Embracing” the news from all sources: Relax, it won’t kill you



I have a good friend who listens to Rush Limbaugh every day for too long. Of course some of us would say that to meet this limit should not take even a day or one minute. My friend spends the remaining part of the day, having been vaccinated by Limbaugh serum parroting in feverish pitch all that he has heard. He has a remarkable memory, my friend.

I mention the New York Times and NBC News to my Rush-aficionado friend and that is one moment he goes off the memorized Rush play lines. My friend erupts into a volcano spewing his misgivings about the Times and NBC and what it will do to my brain and other parts of my body.

But I also watch Fox News. In fact, after my wife and I have consumed Brian Williams and I have enjoyed particularly Nancy Snyderman we get our standing up news that tells us they report and we decide, unless there is a common interruption of the program of some “news alert.”

I don’t know if you could classify my wife and me as news junkies, but if you choose entertainment, news will inevitably be a choice and along with this entertainment, if you look hard, some good news reporting still exists online and on that old-fashioned, square-footage-enlarged, flattened version of television.

I read the Wall Street Journal. I poke my nose into the Guardian online; if I were a child and my father were alive, that would be certain condemnation to hell, even if the Catholic writer Graham Greene was allowed to read the Guardian. Chronicle of Higher Education, Inside Higher Ed, world.edu, some poetry journals, and the list grows frightfully long now that I take account of sources from which I get “news” of various kinds. The only thing that is safe these days is the cereal box, as my adult habits are such that I can read only part of the label as I pour the cereal, push the box back into the cupboard, and quickly eat generic-brand toasted oats while watching the morning news.

What a delight it is to get news from all of these sources. The truth, whatever that is, must lie somewhere in-between all of these news sources, almost in another dimension, as I participate in the strange model making–out of a physics or chemistry class–of my view of the world after I have taken in the various spins and non-spins, which of course are all some kind of spin. That is only human nature, both to transmit and receive it.

But wouldn’t it be nice if more people would take in news from a variety of sources and not be automatons of one outlet. I suspect, of course, there are people like that, though I am probably being overly optimistic or naive, depending on your point of view, but then I am the same person who can drive to vote listening to NPR and cast my ballot for a candidate of a party that is normally not associated withis broadcasting entity. I am not going to miss out on hearing from an interesting guest, or even what might be wrong with other people’s cars, even though I have not the faintest inclination to take up the tools, but I like the click and clack of our vast newsi-verse, and see no reason to take in a solo performance only.

But this mention of solo performance brings up a problem of a financial nature and is likely one of the reasons news outlets keep asking viewers and readers and everyone to like them on Facebook, to follow along on Twitter with a hashtag that more often than not will connect the topic being discussed to the outlet offering it. Let’s face it, it’s a jungle out there and eyeballs mean not only profits but often at best thriving, even more often merely surviving.

It is interesting to observe the acting abilities of the faces of anchors and others as they call for everyone to digitally tattoo themselves with their brand. Some of these representatives and employees try to be good soldiers but I sense also a dislike of having to do this kind of self-promotion or participate in self-preservation dictated by the need to earn a paycheck.

But there are some wonderful moments of generous journalists praising instead of tearing down others on different networks or outlets. Case in point, Greta Van Susteren mentioned by name Richard Engel and his reporting on “another network.” But how wonderful to see this collegiality, the word business for a moment extinguished from a true journalist’s mission. Brian Williams has wished reporters in other outlets well, both on occasions when they are still alive and when in memoriam is the most recent status.

So let me not be naive, but I will praise another media outlet, by name even, while appearing on a show. And if I appeared elsewhere, on the turf of the “competition,” I would do the same. Of course I still have the luxury of not needing to feed my family entirely by being a journalist, what to me is one of the most noble professions and a calling, just as teaching is. Let’s see more of participation and collegiality “across the aisles” when it comes to participating in news media, be it in the form of reading, writing, listening, commenting, and other intelligent modes of communication not yet practiced in the world of media. I for one am grateful not to have been excluded by Academe or the Daily Caller for simply wanting to communicate concerns about education and the world and not having been issued silently or vocally an either/or choice. And I will continue to read the New Yorker, thank you very much.