We humans

Need to know: When to turn off the news

Sep 9, 2014 /

This week in the U.S., almost every flickering device will try to spoon-feed you some distressing news footage — and then help you wash it down with a double-liter of fizzy partisan punditry. What’s the impact on your health and mindset? 3 ideas behind the week’s headlines.

Source: “What to do when the news gets you down,” Wisconsin Public Radio, 2014.
Why you should read it: Mary McNaughton-Cassill, a leading researcher in the psychology of media impact, says that it’s not the breaking news that breaks us down — it’s our repeated exposure to distressing news and images. And while the world really hasn’t gotten worse, the invention of CNN and the 24-hour news cycle have warped our perception of the world. “If you think about the changes in media and technology,” says McNaughton-Cassill, “people have always had scary things happening around them — disasters, wars, and those sorts of events — but they weren’t as plugged in to them.” So if you, say, find yourself up at 2am again reading the latest Liberia Ebola SitRep, read this next.

Source: “How to build a healthy news diet,” Columbia Journalism Review, 2014.
Why you should read this: The idea of “information nutrition” started to spread at journalism hackathons after Clay Johnson’s book The Information Diet surfaced an unmet need for news consumption tracking tools. Since then, media geeks of all stripes have prototyped related apps — everything from consumer news-diet mood trackers to classroom news-literacy resources. “There is a real danger in the digital age to just view everything as content, and with that comes kind of a false equivalency that everything has the same standards, credibility or value,” notes Peter Adams of the News Literacy Project. Looking for a shortlist of high-quality news sources  — or a rundown of the coolest news-diet apps to try? Read this piece.

Source: “Don’t like clickbait? Don’t click,” TED@NYC, 2014.
Why you should watch this: As a progressive, lesbian political pundit for Fox News, Sally Kohn used to sift through hundreds of pages of hate mail a day. (You can read more about her not-exactly-Newsroom experience here.) Meanwhile: Want to know more about how online sites like Fox News choose which stories to cover — and how to help change their coverage over time? Watch Sally’s short talk.

+ Or, here’s an idea worth pondering: why not turn off the news this week and read a book instead? One good option: The Terrorist’s Son, a TED Original by Zak Ebrahim with Jeff Giles.

Featured image: iStock.