Friends, this is probably blasphemous to say on Election Day, but TV news isn’t good for you. A lot of the “news” that people are taking in these days isn’t good for them.
I reached the point a few weeks back where I had to disengage with this election. I voted, and I feel good about the votes I cast. But I don’t feel good about where the country is headed, regardless of who wins. People are spewing so much hatred and anger, and a lot of that is the result of reading and watching junk news that is being passed off as journalism.
There’s a lot of talk about the liberal, elite media, and I’m befuddled by that phrase. I have worked at five different newspapers, if you include my college paper. Here is what I know about journalists: They earn modest salaries and buy used cars and worry about their property tax bills and struggle to be good parents while working the crazy schedule that journalism demands. They tend to be badly dressed. Some of them are devout Christians, Jews and Muslims, and some are atheists. Most of them are whip-smart, which is what you want in a group of people who are trying to keep tabs on the ethics of our leaders.
The Internet was supposed to provide diverse viewpoints and help all of us to become better educated. Instead, it has provided a place for biased news to proliferate, and many of us now only read things that affirm our viewpoints instead of suffering the discomfort of reading a different viewpoint. (Hello, confirmation bias!)
Here’s the thing: Good journalists think a lot about being fair and representing all sides of an argument. They check whether their data comes from a nonpartisan source. They consider whether both candidates look similarly friendly when they choose photos. They think about who a story helps and who it harms and whether they can justify running it if it harms someone.
Good journalism educates people, empowers them and teaches them compassion. If the news you are reading or watching leaves you full of hatred and fear, it’s time to switch your habits. I’d recommend subscribing to your local paper or its website, listening to NPR, or checking out one of the great upstart nonprofit news sites.
A new president isn’t going to repair this damage. We have to want to repair it and take strides in that direction. We would do well to nourish our minds and spirits instead of consuming more garbage. As Ralph Waldo Emerson said, “We become what we think about all day long.”