5 Ways to Stay Informed and Stay Sane (especially helpful for political junkies and activists)

March 2nd, 2017

I’m struggling. And I know I’m not alone. As a person who likes, and works at, being informed on the major issues facing our country, I am having a really hard time knowing what to believe from the news we are getting. I’ve heard this same concern from so many people – Trump supporters and definitely not Trump supporters alike.

I know from first-hand experience that for-profit, corporate media outlets are not objective and “Breaking News”, which is intentionally designed to trigger us emotionally, is rarely purely factual reporting. And yet, bad as these news outlets can be, they’re still not the true “fake news” sources that have been created to undermine our democracy and make a lot of money generating clicks by coming across as real news with a totally made up claim imbedded in the story. And now, on top of all of that, we have a White House team that has been the source of major false reports – from the significantly wrong and repeated statement that there had been a terrorist attack in Bowling Green (never happened) to the less significant but still blatantly false claim that Trump had won more electoral college votes than any president in recent history (not true).

As people who want to be informed and engaged one of our biggest challenges just now is staying genuinely informed without getting sucked down the vortex of sensationalized, crazy-making media coverage. Here are a few tips for staying informed and somewhat sane in the process.

1) Limit your fixes and fixations

Take the news in doses. It’s something of a universal principle that what we focus on expands. For example Trump’s “War on the Media” has actually driven up cable news ratings. Most importantly, be very wary of “Breaking News”. I mean, really, don’t we all have something better to do until the actual facts surface?

2) Educate yourself about biases

Network news like ABC, NBC and CBS are not usually terribly biased in their reporting. However cable news like CNN, FOX and MSNBC have very definite liberal or conservative slants. Watching FOX and MSNBC is like seeing the same events but from two different planets.

Research shows that the majority of news-watching Americans only watch the stations that align with their pre-existing beliefs. This just increases ideological and political polarization, lack of understanding and empathy and our culture of “othering”.  It’s important, even if uncomfortable, to make a conscious effort to get out of our own echo chambers and listen to different perspectives.

3) Pay attention to independent news sources – Since bias and spin is currently rampant in mainstream for-profit media outlets, independent, public and subscriber supported news outlets are more important than ever before. Some of my favorites and most trusted include NPR, BBC, Reuters, Nation, Guardian and The Week.

4) Remember the Purpose of “News”

I think this one is really important and really helpful. News after all is about pointing out the unusual, the “newsworthy”. Everyday goings on are not usually deemed newsworthy. This means the news is sensationalized and all about “If it bleeds it leads” shock value.

The truth is there are massive positive, beautiful, loving developments going on in our country and world. But those everyday “mundane” stories are rarely given any airtime because they do not count as newsworthy.

If you really think about this it means under the current corporate media model we should be really concerned if they start covering only positive stuff, because that would mean the positive stuff was unusual!

Just think about how many good things you’ve done that never received any media coverage? And if you really can’t think of anything you should consider therapy! Seriously, what’s your typical daily experience? Is it the ugliness we see on TV or is it mostly kind, positive (or at least benign) interactions with other people?

I think it’s really important to balance out staying informed about challenging issues, politics, catastrophes and tragedies with a healthy dose of positive news. Some of my favorite sources include Positive News, Yes! Magazine and NBC Nightly News’ Inspiring America segments.

5) Unplug and actually connect

Resist the temptation of the 24 hour news cycle and ceaseless social media. Go outside, take a hike, play with the dog and don’t take a screened device with you! Hang out with positive people. Volunteer in your community. Helping others is such good food for the soul.

These are some strategies for staying well-informed and sane! I hope they’re helpful because we need all the well-informed and healthy citizens we can get right now.

Cylvia Hayes

#ResiliencyMuscles  #CylviaHayes  #changemakers  #empoweredchangemakers

 

 


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Cylvia Hayes
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Cylvia has over 20 years of professional experience in sustainable energy, economic development, workforce development, green building, waste prevention and sustainable forestry and agriculture.

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