Overindulging in news

Just as it is in other things, the practice of moderation in news consumption can be good.

Mike Munzenrider

ThereâÄôs an incredible amount of international news taking place at this very moment. The U.S. just became involved in a third war, protest and unrest continue in the Middle East and Japan faces its worst crisis since World War II.

It may be a terrible thing for a journalism major to say, but with all this breaking, 24-hour coverage, IâÄôm facing serious news burn out.

In fact, I can pinpoint the moment when I inadvertently buried my head in the sand due to too much news. IâÄôm just now shaking the sand out of my hair, trying to unpack what I learned from my sudden aversion to the news.

Early in the morning on Friday, March 11, a Twitter check just before bed alerted me to the events unfolding in Japan. The earthquake had just struck, and the first waves of the resulting tsunami were right then rolling ashore.

The scope of the disaster was becoming apparent, and before I knew it, I was dividing my time between following my Twitter feed and watching CNN. Eventually, I tired of CNNâÄôs audio, so I started streaming the BBC on my phone.

Flipping between CNN, Fox News and MSNBC, I noticed that they were all showing the same footage. The BBC and Twitter were practically rehashing the same facts in sync, but I was committed to learning as much as possible and kept going.

Sitting in my living room alone in the dark at 2:30 a.m., I was completely immersed in âÄì and slightly scared about âÄì what was happening half a world away.

I went on like this for a while, though IâÄôm not exactly sure when I finally went to bed. Final abandonment of my media blitz hinged on the befuddled âÄúWhat the hell are you doing?âÄù look that my groggy girlfriend shot at me as she discovered me alone in the dark with my glowing screens.

As I decided to give up for the night, I took a mental inventory of what IâÄôd learned while completely plugged into the media. In a nut shell, IâÄôd learned there was a big earthquake. There was a big tsunami. People were hurt, people were dying.

IâÄôd relied on multiple news sources — perhaps as many as 10 âÄì in that breaking news moment, and they were all saying the same thing but not saying very much about it.

Continuing on that Friday morning after a brief amount of sleep, I did my cursory checks of the news aggregators. Events on the ground in Japan were becoming clearer. Thousands probably dead. Possibly impending nuclear meltdowns.

I read the headlines. I sort of took note. I didnâÄôt click on the stories. I did not âÄúread more.âÄù Instead, I went to work.

The news coming out of Japan seemed old, already passed, even as the terrible details become more terrible and the specter of nuclear fallout was raised.

IâÄôd been captivated by the coverage and the disaster. While watching it all in real time, I consumed a huge chunk of unchanging information, which ruined my appetite for more later.

ItâÄôs clear to me that my story fixation into the wee hours of the night was ridiculous and, in fact, predisposed me to have news fatigue long before I knew the whole story.

What to do? Could it be as simple and unsatisfying as slowing down? Not reading, watching and listening all at once? It probably is. Ho-hum.

Maintaining a sense of moderation in news consumption is absolutely a First World type of problem. However, weâÄôre truly living through history as itâÄôs written. The glut of news is overwhelming, not only in its amount but in its complexity.

Parsing it all out is important, almost a responsibility to the times weâÄôre living in. But you donâÄôt have to get it all at once.

Take a deep breath. Go to bed. The news will still be happening tomorrow. There might even be more.