Friday, 31 January 2020

Time for a Break?

A question which can apply at many levels.

Today Britain takes a break from the European Union. I hope it won't be a long one.

But the break I propose to address this evening (when I wrote this), is whether it is time to take a break from "the News". I have been a compulsive news consumer for as long as I can remember. Whether it was newspapers; radio & TV news from the 1970s onwards - through to the era of rolling news, and the explosion of access to news (and some that don't deserve being called that) sites. As of the 1st January this year I had subscriptions to The Guardian (UK), Le Monde (France), Washington Post (USA) and China Daily (China). I also took news via alerts on my iPhone & iPad from all of those and others - as well as being signed up for emails from Roll Call; The Hill; the House of Commons Library; and as a result of being the Labour Party Candidate for Buckingham during the recent General Election, I still receive all the news from the Labour Party Press Office including Overnight Media & Broadcast briefs on a daily basis. I have also been a frequent user of twitter.

Enough is surely enough?

I've been cutting down - I'm so disillusioned by the News and Current Affairs output of BBC TV & Radio, that I no longer listen. I'm running my subscriptions to newspapers down - and unsubscribing from alerts and emails - and rarely look at Twitter.

Is that going too far?

Whilst down in London recently (one of the British Museum visits) I popped into Foyles and purchased a book called "STOP READING THE NEWS" by Rolf Dobelli. It really is a good read - with some very sensible points. It is subtitled "A Manifesto for a Happier, Calmer and Wiser Life', I would thoroughly recommend it to you.

Its contents include
- How I gave up the News (did I mention it was a signed copy?)
- News is to the Mind What Sugar is to the Body
- Radical Abstinence
- The Thirty-Day Plan
- The Soft Option
- News is |rrelevant
- News gets Risk Assessment All Wrong
- News is a Waste of Time
- News Obscures the Big Picture
- News is Toxic to Your Body
- News Confirms Our Mistakes.....
- News Encourages Terrorism
- News Destroys Our Peace of Mind

Dobelli also deals with potential objections to his argument, including 'What About Democracy'

In my view he makes some very good points. Do read it yourself!

I've been reflecting on what he says, and how I feel about some of the news and certain news organisations (and last night went to see the excellent film, "Bombshell" (French Title - "Scandale") about Fox News - part of the truly awful Murdoch Empire) - and came to the following conclusions -

I will "stop reading the News" - that doesn't mean that I won't be keeping myself informed about what is going on in the world. But instead of "consuming news", I'll be harvesting information about issues that matter to me. (Spoiler alert - Education, The Environment, Transport, Health (particularly avoidable illnesses)

There are a number of sources - I will still use (for the time being) the Daily editions of Le Monde, China Daily & the Washington Post - but only look at the in-depth pieces about issues. I'll still dip into France 24, Euronews, CGTN & CNN for in depth stories - but will make more use of the House of Commons Library, and regularly visit the websites of the British Parliament, the French Parliament, US Congress, the National People's Congress of China - and the Executive websites for those countries.

I'll still be making notes on the issues - what they are, and how different countries or International bodies are seeking to tackle them.

I'd welcome any comments or suggestions - you can post them here - or send to MorganBuckinghamLabour@mail.com (I might as well recycle the email account I used during the election - but just for Washminster responses.