Separation from the news — not a permanent breakup

A friend and I recently spent five days at my sister’s vacation home in Brown County, Indiana. From the time we left Chicago on Thursday morning until we turned on the presidential debate on Sunday night, I didn’t check TV, radio, phone, or print for news. So, I didn’t hear about the Trump video brouhaha until the story was already two days old.

On the getting-away-from-it-all list, news is near the top for me now that I’m retired.

A daily newspaper has been a constant from the time I could read. My dad instilled that habit in me. He isn’t a literate man, but he’s always been committed to reading the daily newspaper — two newspapers in his younger days. I’ve always thought I have a moral or civic duty to stay informed about the community, state, country, and world.

It felt odd to have gone more than two days without knowing about the campaign bombshell — more than odd: almost derelict. So, as I reminded myself about the benefits of getting away from it all for a few days, I thought I’d look online to see what other people had to say. I was surprised to find that some people think it’s wise to get away from the news permanently.

Many talked about how bad news depresses them, makes them feel guilty about problems they are powerless to fix (“What is the purpose of simply being aware?,” one asked), and gives them the skewed view that the world is a terrible place. Others said the news mostly has no relevance to their lives or “feeds us small bites of trivial matter” that doesn’t matter.

I could see their points to some extent. I’ve stopped reading most stories about the Middle East because the news from there never seems to get better. The breakup of Brad and Angelina has no bearing on my life. I don’t care that today is National Taco Day, National Golf Lover’s Day, and National Vodka Day.

Even the report about the Trump video wasn’t critical information for me; it just reinforced what I already thought about him.

But what if I were an undecided voter? That videotape might be a significant factor in deciding whom to vote for.

Maybe I’m not aware of the sad condition of the news business because I read a high-quality daily newspaper and don’t watch or listen to sound-bite news (my broadcast outlets are NPR and PBS). It’s true that when I’ve visited relatives and friends in medium-sized cities, I have been surprised by the flimsiness of their daily newspapers and grateful for what we have available in Chicago. Still, the people who live in less fortunate places have other sources for everything that’s not local. The New York Times, for one, is a national newspaper available to the whole country.

Yes, there are a lot of downers in the news. But the daily papers here aren’t all about death, corruption, and disasters. Readers learn about studies that might improve our health, ideas to enhance our homes, and inspiring people whose examples might help us become better. We hear about plays, movies, and TV programs to see, books to read, restaurants and recipes to try, smarter ways to invest, places to travel, and so much more.

Being able to leisurely read the Tribune in the morning is what I mention first when asked what I like about retirement. If it were depressing me, I wouldn’t feel eager to get up, make a pot of tea, and sit down with the newspaper.

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