Early Retirement and the 24-Hour News Cycle

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I distinctly remember my high school Sociology teacher commenting that research showed that older people tend to have a more negative view of the world because they spend a disproportionate amount of time watching the evening news.   Since the evening news tends to focus on what is wrong in society, it made sense that the more you watched it the more negative you might become.

My grandpa was like this – when he and my grandma would visit (or we would visit them) I remember that he would watch the local news at 5pm, followed by the national news, followed by the local news (again, but on a different channel at 6pm) and then the local news one last time again at 10pm.  This was in addition to him reading the daily newspaper.  I don’t think I would necessarily say he had a negative view of society as a result, but he could certainly tell you what he saw as wrong in the world with headline examples.

Through my kid eyes, I was surprised at how much time he spent watching the news and I thought it was silly to see the same stories repeated again and again.  Since I wanted to change the channel to catch reruns of Star Trek or Happy Days, it was painful to have to sit through the same news over and over.

That was in the 1970s –  now we live in the world of the 24 hour news cycle where we have even exponentially MORE news streaming at us with multiple news channels broadcasting non-stop on the TV, radio, and online.  Social media magnifies the news even more as many use Facebook and Twitter to post articles and put our own editorial spin on the daily news.  It’s no wonder that people continue to see the world as a scarier place than ever, even as violent crime and war have declined dramatically over the last 20+ years (good Pew research study on this phenomenon HERE).

Now that I’m retired, I find myself consuming more news than ever.  I don’t have a set schedule, but I record the NBC Today Show and the ABC Evening News daily and catch part of each when I can.  Sometimes I watch on the treadmill in the morning while I also catch up on email.  Throughout the day I also check out Google News on my MacBook or iPhone, depending where I am at.  (We did cancel our Sunday paper subscription recently).

Maybe it’s the craziness of this year’s presidential campaign which is like watching a train crash in slow motion, but I also find myself being more “evangelical” in my social media when it comes to posting articles about politics.  While I try not to be too partisan or obnoxious, I’m sure I am way too outspoken for some of my friends.  I try to make fun of both major party candidates, although I probably pick on one more than the other.

The funny thing about the 24-hour news cycle is how addictive it can be.  It seems like the more you watch, the more you want to see.  Since most issues are complex, they have a never-ending number of angles, statistics, and perspectives that draw you into watching more about them.  Additionally, the volume of media is increasingly weighted toward opinion and editorial.  There is a lot less just straight facts and objectivity in reporting.  (I once saw the USA Today weather page report Minneapolis as “Much Too Cold”.  I thought, now we are editorializing the weather?!)

While on the surface it seems virtuous to be up to speed on current events, it’s not exactly the most important way I could probably spend my time.  If we’re really honest with ourselves we’d acknowledge that most of what is reported is hugely irrelevant to our daily lives and decision making.   Even the presidential election is a bit irrelevant to my life as our state (Minnesota) is so small and left-leaning that neither of the candidates spend ANY time worrying about the outcome here.  Whether you like love or despise her, it is a lock that HRC will carry away our electoral votes regardless of how much you pimp or criticize her on Facebook.

I think it will take a while for me to completely “settle down” in my news habits in early retirement.  While it certainly hasn’t taken over my day, I do know that I am spending more time thinking about politics and current events than I need to. I worry that if I am ramped up on watching the news in the summer, how bad might it get in the cold winter months?  At least then this crazy election I’ll be over and we can get on with simply criticizing our new president 😉

How much focus do you put on the keeping up with the news?  Has it gone up during the presidential election?  How do you keep it in balance with the rest of your life?

Image Credit: Adweek.com

21 thoughts on “Early Retirement and the 24-Hour News Cycle

  1. I watch our local news channel to catch weather and see what’s happening in my neck of the woods and often skim internet headlines. If a big story breaks I’m more likely to tune in. I find that often stories are throw out there with no follow up and I just don’t want to waste my time.

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  2. Reminds me of growing up in the UK and watching national news at 6pm, local news at 6.30 and then more national news at 9 or 10pm. We had four TV channels back then – BBC1, BBC2, ITV and the new upstart at the time Channel 4.

    Today we live in an information economy and most of it is free (?)through social media. Many wise folks are concerned what this will all go to great news outlets like the Washington Post, WSJ, NPR etc. What sort of training wlill new journalists get? Anyone with an iPhone and Twitter can be a “reporter” !!

