Updates on Feat Number 2 – Watching the News

16 Jan

For the original 52 FEATS blog entry, click here.

For the original Feat Number 2 blog entry, click here.

DAY 7 UPDATE:

Yahoo – Feat #2 is over!  This one was definitely more unpleasant than the first one, and I’m glad it’s over.  I felt uplifted by saying hello to people, but following the news every day felt like a chore.

Maybe that’s because I had to do it every day.  Now that the week is over, and I’m free to peruse the news only if the mood strikes me, I might be able to enjoy it a little bit more.  I did feel like I learned a few things, so the week wasn’t a total waste.  Plus, I had a few good conversations with people about current events, which made me feel a tad like a smarty-pants (a feeling I have to admit I really like).

One thing I didn’t do was dip my toe into any political news.  That felt like too large a hurdle to tackle in a week’s time.  But I followed all the info on the Arizona shootings, the Tunisian riots, floodings in various countries, and space discoveries.  Not a bad education for a few day’s time.

So to sum up, it wasn’t the most fun way to spend a week, but at least I expanded my mind.  And I’ll keep the apps on my iPhone and iPad.  I might be curious how that cute little cross-eyed opossum is doing.

DAY 6 UPDATE:
Feat #2, “Watching the News,” is coming to a close tomorrow. It started off bumpy, but I’m glad to say it did get better throughout the week.

One thing I’ve noticed is that within a single week, you don’t get a lot of “new” news. What you do get is a few big stories regurgitated over and over, with different spins, different experts weighing in, newly discovered information, etc. That was really pounded into my head this week with the coverage of the Arizona shooting. Every day there’s been a slew of new articles on the subject. (If I have to look at the shooter’s creepy mug shot one more time, I’m going to scream.)

I’ve also discovered that I’ve gotten a little bit better at this. I realized that I don’t have to immerse myself in every single story I see – that’s what headlines are for. Sound important or interesting? Check it out. Not so much? Skip it and move on. It’s been an acquired skill this week, learning to weed through all the garbage (or depressing stories), go quickly to what grabs me, skim it, and move on. It feels sort of like a speed-reading crash course combined with treading water.

I’ve also found a lot of cool news apps for my iPhone and iPad. CNN, BBC, and NPR all have free apps that make the news instantly available to me whenever I want it. With the touch of a button (so to speak), I can get up-to-the-minute news delivered to me, no matter where I am.

And blissfully, these apps are designed for quick reading. Headlines and snapshots are combined to give the reader an immediate sense of the story. Sometimes, that can tell you all you need to know without bothering to read further.

The funny thing? As I’ve gotten accustomed to the “regular” news, that happynews.com site almost seems silly now. Have I gotten so jaded by the real stuff that everything else seems like fluff?? I hope my brush with the outside world hasn’t hardened my heart to the uplifting and inspirational stories that fail to make headlines.

DAY 4 UPDATE:

In addition to the old stand-bys of CNN.com, msnbc.com, and wfaa.com, I also tried some “new” news.

As the name implies, www.happynews.com relates lots of neutral or feel-good stories.  Just as the “regular” news is chock-full of horror stories, the “happy” news is full of cute and interesting tidbits.  It’s fun and nice, and definitely doesn’t make me cringe, but to be honest, I’d rather be reading my Book Club book.

And if I’m choosing the general tone or content of what I’m reading to begin with, does it even really count as getting informed?  Or is it just a type of entertainment, like choosing between watching The Sopranos or Dora the Explorer?

In order to make my news quest more palatable, my sister-in-law sent me links for several news items she found that were of a non-depressing nature.  I did learn a few things from what she sent me, like how to avoid winter allergies.  (Looks like we won’t be avoiding them.  Wash all of our stuffed animals every 2 weeks?  Yeah, right.)  I also got to see a cute cross-eyed opossum and a cool blob of gas in space.

But again, I would rather have been doing something else – reading something I really wanted to read, like a book or a celebrity gossip site (I know, I just ratted myself out on that guilty pleasure).

Am I just lazy?  Self-absorbed?  Cranky?  Maybe a little bit of each, but mostly I think I’m just a tired mom who needs a break at the end of the day, and reading about other people’s problems – or even other people’s triumphs – is not at the top of the list of things that will give me a boost.

When the kids go to bed, I’m beat and I just want to be alone.  Or to escape.  (Sorry, hubby.)  Maybe I should try reading this stuff in the morning, when my patience is at its high point for the day.  I guess that’s another way to approach it.

I also want to check out the BBC news, since a couple of my friends have mentioned it.

Still not liking this Feat!

DAY 2 UPDATE:

Today started out great (play date with friends), but turned to crap when I found out some lowlife got my debit card number and charged a boatload of computer equipment.  Then my computer did that cool thing it does every once in a while, where it re-downloads every single email I’ve gotten for the last few months.  Every. Single.  Email.

So as I head over to CNN.com, I’m already filled with a sense of dread and a sour attitude.

I don’t necessarily want to comment on my opinions of too many particular news items – the point of this feat was not for you to hear about my views.  (Although BOY, do I have some opinions about the Westboro Baptist Church.)

For today, as I was scanning the headlines of news sites, I just didn’t want to read any of it.  I couldn’t see the point, and I was already in a crappy mood, and I figured that nothing I would read would improve my mood.

Thank goodness I found one bright spot before turning in for the night – an article about a man who works as a security guard at a Dallas high school.  Over the years, he’s taken in several homeless teens who had no one to turn to.  Nice.

