The News Will Make You Stupid
Wy wife and I tell our children that most ‘news’’ is fiction or entertainment, generally unreliable information, and that consuming too much news will make them...stupid. And, if they want to be productive, they should ignore the news and learn how to efficiently find facts, analysis, and opinions that will enrich their lives and help them to be successful.
How come the news didn't make you and mom stupid?
In the old days, serious organizations invested in news presentations that were based upon facts, evidence, research, and interviews that were thoroughly and thoughtfully considered by smart men and women that were concerned with truth, integrity, and reputation. Consuming the news used to make us smarter.
What happened to the serious news organizations?
News companies make money by charging advertisers for delivering messages to their audiences. The bigger the audience, the higher the (delivery) fee. When the internet came along, audiences fragmented. Now people stream media on demand, and spend their time on social networks, apps, and niche websites. To compete (and to stay solvent), news suppliers cut back on the stuff that made us smarter, and invested in the things that seduce and shock us into watching, listening, and clicking.
The top of the news funnel is a wasteland.
Think of the daily or weekly news as a funnel. The top of the news funnel is often filled with opinionated, polarized, sensationalized, attention-grabbing, factless rubbish that’s solely dispensed to herd sheep into the ad serving pasture. Nothing at the top of the funnel will ever impact your life. Moreover, you never want to overdose on stuff that reinforces your opinions.
The middle of the news funnel is a commodity.
The middle of the funnel is where you will find sport scores, weather forecasts, stock prices, press release regurgitations, Wikipedia references, packaged news, canned video, and stock photos. It’s all marginally useful, easily found on Google, and rarely capable of inspiring or educating us. It’s the kind of stuff you lean forward to find on demand, versus sitting back and letting it wash over you.
The end of the news funnel makes you smarter.
You never need to be the first person to know the news; breaking news is everywhere, and all of the middle information is either a click, tap, or swipe away. Wait for the most important news to find you, and seek the news that makes you smarter. There are still people that demand facts, have access to first-hand information, perform experiments, confirm sources, and conduct interviews. Furthermore, many of the news sources at the end of the funnel remain unbiased, act transparently, and thoughtfully produce...the news.
How do I find the end of the funnel?
To discern fact from fiction, you have to be well read. A knowledgeable person is hard to fool. You have to question everything including: sources, agendas, politics, context, and the money trail. You won't find a single source for trusted news. Forget news brands; follow the actual influencers, writers, and reporters instead. Watch for links to sources that are trusted by the people you trust. Like song collecting over a lifetime, continuously prune a list of trusted feeds, friends, newsletters, and subscriptions. Learn how to use RSS, Instapaper or Pocket, Twitter and Medium, and how to manage podcasts. Buy high-quality publications, but follow the writers. Always note the author’s name and background.
Be happier and earn more…
Unhappy humans spend countless hours clicking links to meaningless dribble. Even worse, they repost branded news fiction like it’s fact. If you want to be happier, ignore this noise. If you want to be valuable in the workplace, learn how to find the truth, share facts, and form thoughtful, diverse opinions.