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  3. I watch very little news. Maybe PBS Newshour at night. I listen to NPR in the morning and sometimes during the day. During a very recent hospital stay, my roommate watched CNN a lot. I came to realize how mostly useless 24-hour news really is. No depth, all dribble.

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  4. Good point! I’m going to have to remember this. Right now, I don’t watch the news, but I do read it online a couple times a day. Hopefully I can stay busy and keep TV at bay once I’m able to leave the 9-5.

    It seems now, more than ever, that the news is horribly depressing… too many lunatics out there.

    — Jim

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  5. In the summer we watch very little TV and so our news viewing has gone way down. And love the line about the train crash in slow motion – that is certainly another reason to stay away from the news. My dad turns 86 today and my mom is 77. They spend a lot of time sitting in front of the TV and I have to remind them to switch to old shows – were you subjected to Hee Haw? Or All in the Family or I Love Lucy. A little news goes a long way and at their age, it is very depressing to them.

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    • There are a couple of cable channels that just show old TV series from the 1960s & 1970s. I love that my son likes the Bob Newhart Show as much as I did when I was a kid.

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  6. I’m a bit on the other side of the spectrum. We don’t have a TV at home so all the news I get are either from Twitter and Facebook feeds or I explicitly look up on a news site. I figure if there’s something important I should know I’ll come across it. Seems to work for the past 6 years or so.

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  7. I tend to get most of my news from a few newspaper apps on my iPhone. Every day before I get out of bed, I scroll through the latest headlines and read an important article or two. I don’t watch the news often, but I happen to catch it more during the summer (teacher on vacation) and during holidays.

    I would rather spend my time reading blogs and learning something new than watching news these days. Much of what makes onto the broadcast isn’t very “newsworthy,” in my humble opinion.

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    • It’s good that you can keep the news at bay. During the summer there is a lot to do, so it is probably easier to not watch as much. I’m worried about the cold weather months.

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  8. The ‘news’ is almost always biased. I’ve found that you have to get involved in things and read a lot of different stuff, then you will be informed and then you see the bias on TV — that’s why it is called “lame-stream media” :).

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    • I had a ‘Mass Media’ communications class in college and I remember the professor opening the first class of the semester with the admonishment to always remember that ‘the sole purpose of our mass media is to deliver an AUDIENCE to an ADVERTISER.” That’s why they are biased – they want nothing more than to get the right eyeballs to the right TV ads. That’s the reality for the commercial media.

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  9. It seems need these days is all for the entertainment value and nothing else. I pay attention just to be abreast of key topics, but otherwise I get my entertainment elsewhere.

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  10. I’ve had to chill out a bit on my levels of news consumption, watching the Australian/USA elections I have noticed that it’s made me a little tense – the Australian election is over now and I’m really trying to avoid Australian political news because while I agree that being informed is very important, sometimes it means I take on the burden/stress of it, when that won’t change anything about our political landscape.

    Sometimes a little ignorance is bliss, or at least a break.

    Jasmin

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    • Yes, I am chilling out and enjoying the Olympics. My son asked if I wanted to watch ‘House of Cards’ and I said I was getting WAY too much political drama this year already!

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  11. I seem to have a similar, perhaps more extreme, approach to that of MMM. Retired 3 years ago and have not intentionally followed any news sources since. As you point out, very little reported by the media is relevant to my life. I find the majority of the news depressing, distressing and just leaving me shaking my head at human society in general and the American society in particular. And of course, the news is just a “delivery vehicle” for advertising of various sorts and I prefer not to be exposed to all the material driving consumerism in our culture….which leaves me uninterested in the Olympics as well for the same reason. Never seen so many advertisements as there are in those broadcasts. I find that this approach leaves me much more peaceful than I previously found myself…particularly during market down turns. And every time I inadvertently find myself watching a news broadcast, I remember quickly why I do not typically watch them!

    Anyhow, read several of your entries and found them interesting and thought I would comment on this post which is somewhat near and dear to my heart.

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    • That sounds like a good approach. I agree with your thoughts on the purpose and impact of TV news. One funny thing though is that I don’t feel the same about the newspaper. I only read the paper now and then, but it leaves me with a completely different mood. Much more calm and better for the experience. I’m not sure why that is?

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