I’ve spent my entire adult life reporting the news, so I was troubled when I came upon a “news” website that stated not only is news bad for your health, but that if you give up reading it you’ll be happier.
That was just in the headline and I hesitated reading this news. I’m a news junkie and you can’t be too careful, but I pressed on.
The fellow who wrote this article - Rolf Dobelli - insists news is toxic, leaving your body in a “state of chronic stress”. You’re left with fear, anxiety, depression, nervousness, aggression and tunnel vision, he says.
That’s more than a bit hyperbolic. Mr. Dobelli casts an indictment of news as misleading, irrelevant, a waste of time, a kind of drug, inhibitor of concentration and clear thinking and with no explanatory emphasis.
But he’s right about its effects on the body. It can be like a drug. Dobelli says, “news is to the mind what sugar is to the body.” It is addicting. During the first Gulf War, my CNN colleagues at the Al Rashid Hotel in Baghdad were the only source of information in the world about the military phase. Even H.W. Bush, his C.I.A and Saddam Hussein were watching - for days. We all were. And it was stressful. And in those days the medical community was treating what became known as, CNN Syndrome.
Simple really. A lengthy loss of sleep caused by extended television watching as America and its allies went to war. It was described as a psychiatric phenomenon. But as far as I know there were no reports of infection, inhibited release of growth hormones and hair loss as Mr. Dobelli finds in his assessment of news watching side effects.
In my experience, he’s right about the “fear factor.” Media relies on it to keep you hooked on the coverage. And he’s also right about all that coverage, such as in Boston, most of which was a waste of time.
That may explain why CNN’s ratings are dropping, newspapers are going out of business and internet news reading has recently doubled. Maybe that television news 24-hours-a-day idea wasn’t so hot after all. The news landscape is rapidly changing.
We know from the Boston Marathon bombing story that “Twitter” was the go-to news source in a big way.
It seems the younger generation is getting its news from social media and that’s a whole other story, about keeping informed, hopefully, without losing your hair.