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News Fatigue? How to think about abundance of 24-hr ‘news’

Listen to the 10 min audio

Read the transcript:

IS TOO MUCH NEWS A BAD THING?

TOM LAMPRECHT: Harry, I want to take you to a Pew Research Report today. Almost 7 in 10 Americans have “news fatigue.” Sixty-eight percent feel worn out by the amount of news there is these days compared with 3 in 10 who say they like the amount of news they get. Interestingly, Republicans feel more worn out by the news, more so than Democrats. What does this tell us about news and what does this tell us about the American culture?

DR. REEDER: Almost exactly a year ago, my sister went to be with the Lord. I used to talk to her every day. Well, I can promise you, in that statistic, she would be numbered with that 3 in 10. My sister could devour the news. She would not only have the news story; she would have the news story on the news story and the news story on the news story that’s on the news story.

She would come up with so much information that it would be overwhelming. She had immersed herself in it and was saturated with it and processing it and would get upset with her siblings if we had not spent the same amount of time on it.

TOM LAMPRECHT: And she’s one of the reasons we do this program.

DR. REEDER: That’s exactly where I was heading is that, in the providence of God, when I pastored in Charlotte, our church had a radio station that had been given to us by CBN and Pat Robertson. The genesis of this program actually began with that when we started the station that said, “We report the news; we don’t make the news,” and then we would separate news reporting and editorializing on that station. And she was our executive director and just did a marvelous job. And, thus, eventually, came the birth of “Today in Perspective.”

WHEN NEWS WAS ONLY A HALF HOUR

And she went out, literally, and helped raise money to get this started, Tom. What we might see as the incidental cause of this fatigue, we have this proliferation of cable stations. When you have a 24-hour, 7 days a week, 365 days a year station that’s devoted to news, you’re not only going to be providing a constant flow of news into the culture, but you’re going to be, as it were, making news instead of, at the end of a day — this is the way it used to be — you would come home, greet your family, have your supper and then you would sit down for a 30-minute program on news.

Then they expanded it to one hour. Okay, we can live with that. Then, all of a sudden, got added this thing called “Nightline,” which was an expansion of news and began to provide investigative work. Now investigative journalism became a vital part of the news industry instead of the reporter giving “just the facts.”

MORE NEWS MAKES IT HARD TO COMPARTMENTALIZE

All of that has contributed now to the multiplication of news and the multiplication of news media so that you can get news on a radio, on a television on your computer, as many people who listen to this program do so by virtue of the app.

I wish I could tell you we could have a cultural rebirth of the old era of providing news with the reasonable commitment of some portion of your day — 30 minutes or an hour — through trusted journalists who have worked through the stories and, “Here they are and I’m doing my best to give you some objective reporting,” and then, at the end of the program comes an editorial analysis.

I wish we could get back to that, but I have no real hope so you, as a listener, if you don’t want to be fatigued by the news phenomena in our culture, you are going to have to create your own environment and that’s exactly what I would encourage you to do. Find two or three trusted sources for news and then find programs like this one that will look at the news and events from a confessed, understood and unhidden commitment to looking at it through a particular prism and world and life view. I have two places that, basically, I go for news and I have two places I go to to be challenged and instructed in terms of looking at news and events from a world and life view.

WHEN DID WHAT PEOPLE THINK ABOUT THE NEWS BECOME THE STORY?

TOM LAMPRECHT: A few years ago, when there was one celebrity who was accused of some immorality, the news came on and they gave a poll that a certain percentage thought this individual was guilty and a certain percentage thought he was innocent. I thought to myself, “What does that have to do with the news story?”

DR. REEDER: Well, I think what that has to do with the news story is the fact that the journalist no longer wanted to report the news, but the journalist wanted to be a commentator on the news and refused to separate the reporting of the news from the commentary on the news or the editorializing of the news.

And, by the way, that surfaces something else, what we might call “poll fatigue.” Polling is, in a sense, a recent phenomenon — it’s less than a century old. It was in the presidential campaigns of 1938 that it first made its appearance in the initial run of Franklin Delano Roosevelt.

Now, when we get a report from the news, we immediately get a poll survey. Nobody is going to run for any office of any distinction without having on their staff someone who does polling. No company does anything without polling. I actually think that is contributing to the news fatigue because polling is a backdoor way of making a commentary on the news and undermining any sense of objective reporting because, once you introduce the poll, you then begin to interpret the news through the subjectivity of the pollster, the poll and the one reporting the poll and now we don’t have a news story any longer for me to process, but we have something that’s already been digested and processed and given to me in the guise of reporting the news.

THE POLLS ARE NOW INEFFECTIVE AND ESSENTIALLY BACKWARDS

TOM LAMPRECHT: Harry, haven’t we gotten polling backwards? We used to hear what a politician would believe and embrace, we’d find a poll that a certain percentage would agree or disagree with that politician. Now the politician listens to the polls and then he espouses what he believes.

DR. REEDER: Which ought to be a part of that second category of editorializing, you then go to people who tell you when that’s happening. You remember the famed devolution of the Clintons and President Obama: “Here, I’m for traditional marriage when I was running for this office. When I wasn’t running for the office, I was not for traditional marriage. And then, when I ran for president, I was for traditional marriage and now that I’m president, “my position has evolved,’” which I believe actually should be devolved into the abyss of pagan ethics.

Now, that would be the time for an editorialist to bring all of that out and then you editorialize. Now we have to ask ourselves a question: our politicians, do they have any hope of being a statesman and that means someone who has a center and an anchor of a core of beliefs and the character to affirm that, while always being teachable will hold consistently to those ethical absolutes, will that be a part of their life or not?

Politicians, instead of, “Here’s my position and what do the polls say about how people view my position?” to now the politicians hire the pollster to find out what position they ought to take on something. What we desperately need are men and women of character who have convictions in life and who are aware of the news of the day but, instead of finding the trajectory to profit from it, they become part of sending the trajectory so that the culture can profit from stability, integrity, and then ethical framework that is rooted, I believe, rightly in a Christian world and life view.

THE GOAL OF THIS PROGRAM

And that’s what we are attempting to do — we claim no perfection on “Today in Perspective” but that is our consistent commitment, Tom. And stories like this bear out the fact that what we’re doing is needed but we need to keep doing it the way we’re doing it. “Here’s what the news story said. Now here is our analysis from a Christian world and life view.”

We must not try to pass our analysis off as news, nor attempt to be newsmakers but, having had the news reported, here is a presentation of a Christian world and life view of that event, what you can learn from it, how you can respond to it and then the appeal to people that a Christian world and life view becomes a glorious journey of growth in the grace of God that begins with a commitment to Christ as Lord and Savior so that you love the Lord now with all of your heart, your soul and your mind.

Dr. Harry L. Reeder III is the Senior Pastor of Briarwood Presbyterian Church in Birmingham.

This podcast was transcribed by Jessica Havin, editorial assistant for Yellowhammer News, who has transcribed some of the top podcasts in the country and whose work has been featured in a New York Times Bestseller.