Guest View: Don’t Say No To News

This is a guest post from Madeleine Kolb at

There is much focus these days on simplicity: simplifying your life, getting rid of stuff, sometimes even paring down to a finite number of things, perhaps by discarding two old things before buying one new thing.

And the trend carries over to somehow cutting down the amount of information you read or the amount of time you spend reading it, as discussed here.

So much information, so little time

It’s everywhere. In print and online articles, blogs, newspapers, magazines, and on TV. And even if you omit TV, you’re left with a veritable outpouring of information with its headlines crafted to tease, tempt, and tantalize. It’s the informational equivalent of all-you-can-eat.

You need to choose. Do you want little bitty samples of everything or a few generous servings slathered with whipped cream? Here’s what I suggest.

1. Skip the sleaze

Most writers are trained professionals and know exactly how to pique your interest. Aren’t you curious about “Kate Gosselin’s Boob Job Shocker?” OR the latest in the sorry saga of poor Lindsey Lohan on her oh-so-public, alcohol-fueled, self-destructive meltdown OR the vacuous Levi Johnston telling all and showing nearly all and then fessing up that what he told us before wasn’t true. (He’s really the only person on the planet who could make me feel sorry for Sarah Palin. The woman does not deserve this!)

So an obvious and easy way to reduce your consumption of information is to just skip the sleaze.

2. Ignore the insignificant, irrelevant or unimportant

This is not nearly so clear a call, and opinions will vary. My candidates for the highly ignorable:

  • Local news about accidents, murders (even, or especially, the gory ones), fires, traffic problems, local planning efforts which have been going on for years without any end in sight, routine local politics, or overtly heart-warming stories about animals (unless you just can’t help yourself).
  • Reviews of any TV shows, movies, plays, exhibits, or books that don’t interest you.
  • Anything else, however popular, that doesn’t interest you. I’m not suggesting anything here, but for me it’s sports. I save sizable chunks of time by not watching baseball, basketball, football, hockey, soccer, boxing, wrestling, or auto racing and more time by not reading about the events I didn’t watch.

3. Stick with the significant

Some local news does have real significance beyond its locale. An example is the collapse of Washington Mutual Bank, notorious as the largest bank failure in the U.S. Until recently, I lived in Seattle and closely followed the Seattle Times’ brilliant reporting of the bank’s implosion.

Finally, much info about events in one’s own country and other countries is significant. The many examples include public policy matters; the economy; government action; government inaction; regional conflicts and war; pollution; treatment of minorities, women, and elders; and national or global trends (both good and bad).

Why this really matters

1. It provides the context for what happens in your life and your writing. When I started my blog, for example, I expected that the topics I wrote about would not be controversial. Hey, I remember thinking, “It’s health care, nothing controversial there.”

So I was astonished when the Town Hall meetings on health care reform in the U.S. brought out huge crowds of extremely angry people, pushing to get inside, shouting down their congressmen and senators, and loudly heckling other speakers. How could I possibly write about health care reform, except in the context of the information in articles and videos of the procedings?

2. It’s likely to give you great ideas for posts, depending on your niche. And referring to credible sources in your posts will enhance your credibility.

Sometimes I stumble across interesting information and decide to write about it. Other times I follow news about a particular event because it’s relevant to aging. A current example is the study in Congress of options to reduce the deficit. Changes to Social Security have been advocated by some Senators, and that could mean a battle that would make the fight over health care reform look like a schoolyard scuffle. I’ve got a big file on it already.

3. You live in the world, a complex world with conflicts and cooperation, problems and solutions, challenges and progress. As Gip nicely phrased it in a recent post here “News is information about other inhabitants of the planet.

How can you help anyone, if you’re tucked away in your tight, cozy little cocoon? How can you possibly inspire anyone, if you’re closing your eyes to the hard realities that many people have to cope with every day?

Madeleine Kolb writes about the positive realities of aging. Contrary to popular myth, she believes that old dogs and old people can learn new tricks at any age . Check it out at


  1. Gip, Thank you for the opportunity to continue the lively discussion which you started here.

    (And speaking of news, imagine my surprise whan I read this morning that Levi Johnston and Bristol Palin are going to get married.)

  2. Hi Gip, Hi Madeleine….

    Thanks for a great post reminding us to remember what is important and to tune out the rest of the noise. There is just so much information overload out there and it will swallow us up if we let it.

  3. Thank you for the comment. As with so many other things, the availability of information is a mixed blessing.

    Access to information on web sites saves lots of time which used to be spent trying to get past a busy signal (anyone remember those?) or being on-hold.
    On the other hand, we are tempted to follow trivial and inconsequential events of the day which is like gorging on Doritos. (Yuk!)

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