News Fast

Parish Diary

Fr. Peter Daly

January 18, 2006


††††††††††† Iím on a ďnews fast.Ē

††††††††††† Oh, not totally, of course. If something big and unusual happens, like peace in the Middle East, I will still find out about it.

††††††††††† I still get the newspapers. I still listen to news on the radio when Iím driving.

††††††††††† But Iíve cut way back.

††††††††††† I donít linger over every section of the newspaper. I donít listen to the local news every night with its litany of murders, house fires and car crashes. If I need to know, I will hear.

††††††††††† I donít take the news channels. Iíve gone off CNN, MSNBS, CNBC, FOX, and ESPN. They are useless to me. They repeat the same thing over and over. They never give you a story in depth. They give it to you in 2 second shots and 15 second summaries. Sometimes they are down right inaccurate, as when they reported that the West Virginia miners had survived, when they hadnít.

††††††††††† The biggest thing I have really cut out of my life is their endless commercialism. The biggest lie in commercial television is ďweíll be right back after a short break.Ē Nonsense. I could grow a beard during most commercial breaks. There are more ads than programs. They give you news in little ďteasersĒ just to keep you hanging. They spend more time telling you that they are going to show you, than actually showing it to you.

††††††††††† So I cancelled all the news stations on my cable except for C-Span. I was learning nothing.

††††††††††† You learn a lot more from the paper. You can re-read the paper if you didnít catch something. You can save a paper article and refer back or follow up. You can read at your own pace. You can skip all the ads. In the newspaper nobody says, ďweíll be right back.Ē

††††††††††† There is a good spiritual reason for a news fast. Iíve written about it in regard to Lent, but I think it applies all the time.

††††††††††† I feel happier. Less depressed. More grounded in the real world and in my real life.

††††††††††† Studies have shown that people who consume a lot of TV news, especially local news, with its emphasis on ďbleedingĒ events, are more depressed. Local news hounds tend to think that crime is everywhere and people are generally to be feared. They think the world is worse than ever.

††††††††††† But the fact is that these things always have been. They always will be. Tragedy, crime, mendacity and cruelty are part of the human condition. That is the message of the church on original sin.

††††††††††† But kindness, generosity, fidelity, creativity and self-sacrifice are also part of the human condition. They donít often get on Headline News, but they are also part of everyday life. Much better to emphasize encounters with grace than with sin.

††††††††††† In my first parish assignment, we had eight priests in one house. We got only one newspaper. The pastor, a crusty monsignor, got first crack at it. He used to read it out loud to us at the breakfast table after morning mass. His reading came complete with sarcastic right wing commentary.

††††††††††† Even though I did not agree with him politically most of the time, I enjoyed his commentary more than say Bill OíReilly, because he was grounded in my real life and his views came from what I knew was a good heart.

††††††††††† Having cut back on the dinner time news, late night news, and early morning news, I find I have more time. More time to pray. More time to read. More time to think. More time to be happy.

††††††††††† I donít know if this news fast is permanent. Probably not. A former news junkie cannot stay away forever.

††††††††††† But for now Iím glad of it. The world is a lot better place than you see on TV.