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How To Think About The News

Posted on July 25, 2017

“You’re the curator. It’s about consuming less, but better.” – Rob Bell

2017-07-24_news.jpgLast week we reposted a series that we wrote a couple years ago about how the regular consumption of news might have detrimental effects on us as humans, and especially on our financial decision making. This past week I listened to a podcast that was very apropos to this topic, so I thought I would follow up with a supplement to last week’s Insight.

In his “Robcast” entitled How To Think About The News, speaker and author Rob Bell unpacks some compelling thoughts on how we might apply ancient wisdom to our modern day relationship with the news, media and the general flow of information in the digital age. He starts off by highlighting the importance of separating true journalism from the rest of the “media hairball”. True journalists play a necessary and sacred role in society. These truth tellers investigate, question, uncover and shed light on stories of critical importance that need to be told. Their work leads to a more informed citizenry and imposes transparency and accountability on those in power. In many parts of the world true journalism is practiced at the risk of harassment, imprisonment or even danger to one’s life.

In contrast, the term “media” might be used to describe the rest of the information construct that we are bombarded with all day every day. We’re talking about TV, magazines, newspapers, radio, billboards, advertisements, podcasts, social media, YouTube and much, much more. It’s important to remember that media outlets are for-profit businesses. In most cases their revenues are driven by advertising, and advertising is driven by the size of the audience. As such, there is an inherent incentive to deliver “what sells”. And since we find controversy, scandal, conflict and dissention more interesting than most other things, we need to be aware of the inherent conflict of interest these outlets have to parade content as journalism when in fact it is something entirely different.

With this filter in place, Bell offers up a few considerations for us to mull over as we give some thought to “the news”…

AMOUNT
I think we can all agree that the sheer volume of information at our fingertips is nothing short of overwhelming, especially since the advent of the smartphone. How often do I find myself mindlessly scrolling on my phone or computer – simply because the information is there to be scrolled through! As a general rule we’re probably seeing/processing too much throughout our day, so it’s important to be intentional about controlling the amount of media that makes it through to us on a daily basis.

TIMING/URGENCY
Wired Magazine published an article a couple days ago called Turn Off Your Push Notifications. All Of Them. I couldn’t agree more with the article. Ever since I disabled nearly all the app notifications on my phone, as well as unsubscribing to as many emails as I could, I have felt way more in control of what, when and why I consume the news – and any other media for that matter. I experience fewer untimely distractions, and I’m more empowered to create a rhythm of when I’ll be doing what throughout my day.

WEIGHT/CELEBRITY
The ancient Hebrews had a word kavod that translates loosely to “weight” or “significance”. It’s important to remember that not everything has the same kavod, isn’t it? When headlines about the civil war in Syria and what Kim Kardashian wore to dinner last night receive the same amount of screen space in our newsfeeds we know something is wrong. Celebrity gossip is a multi-billion dollar industry that extends beyond music and movie stars to include athletes, business leaders, politicians and religious figures. As Bell states so poignantly in his podcast, “You and I live in a culture in which hundreds of millions of dollars are spent re-creating high school.” So true! We need to make sure we’re making clear distinctions between what has kavod and what doesn’t.

In the opening quote Bell issues us a challenge. We are the curators. We decide how much is too much. We decide what the right timing and rhythm is. And we dictate what is weighty enough to deserve our attention and what isn’t. It’s about consuming less but better. News and media is like a diet for our soul. What we allow through our eyes and ears has a direct impact on us as humans mentally, emotionally, physically and spiritually. Let’s start giving some more thought to how we think about the news.


david_headshot_bw.jpgAuthor David Houle, CFA is a founding member of Season Investments. He serves as the firm's Chief Compliance Officer as well as sitting on the investment committee overseeing the management of client assets. David spent nearly ten years in various roles primarily managing individual client assets prior to co-founding Season Investments. David graduated with a degree in Finance from Colorado University in Colorado Springs in 2003 and earned the Chartered Financial Analyst (CFA) designation in 2006. David and his wife Mandy have three children and spend most of their free time with friends and family.


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