The only thing I can say I’ve liked so far about this Feat has been finally being able to discuss news items with my husband and my friends.  That’s been kind of cool – but do I like it for the mature discourse, or because I feel like I’m finally part of the “in” crowd?

A friend of mine posted something on facebook today about a website called www.happynews.com.  It’s supposed to have all positive news stories.  I’m going to check it out tomorrow.

So far, this feels like a job.  I’m not enjoying it.

DAY 1 UPDATE:

So far, this Feat sucks.

The big news of today was the recent shooting in Arizona.  I now know more than I ever care to about it.  The worst was when I clicked on the individual pictures of the victims.  I read their names, learned about their lives and families, and felt like complete crap.  Now I know why I have always shied away from this.

Some of the things I’ve read about today include people being murdered, churches being set on fire, politicians going to jail, car crashes, riots in Tunisia, and arguments over gun control.  What was I thinking in doing this Feat??

I’m even having trouble writing this blog entry, because I feel my head is so full of negativity and…well, bad news.

Besides the severely depressing aspect of watching the news, another hard part was finding the time to take it all in.  I can’t watch TV news during the day, since I’m with my kids and I certainly don’t want to give them nightmares.  I was at the science museum most of the day today, trying to sneak a look at the CNN app on my iphone while shopping in the pretend grocery store with my 3-year-old.  I got choppy bits and pieces of a few random stories, but I wasn’t able to read an entire article.

So when I finally had some time to myself tonight, I hit several internet news sites – cnn.com, wfaa.com, msnbc.com.  And there I got all those fantastic goodies I mentioned earlier.

To be honest, I’m not sure why knowing about all these things is helpful to me in any way – or why it’s helpful to anyone.  Why do we need to know about flooding in Australia, or about a 5-year-old girl in Afghanistan who spends her days digging through trash to scrounge up food and fuel for her family?  Is it so we can help these people, or are we all simply rubberneckers gawking at a train wreck?

I feel drained, and I didn’t even get around to reading everything.

The only bit of news that wasn’t completely off-putting was an article about voting in the Sudan.  Whether or not independence for Southern Sudan is the best thing isn’t the point – it’s the democratic process that’s important for the people there.  It made made me think of the end of “Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory,” where Charlie decides to take the honest route and give the Everlasting Gobstopper back to Willy Wonka.  Gene Wilder says, “So shines a good deed in a weary world.”

Weary, indeed.

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5 Responses to “Updates on Feat Number 2 – Watching the News”

  1. Lori January 11, 2011 at 8:10 pm #

    Argh, what a drain! I’ve been asked a few times, (mostly by people who don’t know me well) why I don’t watch the news or read the newspaper. #1. I don’t have time. #2. I’m with my kids all day and don’t want to expose them to what’s in the news and #3. It’s usually so depressing! I also don’t watch criminal shows on TV. I was a big CSI fan when it first came out, but I got so burned out of REAL LIFE crime through my employment, that it became really hard to watch about fake stuff on TV. It’s depressing, like you said. I don’t mind being completely ignorant of things I cannot control. I guess it goes to show that there is not enough positive news! Do you think people won’t read positive stories? Miracles are happening every day! Why aren’t those making headlines?!!

  2. Jessica January 11, 2011 at 11:32 pm #

    I think its a great idea to try to stay up with some news. I would suggest limiting yourself to just a few topics, ones you enjoy, and disregard the things that bring you down. The link below looks like a good site for you! http://www.happynews.com/

  3. Stacey January 13, 2011 at 5:35 am #

    Jen, I thought of you while reading Laughing Without an Accent today. (She’s discussing new coverage during the Iran hostage situation back 30 years ago.)

    Excerpt:
    I realized something that year. Most people in America watch the evening news to learn about the world, but what they’re really seeing is the worst of every country. Only bad news is news. The worse it is, the more coverage it gets. There will never be headline news that says, “Decent Middle Eastern Family found! Tune in at eleven for full coverage!” I imagined what it would be like to come to America knowing nothing about Americans, then watching the evening news for a week. Based on that information alone, no one would leave their house.

    I completely agree with the author. I choose to stay informed while acknowledging that we do often only watch/hear/read about the worst and most depressing things. Oh, and one piece of advice: don’t waste your time reading comments left after news articles on places like CNN. You will just end up frustrated with mankind. Don’t do it!

  4. Jen January 13, 2011 at 9:28 pm #

    Lori, I’m so glad to hear I’m not the only one who has no problem with keeping my head in the sand. My husband (who keeps up with news) says that just by me ignoring it, it doesn’t mean it’s not happening. And obviously, I KNOW that, but like you said, I have no control over these horrible events! And it just bums me out, basically.

    Jessica, I’m so intrigued by that website! I’m going to check it out. You give good advice – I can just sort of dip my toe in to things that interest me. It’s not like I have to read everything about everything.

    Stacey, that sounds like a great book! I love what the author is saying. It seems like such a hard thing to balance – how to stay informed but not get totally bogged down with all the bad stuff that’s happening in the world. Maybe that comes with practice?

  5. Lisa Martin January 14, 2011 at 4:59 pm #

    I have to do news “time outs” myself–and I have my Master’s degree in Journalism and worked as a TV reporter! I don’t know what’s worse: crime or politics. Both bum me out in different ways. Are you going to keep up your news watching habits?

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