I'll return to it when my children are old enough to process more of what they're hearing.

RBM said...

I was wondering--I always thought you were a fellow NPR junkie, glad to hear you haven't left the fold for good! :) On a serious note, I know war is a difficult thing to explain to children, and I can understand your decision to turn it off. Right now I have to turn off the coverage about the Gulf and Nashville, its just too emotionally draining on top of my husband's deployment.