For news, reading beats watching

My viewing habits of cable news have changed over the past few years.  

The recent coverage of the fire at the Notre Dame cathedral, compared to the usual cable news coverage, made me realize just how far my habits have changed.

The essence of professional television news returned briefly as we watched journalists report as the fire was happening, or interviewed a person who was literally standing near the scene of the tragedy.  It was the purest sort of news in which a journalist reported what he or she saw and what people said, and nothing more.

That sort of television journalism has become rare on the national stage.  

There was a time when I was an obsessive consumer of what passes for news coverage from the 24/7 sources, primarily the cable networks and their audio mirrors on satellite radio. I’d wake up in the morning, and one of the first things I’d do is turn on the TV for the big three — CNN, Fox News and MSNBC. When I drove, I’d flip obsessively between the radio stations of the same three, abandoning one station as soon as a commercial break began in order to listen to the final few seconds of the competitor’s broadcast before all of them synced their advertising break. I’d continue into the evening with the television again. I was a cable news junkie.

Not anymore, though.

I’ve gone back to mostly reading my news. I find my news in a few digital newsletters like this one, read my local news in the newspaper (either online or the physical paper) and have digital subscriptions to one statewide newspaper and one of the big national newspapers.

When you read the news, you control the pace. If you read something that makes you happy, angry or frightened, then you can pause mid-sentence to process that emotion without some outside entity pushing more emotional junk into your brain. More importantly, you make the choice to move on to the next story when you want to do so.

Sure, subscription news has a small monetary cost, but free cable news charges us an emotional toll that I am tired of paying.

Andrew Birden is the general manager for Northeast Publishing, a division of the Bangor Daily News. People can reach Andrew at abirden@bangordailynews.com.

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