Posted in Of Culturel

Of Reading The News

'I'll only give you the paper if you promise not to let the news upset you.'

There is no right time to read or watch the news. Morning, afternoon, evening, night, insomnia-fueled late night, despair-ridden early morning. Nil, nought. It is too confusing and depressing. If you could put all the news of the world in a mixer, what you would get is a fine blend that reads, “The Apocalypse was yesterday. Where were you, idiot?”, along with Beethoven’s 5th, you know – the ominous-sounding one from countless scary films that goes dan dan dan dah, dan dan dan dah – playing in the background. Even Beethoven must yell from musical heaven, “I’m sick of listening to this, you fools! Put on Kendrick Lamar!”

I base my hypothesis on solid research. I have been working continually on this since the early 90s. Since before I was even literate. Predominantly, because there were only two TV channels and no cable. I watched the news when it came on, because that was all you could do at that time. I could have been playing in the garden with my cat instead, but it was all so fascinating. This person on screen, sitting with the most stern expression on her face, rattling off these difficult-sounding words that were repeated many times in the day. I liked to mimic her, only vocally because she had nothing going on facially. Just by sheer repetition, I picked up all the important goings-on in the world, if only to amuse adults by performing it afterwards. I enjoyed it, but who knows what I could have been saying?

But then, I started reading the news, a habit I maintained daily from childhood till a few months ago. I just can’t, anymore. I’ve tried, but I only have stacks of newspapers piling up, to further depress me when I think of my procrastination. If I pick them up, and see a sickly sweet chocolate commercial next to an awful crime, I have to put it down. It is not just that so many horrible things happen everyday. It is that the whole medium of the news decides to place the horrible next to the terrible, the terrible next to the unbearable, the unbearable next to the laughable, the laughable next to the wonderful, and the wonderful next to the expensive-watch-I-can’t-ever-afford-but-I-wouldn’t-have-wanted-it-anyway. There are, at least, five things screaming out “Read me! Read me” at any given time, and my mind is programmed to read, at least, two of them simultaneously. I feel scared and pitiful at the gruesome murder, but oh, a new model of a car can solve all my dental problems.

It’s even worse with the TV and the internet. After I got cable in the mid-90s and the internet a decade after, I realised the news was no more about sordid-looking people who could very well be reading Pharell’s “Happy” in monotone. It was like the newspaper, but fifty-times amplified in temptation, distractability and frustration. There was a different breaking news every 30 seconds, and the breaking news from five minutes ago was only not-that-big-deal-of-a-news now, to be shoved towards the end of the rolling text thing at the bottom of the screen. What’s more, all the colours, from the channel’s logo to the sponsor’s logo to the sponsor-of-the-hour’s logo to the speech-bubble-text about the festival-of-the-moment along with the primary video comprising of the presenter having a six-way conversation with four humans with their own mini videos, a prize dog and his wife, meant that I had to turn the whole thing off, or at least switch to another channel with only three visual elements, the primary one being the movie made on the breaking news from two minutes ago. Even though I don’t read it, I am not about to cancel my newspaper subscription.

It’s slightly better with the internet, but only because it is easier to close tabs, or get impatient with buffering videos. However, where all you can do with a TV is change channels or bang a rolled-up newspaper (that you haven’t read) on empty air because your TV set is flat now, you accidentally end up clicking things on the internet. You may be watching a news piece on recent findings on the harmful effects of sugar, only to have a lock of your hair accidentally fall on the tablet screen, taking you to a chocolate cake recipe. What’s more, things you never thought you may be interested in come up as your ‘Suggested’ topics and you feel compelled to look, even if you were happily watching your favourite Youtuber.

What’s common to all this media, and at the core of this problem, is obviously, you. You open the newspaper as you casually make breakfast in the morning and read ‘Death By Toaster’. You panic, and scald your finger as you take the piece of bread out. You read on the same page about flour causing a deadly, recently discovered disease. You drop your toast instantly, and go hungrily to your place of work. You see a good deal on a new toaster, advertised on a giant billboard by a huge website, and you order it on your phone, to be delivered before you wake up next morning. You plug it in, only to electrocute yourself fatally. You wake up and realise it was all a dream, but you decide to have eggs for breakfast anyway.

How do you handle the news?

Follow me on twitter @AmritaSarkar6


Writer, Blogger, Kate Bush Fanatic

19 thoughts on “Of Reading The News

    1. For sure. I feel happier when I don’t read it, but then I miss out on something “important”, or something everybody I know is talking about, and then I have to go find out more about it and on and on it goes…

  1. Nice point about the juxtaposition of the gruesome story beside the shiny solution-to-all-problems advertisement.
    I find I often sing the Beatles ‘a day in the life’ opening line after reading the news, I read the news today, Oh Boy.
    Perhaps the only thing more discouraging than the news is the vitriol in the online comments section of a news article.
    Which is why I enjoy reading blogs like yours – your content is thought-provoking and your commenters are thoughtful!

  2. Not even kidding I had been wanting to write a post about being purposely oblivious to the news because of not being able to handle it being so depressing all the time! Great article! 🙂

  3. It’s so true!

    No matter how bad the world seems to be, adverts are always offering a solution right?

    I’ve personally noticed that trends are massive In music. One bigger artist releases a track that’s based on… let’s say boiling an egg, then the next 5 manufactured bands do egg based songs.

    1. Ha ha, I really wish they made a catchy song about boiling eggs! And yes, trends certainly are massive in music, which is why genres seem to have less long-term appeal than they used to. There are many creative people, but there are also tons of others exploiting that idea till it’s dead.
      Thank you for reading!

  4. I handle the news by avoiding it (we don’t have any TV channels) and ONLY subscribing to positive or weird/interesting news. There’s no need to hear about all the terrible things going on. Usually I search for things I’m curious about if I hear a lot of talk of it from others around me.

    1. I tend to do that as well, but sometimes it’s hard not to click or read the “serious” news too. But, yes, “weird” news is definitely what I read the most!

  5. Couldn’t agree more. It’s becoming a nightmare. I’m not sure if the world got so much worse or if it’s us. Maybe it’s the way they broadcast the news nowadays, the way they like to upset us, the things they decide are news-worthy… Not sure, but I did stop watching the news a while ago and only brows newspapers if at all.

    1. I think the world has always had its problems. Journalism hasn’t been around that long relatively, but the lines between studied, informative journalism and sensationalism has gotten progressively blurred, along with advertising and PR using the medium for its own ends.

  6. WOW!!! This is so intelligently written. A whole new and different approach and its so original. What an insight really!! I love how you bring life t newspapers and TV and the way you end it showing how feeble our minds can get.

    Hence I have nominated you for Bloggers Recognition Award. It’s a great way for bloggers to recommend and promote great blogs. You can see the post here. You can see the post here.

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