My News Diet: Intercontinental Breakfast

Some people say that the increasing connectedness of our lives today also serves to isolate us from each other.

I bet those people never worked eight-day weeks out of the Best Western in Rawlins, Wyoming.

Removed completely from friends, family, and fiance’ for two-thirds of the summer, I think I learned a few things about isolation.  At the same time, I was constantly connected, wired up to the hive mind (wirelessly), with my brand new HD tablet. I’m not boasting here, or at least I don’t mean to be, but being able to walk to the hotel bar in pajamas while carrying a library of books, music, movies and instant connectivity to anything online–in Rawlins–is seriously cool.

One of the first apps I bought was to connect to the BBC. Even though the Brits sometimes use questionable grammar and strange words, BBC has always impressed me with their commitment to covering the world. I doubt it’s hyperbolic to say that a quick check of the front page of the BBC is twice as likely to have major world events appropriately covered than the front page of your typical American major like CNN, Fox, or NBC.  Part of the reason for BBC’s success is its status in the U.K. as an officially sanctioned autonomous public service.  Funded partly by voluntary “licensing fees,” the BBC exists in the homes of those who pay for it, freeing the organization of many of the burdens of relying on ad revenue.

Across the Atlantic, PBS and NPR–the poor, redneck cousins of the BBC–remain the major news sources I respect, mainly because profit is not a primary motivator.  PBS contains some of the best in-depth journalism on TV with documentary-style shows like Nova and Frontline. NPR can often be dry, and I listened to a lot of it this summer, but it’s an excellent way to become aware of events I would never have otherwise known.

I do realize that the news outlets I return to regularly are thought to contain liberal leanings, though I do poke around Drudge Report and Fox News.com from time to time.  Besides, a wise man once said that reality has a well-known liberal bias.

I think entertainment can be informative, and I believe we’ve witnessed a gradual synthesis of the two poles in recent decades.  The satires of SNL or The Daily Show present the news as context for jokes at a newsmaker’s expense.  Shows like Nova and The American Experience can be immensely entertaining for people who are curious about history and science.

So-called entertainment news shows might present a few interesting sociological or psychological case-studies, but the information itself contains very little usefulness.  Celebrity news becomes a distraction and replacement for substantive reporting.

As far as improvement to my news diet, I could stand to read more articles and fewer headlines… more Economist and less Daily Show.

With new tech in hand, I’m ready for any Best Western.

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