Sunday, April 21, 2013

Burnout: Our 24/7 News Cycle

I am the child of the '80s.  During my teenage years, Ronald Reagan was President, the Soviet Union still existed, telephones were all landlines (and it was rarity for a teen to have their own line) and our broadcast news came at Noon (Monday thru Friday), 5:30 pm, 6:00 pm 10:00 pm and our print news came in the afternoon.  Oh sure, Good Morning America and The Today Show were on in the mornings, but as a teenager, I rarely ever saw them.

In short, we didn't have the never ending news cycle.  Unless you had cable or an expensive satellite dish that took up your backyard, you didn't have CNN and there was no such thing as MSNBC or Fox News Channel.  We didn't have the internet or Twitter to provide us with constant news updates either.  And I know it is going to be very cliche, but it was a simpler time.

This is not to say that we were informed when major news occurred.  I remember the television being rolled into my classroom when President Reagan was shot and when the Space Shuttle Challenger blew up.  The national networks of NBC, ABC and CBS each broke into the daytime programming to tell us what happened and then went back to regular programming unless there was an update.  We all tuned into the nightly network news at 5:30 for any new developments and waited until the next day for any other news.

It was the way things were and worked.  No one felt burnt out by the events reported because there was a lull that the technology of the time provided.  Now that we are all connected by our cellphones, email, text messaging, Twitter and Facebook, we don't have that opportunity to truly "tune out".  We don't have that opportunity to take the information and process in a way that doesn't harm us mentally and physically.

And we must ask ourselves, were we better served by the 24/7 news cycle this past week where rumor and innuendo were presented as fact?  Where "analyst" after "analyst" was brought on to provide us with their "views"?   Would we, as a society, have been harmed if those bringing us the "news" would have stepped back and provided us with nothing but facts and gave us time to process it?

Horrific events are going to occur.  Earthquakes, tsunamis, tornadoes, acts of terrorism and terrible crimes.  But does the 24/7 news cycle help us or harm us due to burnout?

Please let me know your thoughts in the comments below.

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