7 Steps to a Healthy Relationship With the News

On the first of September last year, I woke up to my alarm and immediately started to scroll through Twitter. Before I knew it, I was clicking on an article headline, and my screen redirected me to The New York Times’ paywall. 

I had maxed out the number of articles I could read for the whole month. I really only skimmed them in the first place; and, at that point, I was so deep into the comment section that I had already forgotten the original subject matter. I felt both overwhelmed and unfulfilled by my news media consumption.

RELATED: It’s Not You, It’s Me: How I Broke Up with the News

Since then, I have been actively fixing my relationship with the news. The constant news cycle is daunting, but we have much more control over how we access the news than we think. Here are my best tips on how you can cut the news out of unproductive spaces, ritualize and personalize your media consumption, and let the news inform your actions:

1. Find what type of media works best for you

Between physical newspapers, online publications, news radio, political podcasts, news apps, and more, there are abundant resources for information. Certainly, there are one or two mediums that could fit perfectly into your daily life. 

I spend my whole day reading and writing, so I am most receptive when I am listening to the news. I like to listen to NPR’s “Morning Edition” to get a general survey of what is happening in the world. If an interesting topic feels under-addressed, I search for relevant articles, leave them open in my Safari app, and read them during my breaks. There’s also a helpful app called Pocket. It lets you save online articles to the app so you can store them to read later. 

2. Carve out time for the news

I find it helpful to block out a specific time of the day when I will be receptive to new information. For me, listening to the morning news is my way of centering myself and learning what world I am walking into when I leave my apartment. Whatever time works for you, run with it and ritualize it.

3. If you need to, block news-related ads

Blocking news and political ads on devices, like a work computer, is one way to create a news-free environment where you can focus when you need to. If you use Google Chrome, you can search “control the ads you see.” You will be led to the ad personalization page. There, you can turn off political and news-related ads. 

I decided to make this change about a month ago. I saw an anti-semitic campaign ad on my computer while I was working, and it completely derailed me. Now I no longer see this candidate’s ads while I am working at my computer. 

Although I do still see these ads on my phone and television, and I incorporate news consumption into other parts of my day so I am made aware of such issues, this system works for me: Instead of shutting myself off from news and politics, I am setting boundaries as to when and where I receive information.

Where do you normally look first for your news?

4. Find media you can trust

In order to keep a consistent relationship with the news, find trustworthy news outlets with an engaging voice. Make sure that your trust in these publications is founded in a consistent practice of journalistic integrity. If you don’t know what journalistic integrity looks like, reading a news outlet’s ethics guidelines is a good place to start. 

I also found this helpful resource that The Associated Press Institute published. It is a series of six questions you can ask yourself in order to determine whether a news source is trustworthy.

5. Go straight to the source

In some cases, there are so many perspectives on one topic that it is difficult to know where you stand. Maybe there’s a hearing that could change history, or an upcoming  ruling on an issue you care about deeply. In these cases, I prefer to go straight to the source and watch unfiltered live footage before forming an opinion. This is why we have C-Span! C-Span can be accessed on cable, online, and on their app. This may be more time consuming than reading a quick take, but it is worth the extra effort. 

6. Take informed action

When I feel like I need to take a mental health break from the media, it is typically because I feel powerless or ashamed of my own inaction. Instead of just letting issues weigh on you, remember that you have the power of advocacy. It is a simple, quick, and accessible action to call or email your representatives. Telling your elected officials how they can best represent you is a great way to get an issue off of your chest for a bit and onto the representative’s agenda. 

7. Continue to educate yourself

If there are systemic issues you want to learn about, you won’t get that information from the 24-hour news cycle. Reading emerging voices, who are highly educated and well-researched on the matters that interest me has genuinely shaped me. Over the last year, I read several books on mass incarceration, criminal justice, and feminism. Doing this reading has given me the tools to hold meaningful conversations about these subjects with friends and family when they are brought up in the speedy and ever-changing news cycle.

Finding a healthy way to consume the news does not make the injustices of the world any less difficult to process, but taking these steps has given me the tools to learn. My intentional approach to news media consumption helps me walk into the world every day feeling informed and grounded.

Originally published on November 3, 2020.

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