Pulling the plug: why we are shutting down our media consumption

Submitted by John Derry on Tue, 04/19/2016 - 09:22

After years of tuning into an evening news bulletin by default, our household realised it had become non-essential. 

News reporting that is distorted, inconsistent and repetitive was wasting time and was destructive to our state of mind. 

Not burying our heads in the sand, we learnt that important stories can still find us via word of mouth, social media, selective reading and factual programs.

Besides being selective, some of the principles we employ to judge whether we should spend time on various news content include the following:

News 'service' myth

The idea that all news is a service to the community and is published to informs us is basically redundent after economic and political forces have all but abliterated the traditional craft of journalism. But there are still some quality media and wise journalists around who have refused to buckle under pressure, if you look for them hard enough.

Media obsessions

Don't expect us to believe that the obsessive coverage of cases such as Oscar Pistorius etc is a priority for all but a select few. We don't need to hear about every twist and turn, when it's just 'filler' from the media pack. This is a waste of time.

Click traps

We're not fooled by the daily boom and crash forecasts that only serve the common interest of imature journalists wanting to boost web traffic and dodgy experts trying to sell books. This is a waste of time.

Special interests

Campaigns and causes are constantly packaged up as news stories by spin-doctors but rarely make a difference. It's an industry whose leaders have lost their way and cynically hijack and distort truly serious issues like global warming, international dipomacy, human rights and the adequacy of housing, health and education without really making the world a better place.

Tragedies

Terrible things happen and there are bad people in the world, but there is nothing to be gained from sensationlising the small scale stories that get sourced from the police and the courts. They simply play on the public's fears and are a waste of our time.

Celebrity and sport

Entertainment and sport news have their own sections but have been encroaching on general news, including on public broadcasters who should know better. This is wasting our time.

 

You probably have your own media pet hates but Michael Pascoe, a senior journalist, sums up the strcutural resistance that the writers and readers of good news need to keep in mind. 

Of course, we journalists like bad news. It scares people into reading and watching us. Vastly more people will click on a headline that says "housing crash" than on one that says "housing stabilising". It's human nature – we stop to gawk at a car crash, not traffic moving smoothly.

If you ask yourself 'who benefits from this story', you'll realise that it isn't generally being produced with your long term interests at heart. Sadly, reporters are incentivised to get attention, not for serious quality or balance.

Just imagine if you did follow the advice of so-called experts that were on TV. Your investments would probably turn into a disaster and your house would get filled up with gimmicky products.

This is why it can be valuable to give your media consumption habits a tune up. For us it remains a work in progress.