News embargo

By Ev Bogue - December 27th 2014

Earlier this year I was obsessed with parsing the news. Not a lot was happening in the world at the time, but I was trying to put together the pieces. This meant digging through hundreds of news stories every day on various news websites. So I'd bounce between the NYT, Foxnews, CNN, reddit, and then cross reference with Zerohedge and RT.

For the most part this was international news. Tech news has been so boring for years now that I haven't given a shit about it. I'm more likely to dig around the Arch Linux wiki than try to keep up with the latest brochure websites for apps no one uses, or the latest flop of a poopy thumb device that everyone doesn't buy.

A few things were making me even more obsessive about the news. In particular it was when things didn't add up for me. For example, one of the things that drives me insane is when the NYT says that the US economy grew 5% siting consumer spending, and then Zerohedge says the US economy grew 5%, then drilling down into the docs released by the government to see that it was actually the healthcare industry that grew, aka Obamacare.

So there's all of this cognative dissonence, and no one is telling the whole story, or even attempting to. Why? I can only imagine because by not writing good stories the news gets more clicks from people such as me who are trying to figure out what the hell is going on.

To make this all more difficult, I was involved in the journalism industry for a long time prior to starting the blogging thing. I got a journalism degree a handful of years ago, and then I went and worked at a magazine for a long time. So I picked up my news habit when I was required to pick up a print copy of the NYT every day. Yes, I know, I was the only person at Journalism school who actually bought a print copy of the NYT every morning.

However, more recent I've discovered the news is so difficult to parse. There's so many angles, so many misfacts, so much biased writing, so much government propaganda, that I've noticed my productivity lacking. Even yesterday, I didn't get my regular scheduled story written because my head was so filled with facts about the latest prisoner swap in Donetsk, and Jordan's fighter pilot who was downed by ISIS. Not to mention all of the recent stuff about Cuba.

So I've decided to take my news embargo to the next level. I'm embargoing news for the next 30 days. If something happens, it'd better be outside my window. If something happens it better be printed on the front page of one of those Mexican daily newspapers, otherwise I won't hear about it.

My news embargo started two months ago when I added reddit.com and news.ycombinator.com to my hosts file. Now, I'll add some more news organizations. RT, NYT, Foxnews, CNN, Zerohedge. Then I won't be tempted to type the URLs into my URL bar without thinking about the results.

I'd rather spend time looking at the fish and writing my next book.

And if something happens outside my window, well, I'll know that it happened because I saw it with my own two eyeballs!

I've done news embargos in the past. Mostly because of totally losing interest in endless Iraq war stories and lame tech stories about new phones no one cared about.

But this time I think it's more important, because the news is so insane and schizophrenic that I can't even figure out what I'm reading anymore.

I think there's this false sense of 'understanding the world' that can come from reading the news every day. This was fine when there was decent reporting happening in the world, because all I'd have to do is read one news story and know what is happening. But these days the news organizations know that badly written stories do better than good stories because people can't figure out what is going on, so they keep clicking back for 'breaking news updates!' meanwhile not getting any of their own work done.

Another reason I wanted to read the news in 2014 was I was interested in having political conversations with people. However, I discovered over the past year the only person who wants to talk politics with me is a friend from journalism school who lives in the middle east now. Even people in Eastern Europe seem to have blocked out in their brains which way Germany and Ukraine are from where they live.

This news merbargo is all part of a broader strategy that I have for 2015 to keep my level of personal anxiety down, and keep my productivity up. Because being stressed is great, as long as I'm applying my energy in the right direction. For me that means maintaining my work, publishing to this site, and responding to all of the emails I receive at least every day. Inbox Zero, if anyone remembers how that works anymore.

The question is, will not reading the news raise or lower my anxiety levels?

Do you have the same difficulty parsing what is happening when you do read the news?

Do you think my news embargo is a good or bad idea?

Will you join me in taking a news embargo?

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