I first started writing news when I was a junior at Mother Seton Regional High School for girls in Clark, New Jersey. I was the editorial page editor of the Setonnaire and more than the mild celebrity, I enjoyed seeing my words in print and having a public place to think out loud and create news—that singularly powerful blend of events, ideas, thoughts, information, and yes, hopes and dreams, too. I was constantly in awe—and still am—of my friends, the visual thinkers: the cartoonists who cleverly and quickly sketched their ideas and powerfully captured the essence of an idea. “Words were all I had (to take your heart away…),” as the Bee Gees crooned, but even as a fledgling journalist I sensed the organic, heady yet paradoxical power of this uniquely ephemeral yet lasting form.
It’s pretty amazing actually that each day, all over the world, hundreds of thousands of reporters get up and go out and find out what is happening and let the rest of us know. We wake up and look at our iPhones, iPads, and laptops or turn on the radio or television sets and yes, some of us actually read a newspaper that we may still pluck from our front porch in the morning. There it is, tried and true—news, in all its glorious and not so glorious incarnations.
It’s the stuff of our lives and rich fodder for movies and novels. It’s an oft-criticized but much coveted profession. It’s an exciting and evolving academic discipline. It’s also THE cornerstone of any viable and working democracy. Without a quality flow of reputable news and information it is impossible to have a true representative government. History and the heavy hand of censorship both around the world and yes, here in the United States, too, have proven this over and over again. None of this is new (or news: yes, I’m aware of the irony here). But what is new and what has dramatically altered the news environment, which I will hereto refer to as our newsphere, is the sheer volume of messages carrying the important distinction and designation as “news” and the proliferation of methods, channels, and networks to deliver it.
In addition to a greater amount of both information and disinformation masquerading as news, and the creation of dynamic and ubiquitous systems used to deliver it, news stories also have a different life span now that they are free from the traditional constraints of print and electronic broadcasting forms. They circulate and evolve and, like our own DNA molecules, some survive and thrive. Some die a natural and welcome death, while others are fueled by powerful winds of consensus, as well as by darker forces, such as unprocessed and unconscious acceptance, and last well beyond their time. There is also a dramatic increase in the volume of individuals creating and distributing news. From well-intentioned bloggers, the new breed of citizen journalists, and seasoned reporters doing a better job with powerful new tools, to bombastic cable television news show hosts, angry and vengeful agitators, and the highly literate bored with too much time on their hands, our virtual and physical newsstands are bursting at the seams.
Learning how to sort through the newsphere’s noise and the clutter, and particularly recognizing unprocessed and unconscious messages, is a key focus of this blog. But the real work is a deeper and more integral understanding of the effect news has on you so you can design a more viable and enlightened relationship with and in the newsphere. Please carefully consider precisely what news is doing to you: Is it distracting you? Probably. Is it informing you and making you a better citizen? Probably. Is it making you angry? Sometimes. Is it shifting your focus away from things you can realistically change and instead focusing your attention on problems with no solutions and tragic events that drain your energy? Yes. You can change that once you become aware of it! Determining the personal relevance, significance, and value of each bit and byte as well as the imagery that enters your consciousness is something only you can do. When you assume this vital, personal responsibility and channel your energy and attention in a more conscious way you not only improve the quality of your own life, you concurrently enhance our collective endeavors.