For Your Own Well Being, Use News Correctly

This month we feature guest blogger Jaci Clement, CEO and Executive Director, The Fair Media Council, a nonprofit organization working to improve the public conversation on the hyperlocal, regional, and national levels.  There is a constant barrage of information related to the COVID-19 pandemic, especially for those of us in the health, social, and human services sectors.  It is daunting to say the least, particularly as we are all overwhelmed with our daily jobs whether those jobs are in direct patient care or behind-the-scenes.  Our guest blogger offers expert advice on how to safely consume news during this stressful time.

You’ve heard it said countless times – when it comes to your health, everything in moderation.  Yet, you’ve probably never thought to apply that same rule to your usage of news coverage.

Today, the concept of a balanced approach to using news is ever more vital, as the 24/7 news cycle brings us severe news and information in relation to the COVID-19 pandemic. The good news is it is quite easy to get your news habit in check.

  • First, remember you have total control over how much news you allow into your life. When the news is at its darkest, it’s best to set limits, for your own well being. As a best practice, read newspapers (print or online) in the morning, then use television, radio and the Internet to give you updates on the news throughout the day. The reason is simple. Newspapers provide the most detail and background of a news story, compared to other formats of news, which are designed to sum up a story quickly and provide the latest developments.
  • If you rely heavily on your phone to bring you the news, don’t be alarmed if you are constantly getting updates. That doesn’t mean something horrible has necessarily happened; it just means each news outlet you follow is doing its job. Today’s news is highly repetitive to cater to our shorter attention spans and greater demands on our time. Consider muting some of the voices you follow, even if only temporarily, if you are having difficulty balancing your time and the news.
  • One of the top complaints about news is: Too much opinion, not enough facts. Fair enough. Here’s the answer to that. Prioritize news over commentary, because the commentary is opinion driven.
  • When it comes to television, limit your time watching talk shows. Some people have a hard time distinguishing between a news program and a talk show, so here’s a rule of thumb. If someone is reporting the news, it’s a news program. If someone is talking about what’s in the news, it’s a talk show. You can also check the guide on your television menu to verify a talk show or news program — although not all menus carry this information.
  • Also, keep in mind: the cable news networks don’t report news for 24 hours a day. In fact, a look at the FOX News Channel’s daily lineup showed at least 16 hours of talk shows within a 24-hour span. CNN does news, talk shows and documentaries. Watch whatever you want; just know what you’re watching.
  • Breaking news is what people tend to give too much credence to, and here’s why. On a regular day, breaking news should be taken with a grain of salt, because the speed at which the news is being reported often prevents it from being fact-checked by multiple sources. (To be fair, outlets are slowing things down a bit these days, as credibility comes back into vogue.) Breaking news during a pandemic often changes dramatically from what is originally reported, because the sources — the doctors and authority figures — aren’t sure of the answers. For instance, social distancing started at three feet, then went to six feet, then moved to “at least six feet.” Masks and gloves were not advised for the general public, now they are. Just think of breaking news the way you think of the 1.0 version of any app. You know it will be full of bugs that will be worked out later.
  • One of the biggest changes in news is how it hangs around for a long time, so you shouldn’t have a fear of missing out. The story will be there, if not being repeated during a broadcast then available online. That should give you comfort to know you can tune it out and go about your daily life, then check in to see what’s going on at your convenience. Reach Jaci at: jaci@fairmediacouncil.org

Go to COVID-19 Information Sources:

New York State Department of Health 

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services

Healthcare Association of New York State

Suburban Hospital Alliance of New York State

One thought on “For Your Own Well Being, Use News Correctly

  1. I’ve never seen this type of roadmap for news consumption attempted before.
    Well done.
    Should be more widely shared with educators whose students cannot differentiate news sources, and don’t have the tools to assess the value of the information they are consuming.

    Like

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