No news isn’t good news

Esteban often comments that it’s a civic duty to read the newspaper. Lately I just nod, smile, and change the subject.

I agree with him, of course. Shared information is one of the most potent social bonds.

But lately I’ve been avoiding the news. Ever since the BP oil spill started spreading into the Gulf, the stories of the sprawling devastation have either broken my heart or made me hopping mad. Plus, I hate starting my day with a creeping sense of futility and despair.

I’ve tried to keep up with the global headlines through RFI’s Journal en Français Facile, but I’ve completely lost track of the local and national news.

At first, I hardly noticed it. It was actually kind of nice to be unplugged. But in the past few days I’ve been thinking a lot about how small my world has become.

I have no idea why Al Gore is in the news again, or who’s ahead in the World Cup. As a result, I no longer “get” the offhand references my colleagues make at work. I’m surprised when a friend tells me to avoid walking around Como Lake by myself.

In other words: I am disconnected not just from the news, but from those around me as well.

I’ve read lots of scholarly articles about the importance of the “fourth estate.” I’ve railed about the importance of free access to information. But I’ve never before experienced the news void in such a tangible, personal way.

When I get home tonight, I’m going to read the paper.

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