Now certainly not the time to tune out

When it comes to news, Americans are trying to sip from a fire hose, and they’re not liking being sprayed in the face. This is discouraging to those of us who think democracy works best when people know what’s going on.

The Pew Research Center surveyed 5,035 Americans on their attitudes about news. They were asked: “Which of the following statements comes closer to your view: I am worn out by the amount of news there is these days; or I like the amount of news there is these days.”

Nearly seven in 10 (68 percent) said they are worn out by the amount of news. The numbers varied some among different groups, but pretty much everyone is bushed. News fatigue plagued a majority of Republicans, Democrats, blacks, whites, men, women, young, old, highly educated, less educated, those who follow the news closely and those who don’t.

And really, who can blame them? Thanks largely to our technology and our president, the news never stops. News used to come in the morning paper and on the evening news. Now we are bombarded, on Twitter, on Facebook, on Google, in email blasts, on talk radio, on websites that tell us what we want to hear and websites that tell us what we refuse to hear. We are alerted to news on our phones, our tablets, even our watches. We hear it from journalists and celebrities and talking heads and directly from the president, who has sent 38,000 tweets to his 53 million followers at all hours of the day and night.

So we get it. It’s a lot. All we can say is: Toughen up. America needs you to be paying attention. From the town council to the White House, from churches to universities to corporations, this country is better off with media casting a close eye on people and institutions and the public caring and reacting. We don’t like where things are sure to go if millions of Americans turn off the news because they’re simply overwhelmed by it.

Granted, the news media could do some things better, and these survey results should prompt a bit of self-examination. Other studies have found, for example, that readers and viewers appreciate occasional good news mixed in with the bad.

But it’s not primarily about disdain for the media. The Pew poll found that 75 percent of respondents think the national media are doing very well or fairly well at keeping folks informed of the news and only 4 percent thought they are doing not at all well.

It’s more about the times we live in, when anyone with a smartphone can be a mass communicator. But it’s that very environment that begs for strong and vigilant news outlets to try to bring some reason to the noise. With everything going on today and with so much at stake, Americans can’t afford to tune out now.

— The Charlotte Observer



“Pay attention to even the little things. They’re more important than you think.” (Matt Gutierrez)