Monday, September 17, 2018

Five Ways to Watch (Read) the News

I can't watch the news late at night. If I do, I lie awake trying to solve the world's problems. Not my wife. Actually, I might say, she WANTS to see the news at night. I finally learned that trying to convince her otherwise wasn't good for our marriage. So now, I simply, go to bed or read! 

Recently, I finished the book "Factfulness" by Hans Rosling. It reminded me why I struggle with watching the news. Let me first go on record by saying that I don't believe all news is fake news. But after all, they are selling something. Their survival is based on viewership. 

Rosling makes the point throughout his book that humans are drawn to fearful news. We all know that positive news can be boring. i.e. "Nothing to report today. All is well." While we say we'd love to have a newscast like that, probably none of us would tune in. 

It's been a month or more since I read the book but since then I've found myself applying some of the principles he suggests. While these aren't necessarily from the book, here are some thoughts about watching the news:

1. Be skeptical of reports that use words like: biggest ever, massive, shrinking, etc. Digging down into these reports, you often find sketchy stats. 

2. Remember that bad things have always happened. We just never were hearing these things from the four corners of the earth in a matter of seconds. (Thank you, technology.)

3. Don't be a cynic, but don't be duped either. No report is completely unbiased. Even if it contains facts, it is still shared from a point of view. 

4. Try to watch or read opposite points of view. We tend to like news reports that share our worldview.  But we don't always get the full story. The truth is often somewhere in the middle. 

5. Read a biography or some history then watch the news. You think American politics is divided today? Read some pieces about life during the American Revolution and the Civil War. What candidates say about each other today will sound like Girl Scout banter by comparison. 

6. I know I said "Five Ways" but here's one more: Catch up on the news some time besides late at night. You'll sleep better!

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