I used to be an out of control Israeli news junkie. In the first 10 years after I made aliyah, I read 3 newspapers a day followed by 2-3 hours of TV news (5-7pm and 8-9pm). I knew every detail and nuance of the peace process and read every pedantic quote from the most junior player in the region.
In the past few years, I’ve become a reformed news junkie. I only watch Israeli news when missiles are falling. When I read a newspaper on the train to work, I’m more interested in the ads. Do I really need to know the latest in the Shula Zaken — Olmert saga?? The Peace Process is Boring If the peace process were a video game, it would never sell even one copy. Let’s see what we’ve got here..
- There is always a deadline.
- A massive boycott of Israel is always 2 weeks away.
- The 3rd intifada always started after the most recent attack.
- The Americans and Europeans are always telling both sides that this is the last, and I mean last chance to cut a deal (sounds like a parole officer or a teacher talking to a delinquent student!).
- The status quo cannot continue.
- Every cockamamie Nasrallah quote becomes a top headline in Yediot.
I’m not a cynical person and my views are somewhere in the center. But if this were a book, it would put me to sleep faster than the quaaludes that Led Zeppelin guitarist Jimmy Page used to take before concerts.
“A high ranking anonymous source tells YNet that the whatever minister is an evil bastard. He is actually a vampire.” Why does the Hebrew media allow someone to anonymously trash someone? Either sign your name to it or shut up. My high school newspaper in Miami had higher ethical standards. And they wonder why we’re not willing to pay money for this?
Too Local is Too Much
While it’s nice to read a bit about a new IDF Chief of Staff, do I need to read the interview with his parents and 5th cousins? What about the battle between two colonels to run an army base in some place I’ve never heard of? The Israeli media allows itself to be a “shofar” for these inconsequential issues. The local paper in Saskatchewan, Canada has more depth.
Focus on Hard News
When I see headlines on celebrities’ personal lives, I never click to read them. How will knowing about Israeli models or which rock star is in rehab change my life? I have over 100 Paul McCartney CDs and successfully skipped the news about his 2008 divorce. I’d rather listen to the end of Hey Jude over and over again. I focus on the hardcore news. Events in Ukraine are interesting and so is the missing Malaysian airplane, though I skip the alien abduction theories. Unfortunately, garbage sells, so I don’t blame the media. You can waste an hour a day for the rest of your life reading gossip. Or not.
VOD = Violence On Demand
Reality horror isn’t my cup of tea. I don’t need to watch people suffering in order to have a deeper understanding of the universe. Lately, the mainstream media use gruesome video clips with tempting headlines in order to get attention. Of course it is important to know that people really are suffering in Syria, Iraq and wherever there is daily violence. Skip the VOD but read the deeper analysis of what’s going on.
Let’s Be Real Clear
A few years ago, I found RealClearPolitics. What a brilliant idea! Instead of spending hours reading the news, they collect the most important politics stories of the day in two editions — morning and afternoon. You’ll find articles from the NY Times, Washington Post, USA Today, Time and other news sites. Click and get right to the point. When a president, prime minister or senator writes an important piece, you won’t miss it. It saves me hours of scouring dozens of news sites. Since then, they have added other topics — RealClearWorld, RealClearTech, RealClearScience.. In 15 minutes, I get all the news that I need.
Nothing Like the Real Thing
I often tell my friends, “Don’t go to a business meeting without taking a quick look at the NY Times, Washington Post and Wall Street Journal.” In a world with billions of news sites, the big 3 still rule. Sometimes I am treated to interesting articles by Bill Gates, Henry Kissinger and former presidents. Believe it or not, no one covers art, culture and music like the Wall Street Journal. The NY Times opinion page often has fascinating pieces by sci-fi writers and entertainers. The Washington Post gave us Woodward and Bernstein (the two journalists who uncovered the Nixon era Watergate scandal); the Post still blows my mind with deep analysis that no other daily newspaper can touch.
The American Interest has excellent analysis from “the deep center” (non-ideological) that gives me a perspective that I will never get from left or right leaning news sites. When elections approach, there’s no one as honest and accurate as Larry Sabato and his Crystal Ball at the University of Virginia. He often appears on CNN and Fox News. Speaking of cable news, I stopped watching “video news” altogether (except when missiles fly or there’s one of those war things here in Israel). I sometimes miss the live action car chases that seem only to occur in southern California. Night time is music time.
A Lot of Help From My Friends
My friends are often the best source of news. They read things that I would never run into and I end up being exposed to new ideas and opinions. Whether it’s an email with a link or a conversation at lunch, I hear different views that shape the way I think. Today, I spend less time than ever reading the news, but I’m getting the best possible ROI (return on investment) for my time. How much news content is healthy? How much do we really need in order to understand the world around us? To be continued!
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