Navigating the News

By Karen Nettler, MSW

Reading the morning newspaper and watching the evening news was a “habit” I picked up as a child.  Even when I was young, I enjoyed learning about the world around me.  Looking back on those years, I do not remember being terrified by what I read and watched.  Fast forward to today, and it’s an entirely different experience.

Over the decades, access to information and communication has developed at an incredibly rapid pace.  Any news organization that is not prepared to showcase Live, Local, Late-Breaking news will not survive.  The more visual images that accompany the stories — the better for their ratings!  Further, we are exposed to graphic images on a regular basis – both in print, on-line and on television.  Social media has also become a popular media to re-transmit these stories and images.  I know I am not alone when I recognize the negative effects these stories and images have on my daily outlook.  I struggle to find the balance between staying informed and protecting myself from such disturbing (and often depressing) news.

Natural disasters; destruction of our environment; war across the globe; the plight of the poor in our country and around the world; victims of political and fanatic ideologies; and targeted and random aggression in our streets — all of these stories and images appear up in my living room and on my computer and smartphone. Wanting to be a caring, concerned and educated member of society should not mean I have to be consumed by the never-ending stream that is put out there.

Finding the right balance for me means that I set aside 30 minutes in the early morning to catch up on the overnight news and I watch only one 30 minute national news story in the evening.  I refuse to subscribe to “breaking news” alerts coming to my smartphone which are offered by all the media outlets.  By doing so, I choose to contain these fear and sadness provoking stories to small windows in my daily routine.  Here are a few additional tips to consider when balancing the need to know with the need not to know too much:

  • Look for news summaries.  Many news outlets daily emails that recap world events.  Sign up to have them sent to your inbox or look for the edited version of the day’s events at the beginning of certain news programs.
  • Limit exposure to social media.   Some people like to share disturbing news clips on their social media feed, so if you’re avoiding the nightly news, you might want to stay completely unplugged.
  • Protect your children.   If graphic pictures and details of tragic events are disturbing to you, imagine what they’re doing to your kids.  Try to avoid as much as you can when the little ones are around.

The key is remember that you are in charge.   You can’t control what they send out, but you can limit what you and your family allows in.  Taking back control of my viewing habits has freed me to enjoy the blessings of each day and to be more productive in the work I enjoy doing.


Karen Nettler, MSW, is a former Director of Community Connections for JCS.

JCS provides a broad range of services that meet the diverse, multi-dimensional needs of individuals and families throughout Central Maryland.  We offer guidance and support when you are seeking solutions for emotional well-being, aging and caregiving, parenting, job seeking, employers and businesses, achieving financial stability, living with special needs, and preventing risky behaviors. To learn more, please visit our home page or call 410-466-9200. 


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