Keeping a balance when it comes to explosion of news options

Mark Weber

Wow, how things have changed.

Yes, our modern society continues to surge ahead in the midst of the zany ‘information’ age and while it’s doubtlessly been a gift in innumerable ways, there are prices to pay for knowing too much in my opinion.

Specifically, I’m thinking of some of the material that is constantly flowing to us from every corner of the globe via TV and the Internet. It wasn’t so very long ago that 24-hour news TV networks were unknown. But now, with the online explosion of news and information available every split second of the day, it’s a virtual mountain of knowledge that rains down on folks every day – if they allow it to.

This is something I’ve been thinking about for sometime, and it really hit home recently when I was watching CTV news that has the line of breaking news continually flowing across the bottom of the screen.

Now I not only have the news anchor telling me the latest (and of course the bulk of it is negative and depressing) but if my attention wavers for a second and my eyes drift to the lower part of the screen I can be brought up to date by the news feed at the bottom of the screen too.

The material found there taps into pretty much any topic, but what I’ve found striking is how accustomed we’ve become to absorbing news of events in extremely faraway places. And it’s often disturbing news that I wonder if we really, honestly need to know.

With all due respect, for example, do I need to know about a man’s death in Tokyo because of a ride at an amusement park? Certainly it’s a tragedy, but do we on the other side of the world need to know about it?

I recall also hearing something about a death in a Texas community. Again, with all due respect to the family and friends of the deceased, do we in other nations need to know this?

My point is this – we are continually hearing about how people need to not be so stressed out, how they need to relax. I just heard on the news the other day how the use of antidepressants in Quebec are very much on the rise.

Now, I’m not accusing the mass media of contributing to rising anxiety and depression rates in society. But I do find it interesting that those levels appear to be rising as we as a society continue to absorb more, learn more and struggle to keep up with more and more information about the world.

I sometimes wonder what it was like a century ago, when bad news was limited to one’s immediate world. A person wasn’t aware of tragedies unfolding a world away. They had their own ‘here and now’ to deal with and likely that was more than enough.

Today, we not only have our own ‘here and now’ circumstances to deal with. We have a plentiful serving of mass media trying to fill air time with every snippet of news they can find – some good, some rather mundane, but you can count on the fact much of it will be bad.

Believe me, especially as a journalist, I am not advocating that we collectively bury our heads in the sand and pretend that bad things don’t happen. It’s important to be aware of what’s going on in this world so that we can help make a difference in situations where we may.

Ultimately, I suppose it boils down to the individual and their capacity for information, or shall we say information overload. I think it also fuels a feeling of helplessness and despair in people. We are blanketed with images and information that we can do little or nothing to change.

I’ve found myself watching the news channels less over the years and adopting a more balanced approach to finding out what’s going on in our world.

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