20 January 2015

Newsoholism

King Stephen Crowned!
At last, I have plucked up the courage to take a deep breath and admit to you that I am a newsoholic. Looking back, I think that the first signs of this addiction were present years ago. I must have been six or seven when my mother and father bought our very first television. Not for me "The Woodentops" or "Bill and Ben", it was The News I wanted to see - flickering away in temperamental black and white - live from London. Well-spoken middle-aged men in ties with plummy voices. What they were saying was important. Suez, Harold McMillan, The Profumo Affair, The Assassination of John Kennedy.

In the intervening years there have been times when I have gone cold turkey and deliberately avoided The News for weeks, maybe months on end. And you know what it didn't do me any harm at all. In fact, it might be argued that life is simpler, happier, more natural when you have your news blinkers on. 

Wasn't that how human beings lived for thousands of years? When Krakatoa exploded, when ancient Egyptians were building their pyramids, when Mongol hordes were galloping from the east most human beings on the planet knew nothing of such things. They were too busy surviving and operating within their immediate communities. Besides there were no vehicles for the spreading of news - just word of mouth and that might take years to reach you.

In the forests of medieval England, news of what was happening in London or even in the next settlement arrived very slowly. Many weeks might pass by... 

"Hey, Terrowin, have you heard that we have got a new king? He's called King Stephen."
"When was he crowned Gorvenal?"
"It was about three years ago. Another one of those French ponces."
"Righto, let's get back to gathering these hazelnuts.Then we can do some witch dipping at the village pond."

Of course today we have twenty four hour news on the television. Something good or bad happens in Cairns, Queensland or Sloughhouse, California and we all have the opportunity to know about it within an hour or so. There will even be live footage from the scene - "Gun Crazed Chicken Farmer Kills Five in Rancho Murieta Shoot Out", "Cairns ICT Teacher Wins Nobel Prize". News is on the radio and websites. It's in social media and it's becoming almost instant.

These days I seem to require regular news fixes. Radio 4 when I wake up in the morning and when I am cooking in the evening. Even when covering the Yorkshire Pudding manly physique in soapy suds in the shower I will be listening to the bathroom radio. On the car radio too. And there's often such crap on the TV that I frequently find myself flicking to Channel 130 on Freeview to watch the rolling BBC World News.

Psychologically, it's probably not good for us. The news is dominated by disaster - wars and deaths, diseases and economic nightmares. Just as we feel things in everyday life about family or friends so in spite of ourselves we feel things about these news stories. They get under our skin and it can be both confusing and depressing - especially as we can do almost nothing to influence those developing stories. We are only dumb bystanders.

I wish I had the courage to book a long stay in a newsaholic rehabilitation centre - being weaned off my addiction in a news-free environment. I would play my guitar, take up painting again, read books and listen to music, sometimes trudging around the rehab centre's woodland gardens in my carpet slippers with  other desperate patients, looking for hazelnuts.

18 comments:

  1. My problem with the News is that it is no longer reported it is interpreted.

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    1. My thoughts too!

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    2. Perhaps all news becomes interpretation the moment the messenger opens his or her mouth.

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  2. I always liked to read my news....even as a kid. Well, for one thing, we never had a television and the first experience with the TV was when I went to college. Can you believe that? My mother always splurged for the Sunday edition of the New York Times and that would last us all week.

    Now, I still read my news but on my e-reader. I don't think there have been any real newspeople on television since Walter Cronkite retired.

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    1. Walter Cronkite? Who's he?....I kind of like that idea of one good Sunday paper a week. Holding the news at bay but having a weekly catch up.

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  3. My husband needs a stay right alongside you in that rehabilitation center! I keep telling him that spending hours pouring over the news (online, mostly) can't do anything for his peace of mind. Of course, he ignores me. :)

    "Then we can do some witch dipping at the village pond." "Witch Dipping" made me literally LOL!

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    1. I hope you didn't mis-interpret the term "witch dipping" Jennifer. At The Walter Cronkite Memorial Rehab Centre I will be happy to play draughts (checkers) with your husband each morning as we exchange wife tales.

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  4. If you learn there is another vacancy at that rehab centre, Yorky....make a booking for me would you, please?

    I find myself being sucked in and taken over by the news too, too much. It comes at us, as you say, 24/7 from all directions....relentlessly. Too often it's too depressing and has the tendency to bring one down with it. My ex is always telling me to just turn it off...stop watching/listening to it and reading it. I find at the moment I'm succeeding - I'm letting the Aus Open Tennis take over....and that's good on many levels!

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    1. Was it your news addiction that drove you apart Lee? Living with habitual news users puts a lot of pressure on spouses. See you at The Walter Cronkite Memorial Rehab Centre. I'll be the one rocking in the corner humming the BBC News theme music.

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    2. No...that wasn't it, Yorky....it was boat that drove us apart.

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  5. Some weeks I can go without the news.........anywhere
    I wonder if I should take my blood pressure on those days and compare it when I watch another batch of often biased, envarably overblown reporting

    What do u think?

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    1. I think I already know the answer. Your blood will simmer nicely in non-news weeks but in news weeks it will be bubbling all over the hob.

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  6. Admittedly, I found the news on telly rather boring when I was a kid. It was something my parents would watch, not me. Nowadays, I have two main sources for the news: the 15 minutes of "Tagesschau" every night at 8.00, and my weekly paper DIE ZEIT, delivered on Thursdays but almost never read before Sundays. For local news, I browse the homepage of my hometown's daily paper about three times a week. That's enough for me.

    A few weeks ago, there was a feature in the ZEIT about how so many people retreat to home-making, crafting, cooking etc., and blog about things such as the latest granny-squares blanket they have been crocheting or the spring flower bulbs they have been planting. It is seen as a symptom of our times, people being so overwhelmed with (mostly bad) news that make them feel helpless and, to an extend, scared. Nothing wrong with a bit of escapism, I fhink (I find that mainly in reading and playing my favourite computer game), as long as one does not completely lose touch with reality.

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    1. I find the observation about escapism most interesting. You see a lot of blogging about homely pursuits or even blogs that ignore the outer world and become very introspective "family blogs". However, I shall not be making a granny square blanket any time soon

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  7. I only watch the News occasionally now. The constant repetition does my head in and the stupid nitwit questions they ask intelligent people just make me angry. I feel a lot better for not watching and not getting involved. I just watch the local news now.

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  8. I haven't watched the news for 15 years, when I threw the TV away. I was at a county supervisor's meeting, we were debating an important issue that would affect the everyday lives of everyone in Sloughhouse. There were maybe 5 of us there. Everyone else was home watching the sordid details of Bill and Monica. Why do people spend so much time on things that have absolutely no effect on their personal lives and virtually none on the issues that do? I think that's the way it's planned. Manipulate the masses with whatever drivel you can dig up, invent some if needed, and keep them ignorant of what really matters. Pretend it's all a democracy because every once in a while they get to vote for either Tweedle Dumb or Tweedle Dumber, both of them candidates whose souls have been bought and paid for. The people can't even revolt and throw the manipulating dudes aside, most don't have a clue who they are or where they are. We're just a bunch of buttheads.

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    1. I couldn't agree more, Jan. It's all brainwashing bullshit.

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  9. One of the comforting things about life in New Zealand was, for me, that the evening news on TV One was at 1800hrs 7 days a week, 24 weeks a year. It was the anchor point for my day. Even when I couldn't watch it (which was, of course, quite often) I knew that it was there. You've started me wondering now whether I, too, need to join you.

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