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Commentary: News intake can have diminishing returns

This will be difficult to get off my chest. My hope is that if I share my story, people will feel inspired to be honest with themselves and others.
Phew. God. This really is tough. I’m a journalism major and an editor of The Lantern – why does it have to be like this?
Ugh. I’ll just say it: I don’t know anything about politics.
And it is not for lack of trying. I have a folder full of news applications on my phone’s homepage. I have a Google Reader account. I steal the free New York Times from residence halls whenever I get a chance. That I have down to a science. I watch “Meet the Press,” “Real Time with Bill Maher” and “The Daily Show.” My girlfriend’s car is tuned to Columbus’ NPR station–news and politics while you drive.
All that I still don’t know anything about politics. At least that is how it feels.
Something is awry. Paradoxically it happens that the more I try and read, watch and listen to columnists, bloggers and commentators, the less likely it is I come away with a clear understanding of the issue at hand.
Shouldn’t this be alarming? Shouldn’t I, a wannabe journalist, be hyper-informed with a web of knowledge keeping its thumb on a cliche on top of another cliche etcetera etcetera.
It is OK to feel inadequate while reading a Paul Krugman story because maybe he writes for a sharper audience.
The good thing about media today is the rainbow of options. People can match up with the appropriate newsperson. Maybe, at 21, I’m not a Krugman guy. That’s OK. Also, at 21, I’m probably not just a “Daily Show” guy anymore.
The dangerous decision I’ve made before is to take on all of these thinkers as “my guys,” and it happens because I like the feeling of reading an article. I like entering a writer’s thought arena and seeing what they’ve been doing with all that training. I like that feeling a lot, maybe to the point of love, or maybe to the point of obsession. The fix of reading an article is free and renewable. And this is not a good thing.
It makes sense I would lose my way once I begin obsessing with the brains behind the stories. Think of how quickly your relationship would go south if you told your significant other that while you once had a healthy love for them for actual reasons (smarts, loyalty, a weird freckle) now you can’t spend time away from them and you can’t explain it.
There is a sweet spot in relationships and there is a sweet spot in self-information.
Find the spot where reading just one more article on voter ID laws or gay marriage does not offer you new insight. Find the spot where reading another article or watching 10 more minutes of CNN clouds your understanding of an issue. That is where you should draw your line.
Don’t under-inform. Don’t get overwhelmed.


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