When I first heard the phrase "news junkie" many years ago, it stopped me cold. Was I a junkie? I had to ask myself. I certainly care about news, watch network news, read newspapers, I also read many magazines each month, and subscribe to a number of web feeds that address breaking news. But I didn't think of myself as a "junkie" back then. I spent the large part of my day in the here-and-now, focused on my work, my family, my friends. But in the past five years, that phrase, "news junkie," has been creeping up on me, and for the first time I realize I may be hooked, and the scary fact is -- we may all be.
News, as we've come to know it, now happens all the time. Celebrities die. Extreme weather hits. Gun violence rips apart peaceful communities. Politicians get caught in sex scandals.
Is there really "more" news than there was 10 years ago -- or are there just more ways to get your "breaking news" zap of adrenaline?
I find the endless stream of tragedies, stock market jolts, and political swordplay leaves me on edge, with the biological "fight or fight" instinct constantly turned on.
To be clear, the news business has gone out of its way to push at me dramatic, dangerous, and upsetting headlines. My email is full of reports like: "Well Known CBS Star Arrested" -- with only one action required. Who? I'm supposed to wonder and click the link. ABC News has embraced two categories that, in the past, never would have made their way to national news: weather and health. Each nigh Diane Sawyer reports about a tornado touching down, or river flooding its banks. Is there any coverage of the cause of "extreme weather" or the government's plans to address it? Virtually none. Global warming is a "turn off" -- too controversial and complex. But great weather video -- that keeps the "news junkies" hooked.
While it could be said that more news coverage brings issues to the fore, my concern is that just the opposite is happening.
Take acts of gun violence. Today I have trouble keeping track of the shootings. Schools and colleges, movie theaters and wedding parties. Politicians on the corner, or criminals in Times Square. Each story is presented with breaking news headlines, and powerfully scary urgency. But with a lack of context, or perspective, the sheer volume of "breaking" stories all meld together -- and solutions seem harder to comprehend.
The fact of the matter is I have no filter, and the sources that I've come to trust increasingly are trying to out-shout each other to keep their brand and their content within my field of vision.
Today, content is ubiquitous. What we're hungry for is focused, quality, filtered collections. No reader or visitor should feel they're facing "too much news" -- rather, the time is now to have "the right news" come to you. Those organizers -- journalists -- are going to beat algorithms all day long.