Apart from some slight guilt, I feel massively better for no longer reading or watching the news.
I’ve been experimenting the past few week with avoiding the news.
The thing that finally made me take the decision was an article in the Guardian that asked the question: "What action have you taken in the past year because of something you read in the news?"
That made me think. Action? Possibly none. The actions that I’ve taken aren’t much to do with anything I’ve read in the news, but more to do with long articles I’ve read, often in specialist journals.
As a journalist, for many years I read the papers each morning at the office. When I went freelance, I still felt it my duty to remain ‘well-informed’. But there is a serious question about what being well-informed means, and I do think it’s true that ‘the news’ hasn’t got much to do with it. You get far better in-depth coverage of issues in specialist magazines/websites such as Technology Review or Sight and Sound than you do in a newspaper.
For a start, all TV, radio and newspaper news copy is curated – somebody has decided what the news should be. I myself am part of this process, when I go through the cosmetic and beauty news every week for one of my other blogs, and decide which things are worth writing up and which are not.
But elsewhere, who gets to decide? Sometimes I find a publication or an editor that I trust, but even the Guardian, which I have read for many years, seems to have slipped its moorings the past couple of years and is now full of trivial rubbish. Is there much point in reading reviews of theatre performances I’ll never see, or books I’ll never read? I don’t know who Kerry Katona is, and I care less. I have never seen Big Brother or Strictly Come Dancing or Embarrassing Bodies. Really, life’s too short.
Also, I no longer see the point in getting all worked up about things I can’t change. I don’t even LIVE in the UK for heaven’s sake, and can no longer vote in the country: why do I still care about the godawful UK government that is currently in power? It’s not as if I voted them in, or ever would have done, and why – in any case – be more angry about the UK than about Syria, or India, or Indonesia, or somewhere else I also don’t live.
I feel increasingly that, like Candide, all I can do is tend my garden these days. I donate money to charity (Kiva.org), I try to be eco, I try to be a good friend, I lobby MPs, I sign Avaaz petitions. But none of these actions is anything to do with the ‘news’, but to the longer-term undercurrents in the zeitgeist.
And do I feel better for avoiding the news? Well, yes, the answer is, I do. Menopause has made me more anxious than for many years, and listening to Radio 3 instead of watching TV is making me feel much calmer, as does spending time in my garden, or with friends, or reading. Perhaps, in the end, it is also to do with simply growing older – one gains more of a sense of perspective, and I know that although we are living in a right-wing era, when all the values I hold dear are denigrated, life is still a great deal better than it might be. And I can still live my own life in the way I want, without reference to anyone else.