I had other ideas for what to write today, but as I sat down at the coffee shop, I glanced at the movement to my right. Oh, the TV. The news was reporting about a girl killed by a gun. I look away. I look back. I angle my computer away from the TV.
I don’t watch much news. I scan headlines, read through my local paper, listen to the radio sometimes, but I do very little active news-watching. Am I shirking my duty as a citizen to be well-informed? Who determines what I need to know and how I will receive it?
After 9/11, I watched the news over and over, probably for hours that evening. As though watching the towers fall again and again would make it more real or maybe less real. Everyone else was watching it too, but that didn’t make me feel any closer to anyone, it just made me feel awful. After the Newtown tragedy, I heard the story and turned it off. I did not need to hear every speculation. But it felt like some sort of duty, something that everybody was listening/watching/talking about and that I should, too. Then I found this prayer from Brene Brown’s Ordinary Courage blog, “Lord, help me send love and light to those in pain. Let me stay calm and openhearted while I manage my own fear and anger. Help me remember that news coverage is traumatizing for me, not healing, and that my children need safety and information, not more fear. ” This was her response to the tragedy. I stayed away from the coverage. I played my flute for hours that weekend. This was my way of putting joy and goodness into the world.
Does the news build community? It’s purpose is ostensibly to inform, but how much information do we need and does the knowledge of what has happened many miles away serve to connect us?
Sometimes, it does. More and more often, I think that it does not. I think all the information that news organizations decide to share, that they decide is worthy, distracts us from those around us, from engaging with both the issues and the joys in our own homes, neighborhoods, and cities.
Am I saying we shouldn’t have news, shouldn’t know what is going on around the world? No. I love stories, I love knowing. But I feel like a more compassionate, connected human being when I don’t inundate myself, when I chose what is worthy, when I discover that my neighbor’s story is as much news as what’s on TV.