I’m a satisfied customer of The Guardian, but I’ve long grown a bit tired of its opinion pieces. They could all be called You Know Me: I Don’t Like This Sort of Thing. Their real value to me now is as better informed and expressed versions of my own opinion. For example, Owen Jones was more eloquent on Dominic Cummings’ press conference than I could ever be, able to cite past incidents I’d long forgotten, that accentuated the advisor’s hypocrisy. But that’s echo chamber behaviour on my part, I hold my hand up.
I was immediately drawn, though, to the headline Why Madeleine McCann was never just another ‘lost child’ story, by Giles Tremlett, because I’ve often wanted to know just that. