Don’t be overwhelmed by the bad news

As someone who spent 25 years as a metropolitan daily newspaper journalist the title of a book in our marvellous Castlemaine library yelled at me from the shelves.

Author Rolf Dobelli’s ‘Stop Reading the News’ well and truly stopped my feet moving as my hand reached out.

The summary on the back cover talked about “one of the most worrying trends of modern life”, namely “the detrimental effects of an omnipresent news cycle on our well being”.

The news cycle has certainly changed from my childhood when morning and afternoon newspapers and thrice daily radio news bulletins (often introduced and concluded with a march) were it.

As a cadet reporter, I had to be sure I had pennies in my pocket for coin-in-the-slot public telephones to dictate articles to a typist to be passed on to a subeditor with a pencil before being set into metal type for one of four editions.

Photographers used large cameras requiring plates to be inserted for each picture. ‘The Herald’ even had a mobile darkroom where the Melbourne Cup finish photo was chemically processed while the swaying van sped back to the office. The term “occupational health and safety” was not in wide usage way back then.

How different to today’s 24 hours a day news cycle pouring out from a proliferation of sources (the accuracy of some decidedly questionable) including phone cameras and social media.

Dobelli raises concerns about the effect of this continuous newstream . The Pew Research Centre estimates keeping astride the news cycle can occupy up to 58 to 96 minutes a day.

News has always tended to emphasis unpleasant things such as disasters, violence and the like because our human tendency is to want to know about such situations. Bad news lifts circulation and ratings. A continual flow of these reports coming before us can create an impression that the world is going down the gurgler, fuelling anxieties and apprehension.

Yet aircraft, ships and trains complete their journeys safely, people go about their affairs and children get to and from school and everyday life runs along uneventfully in many places. Routine, calm and normality rarely make headlines.

Being a “news tragic” for many a year, I don’t think I can follow Dobelli’s advice to ditch news consumption altogether but it is good to be reminded not to become influenced by it to the extent of becoming unsettled, anxious and pessimistic.

As individuals we might not have much influence on world or national events but we can certainly support those trying to make a difference and, as we can and how we can, make a difference ourselves by being kind, considerate and caring people.

Had fridges been around 2000 years ago, bible contributor, Paul, could have made magnets of his description of the fruits of the Spirit of God showing out in people in living lives of “love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness and self control”.

Praying for our community and world is certainly part of many services of worship.

Respected 20th century theologian, Karl Barth, was well aware of being part of the action saying “Take your Bible in one hand and your newspaper in the other.”

– Jim Foley, Castlemaine Uniting Church.

Castlemaine Mail
Your source of independent local news in the Mount Alexander Shire.