It is difficult but necessary. I’m trying to reduce the amount of news that I consume because, for now anyway, I’m weary and need a break.
I think I’m slowly but surely doing OK. For example, last week I was at my desk in the 5TJT office, and while I usually have one of my two computer screens set to one news station or another, I managed to sit there for hours without watching any news channel at all.
Afterward, I thought that it wasn’t too bad. I didn’t miss constantly looking up to try to figure out what was going on since a good deal of the time while I’m watching Fox or Fox Business or OAN or Newsmax, I keep the sound off because I’m either talking to people or busy with other things. Then when someone pops up on the screen and I read the chyron, I have the option of turning up the volume to hear what exactly the people on the screen are saying.
But last week was really the first week that I went through most days without a news station lighting up one of my computer screens. At one point, only because I was used to having that screen illuminated, I clicked on a replay of a New York Knicks game from the night before. Even though they’ve won about five games so far this season, I could tell just by watching out of the corner of my eye that their offense is unexciting and mostly stale. I’m not sure how much more of the Knicks I’m going to be able to tolerate.
But back to the news. I have been a news addict for as far back as I can remember; even as a young child, I could never get enough of news and news analysis from any direction it would emanate from. Up until a few months ago, I even enjoyed reading parts of The New York Times, specifically because I disagreed with what most of their writers and editorialists pontificated upon on a daily basis. Up until that point I believed that it was important to know the stance and thought process of anyone who did not see things your way.
But then it just became too much to be able to digest on a daily or even an occasional basis. Over the last few years—and a good deal of that liability and fault can be assigned to Donald Trump—the debate deteriorated to a sophomoric level.
After all these decades observing the function of government on just about all levels, I’ve never been witness to grown people who were elected to major national leadership positions calling one another derogatory names, similar to what children might do when they have a disagreement in a schoolyard.
Then Fox News lost me and others on Election Day. That night, as election returns were being reported, it seemed that Fox on-air personalities were leaning in the direction of wanting to report that Mr. Trump was losing or had lost and were in a rush to report state-by-state victories for Mr. Biden.
If I write here that the fix was in and that there was a determination somewhere that all involved had to contribute any way they could to Mr. Trump’s defeat, then I am signing on to one of the many inane conspiracy theories being bounced around out there.
I don’t subscribe to these things. Dealing with reality is problematic enough, and if you are doing that, how do you have time or space in your head for some of those wacky ideas?
Perhaps the most interesting thing I heard said over the last few weeks is that when viewing the media landscape out there, one can come to the conclusion that there really is no such thing as a free press today. And that is because whatever the outlet is—whether TV or radio, or a newspaper or social media platform—someone, somewhere, owns that entity, and part of whatever news they share is molded in the image of an individual or a team of individuals. So whatever the outlet is, there is leaning involved in one direction or another.
Anyway, now I’m trying to go cold turkey from the news—the partial or impartial variety. At this early stage, I have to say that the absence of the nonstop news reports directed at me from my computer screen, phone, or TV is nice. I’m actually enjoying the quiet, especially at night.
When I say “at night,” I mean that at times I actually have the radio playing all night near my night table, usually listening to any number of podcasts that are available on demand. Some of the more interesting commentators to listen to are Ben Shapiro, Michael Savage, and Mark Levin. But over the last few weeks I pretty much stopped listening to them because they basically just drone on about the same thing night after night.
Shapiro, as you know, is an Orthodox Jewish young man in his mid-thirties, a Harvard-trained attorney who recently moved with his family from Los Angeles to Boca Raton, Florida. His company, The Daily Wire, is now located in Nashville, Tennessee. He is frum, wears his yarmulke on screen, and does not hesitate to incorporate aspects of what it means to be an Orthodox Jew into his daily commentary and presentation.
The Wall Street Journal is still pretty readable. I especially like Kimberley Strassel’s column because she is a conservative but tells it like it is. Last week she wrote that, in her opinion, after the events of last Wednesday, President Trump has erased any legacy that he may have had.
I told a reporter from the JTA earlier this week that the fashion in which Mr. Trump conducted daily White House business may have been effective in the construction business, but at the end of the day it just did not work in politics.
So the U.S. is in a difficult situation and we all have to do our part to improve the mood in the country. We need the return of civility and the ability to disagree forcefully but cordially. That is the America we have always known and loved.
Unfortunately, TV news has to command ratings, and that comes about by offering shocking and sensational news. But that type of reporting inflames passions and leads people in not-good directions. I think I’m going to allow myself minimal doses of the news, watch more football or basketball, and listen to music and shiurim from Rabbi YY Jacobson. Anything but a barrage of news, for a while anyway.
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