In today’s world, members of the media play a big role in determining what news we get and how we get our news. But with the existence of a 24-hour news cycle between television news stations and online news, those media outlets seem to go to extremes to keep our attention. We have “breaking news” left and right with stories hyped up for maximum impact.
Do you ever feel like it’s just too much? Do you know how to separate the facts from sensationalized stories designed to get a reaction out of you? Are you tired of those extreme, often one-sided, and hyped up news programs causing unneeded stress for you and other members of your community?
Let’s take a look at why it’s important to be a responsible consumer of the news, what that means, and how you can be one.
What is Responsible News Consumption?
Maybe you’ve heard the old saying “don’t believe everything you see on TV.” That’s especially true when it comes to the news (and it applies equally to other media types such as the Internet and newspapers).
When you’re a responsible consumer of the news, you don’t take everything reporters say at face value. You can identify extremist views. And you can keep your mind open to news and ideas even if they don’t always agree with you. You can identify sensationalist headlines and stories that blow real news out of proportion. And most importantly you can find balance in the news you see, hear, or read.
Why You Should Be More Careful About the News
Now here’s the important question. Why should you want to be a responsible consumer of the news?
When you learn to tell the difference between significant news stories and those that are hyped up and potentially misleading to keep people’s interest, you can decrease your day to day stress. Let’s face it. Getting really bad news all the time is stressful. Knowing how to weed out the best stories lets you focus on what’s most important to you while stressing less about other issues you can’t control.
How to Get Past the “Breaking News” Stress Cycle
Here are a few tips to help you become a more responsible consumer of the news so you really know what’s going on in the world and you don’t have to feel stressed out by the constant supply of “breaking news.”
1. Be careful about who you trust.
Companies and even individual reporters have their biases. The next time you come across a stressful breaking news story that paints a person or group negatively, ask yourself if that reporter or news outlet might have biases against them that influenced the report (rather than just the facts).
You don’t have to do any specific research. Just think about other news stories you’ve seen there. If they always portray someone or something negatively, there’s a good chance there’s bias involved and you should try to get news about that issue from a more unbiased source that won’t try to play upon your emotions to get you to agree with them.
2. Understand how the 24-hour news cycle works.
In the past reporters and journalists had more time to evaluate their sources and craft their stories for the public. They could weed out what was really important. Today we have 24-hour news on the television and online. Media outlets have to come up with more stories to fill that time than they used to with a few news shows and newspapers.
That often means taking relatively small stories and making them sound much bigger than they really are. Stories are sensationalized — taken to an extreme. These media outlets make their money by bringing in a regular audience. They won’t do that with little stories most people don’t care about. So they might blow things out of proportion to make everything sound urgent. That’s what keeps people tuned in.
While you might get the occasional feel-good story from your favorite news outlet, media news tends to be biased towards the negative. It’s easier to convince you to tune in or go online several times a day if you’re looking for updates on a supposed pending disaster than by sharing happy stories all day long.
3. Take some time to tune out.
If you still can’t get over the bias of the news media to find better balance in stories you see or read, the best thing might be to take a break. Whether it’s a day or a week or even more than that, try taking a vacation from the news. It might give you the time you need to reflect not only on the larger picture, but on your own life.
Forget about the bad things going on in the world for a little while, and go out and appreciate the good ones. Visit loved ones or friends you haven’t seen in a while. Take your children out to enjoy the beautiful world around them. You could even kick back and enjoy a good book with all of that time you won’t be glued to your favorite news outlet.
If you can’t bring yourself to ignore the news completely for a while, at least change your sources. For example, stop turning to 24-hour news outlets like websites or all-day news stations on the television. Go back to reading a daily newspaper to get just the big stories you really should care about (not to mention interesting community news and announcements to take away from the stress from larger newsworthy issues).
It’s really simple if you think about it. If you want to cut back on the stress the constant stream of “breaking news” can bring, you need to cut back on how often you seek that news and look for stories from better (less-sensationalist) sources.
How often do you check the news? Do “breaking news” stories keep your attention for a long time? What’s your preferred media outlet? Do you think today’s 24-hour news cycle leads to more stress in your day-to-day life? Do you see stories that seem to encourage hatred or even panic among members of the public? Share your stories and tips on how others can get their news minus the added stress in our comments below.