For the last few years I’ve toyed with the idea of instituting a policy of total current-events abstinence. No newspapers, no blogs, no BBC World, at least for a few weeks. I’d still read, but I’d devote my time to history, economics and science. You know, looking at the world with binoculars rather than a microscope.
This comes from my growing anxiety that the hour I spend consuming daily news and analysis isn’t actually teaching me anything. X celebrity died. Y is wrong on the internet. The former governor of Z is a living shenanigan.
The problem is that very little of the so-called daily news is actually news. I was reading this article today speculating about the Greek crisis and the end of the Eurozone. It’s interesting analysis, but I probably would have gotten more intellectual nutrition from just reading the currency union page on Wikipedia or this description of some other prior attempts.
If Greece decides to leave the euro, that’s legitimate news. But until that happens, am I really learning anything from speculation and various never-gonna-happen scenarios?
We have a strongly entrenched cultural value that being informed of current affairs is synonymous with intelligence. You can use ‘what do you think is going to happen with Greece?’ as a conversation-starter in a way you can’t with, say, ‘Why do you think communism failed?’
I wish I knew of more publications that occupied a space between news and history. Somewhere from rough draft to conventional wisdom, there are a lot of lessons to be learned, and a lot of former lessons to be edited. If journalism’s mandate is to inform the public, this is what it should be doing. And it would be a nice transition into forgoing it entirely.