‘Feeling Fatigued by the News? Experts Suggest How to Adjust Your Media Diet’
A cartoon circulating on social media captures the mood of many viewers and readers trying to cope with the current barrage of breaking news.
The cartoon, by David Sipress, shows a couple walking together, with the woman saying, “My desire to be well-informed is currently at odds with my desire to remain sane.”
Leslie-Jean Thornton, a journalism professor who is a colleague of Mr. Gillmor’s at Arizona State University, said that even faculty members who by necessity were steeped in news needed breaks from it.
“As journalism professors, there’s a need and a desire to stay on top of things — so much so that it becomes somewhat addictive for some of us,” she wrote in an email. “It’s hard to step away, even for a few hours, but yet the constant wash of uncertainties is emotionally draining and physically harmful — teeth damaged from being clenched in anger or frustration, skyrocketing blood pressure, heart palpitations.”
She added, “I joke that we need trauma care, but I’m not really joking at all.”
Graham C. L. Davey, emeritus professor of psychology at the University of Sussex in England, said in an email that many people followed the news because they did not want to be caught unaware.
“These are the people with an intolerance of uncertainty, and are probably already anxious individuals, and are exactly the ones for whom negative news has a negative psychological impact on their own personal anxieties and worries,” he said.
As consumers become satiated, the news media responds by increasing the “emotionality” of its coverage, meaning negativity is emphasized to keep customers engaged, he wrote.
Mr. Gillmor has been a proponent of the “slow news movement,” named after the slow food movement, which maintains it is better for consumers’ health to cook and eat more slowly.
“We haven’t been asking anything of the news-producing group, namely journalists, who I would strongly argue should be more involved in managing the insane flow of information and misinformation,” he said. “It would be better if we had an approach that said, ‘Calm down.’”
How then best to cope with the velocity and quantity of news?
Some have found comfort in positive news, said Seán Dagan Wood, editor in chief of Positive News, a website and quarterly print magazine that highlights “quality independent reporting that focuses on progress and possibility.”
If all else fails, and you still feel bouts of news fatigue, you can turn to Twitter for photos of cute animals.