Sensation grabs attention and attention sells advertising (10 tips for consuming “news”)

Let no debt remain outstanding, except the continuing debt to love one another, for whoever loves others has fulfilled the law. – Romans 13:8

– writer Derek Maul

To be honest, I am a little concerned about my attention span. Or maybe I should say “our” attention span, collectively, because I know it’s not just me.

Recently I have found myself abandoning interesting articles, discouraged, when I realize they are going to require more than three to five minutes to read.

“This is interesting!” I will say to myself, for the first 500 words or so. Then, when I’m ready for the conclusion, I realize the writer is just warming up. Likely as not I’m going to ditch and move on (posts on this blog, BTW, typically run between 300 and 600 words).

Somehow (although I still enjoy long, rambling novels) my appetite for news has evolved to “bite-sized,” “drive-through,” and “to-go.” What’s unfortunate is that the analogy holds when it comes to content, nutrition, substance, value, and contribution to long-term health.

Improve your news diet!

When we limit our analysis of current affairs to the attention-grabbing headline, the bias-confirming accusation, the eyebrow raising exaggeration, the “can-you-believe-it?” outrage, the titillating innuendo, or the juicy bit of salacious gossip, then we have compromised analysis in favor of entertainment and we have likely not considered what is really happening at all.

In today’s contentious political climate the last thing we need is a quick fix of flavor and a sudden rush of sugar.

There could be any number of solutions to this challenge, and it’s going to vary from person to person. Regardless, it is incumbent on each one of us to be more intentional when it comes to figuring out what is going on. Here are a few guidelines.

  1. Understand that sensation grabs attention and attention sells advertising. So move beyond the shocking headline and the juicy first paragraph.
  2. Remember the words of Churchill that ring so true today: “Democracy is the worst form of government, except for all the others.” We really don’t want one of the others…
  3. Be alert for “confirmation bias”. If we only read/listen to ideas that confirm what we already believe (or want to be true) then we’re likely not getting the complete picture.
  4. We should listen more than we speak. Especially listen to people and ideas you reject. Why? Because we all have something to learn from one another.
  5. Understand that it’s not world domination those other people are after – mostly they just want to be heard.
  6. Learn the difference between reporting and opinion.
  7. Trust the experts. People like scientists and judges tend to be apolitical.
  8. When someone claims to be privy to “facts” that no-one else seems to posses, saying “we have information,” or “we have evidence,” or “everyone knows,” but election officials of both parties, 50 states, the courts, judges, and even the Supreme Court, see nothing of any substance, then that is a clue.
  9. Use common sense! Over 240 years of U.S. history has provided evidence that stability is rooted in trust. The checks and balances built into the Constitution help us ride through temporary setbacks and institutional failings.
  10. Take a deep breath. Calm down. Remember we all want the same thing: and that is a peaceful, prosperous, generous America, with liberty and justice for all…

Peace – and I mean that in every way possible – DEREK

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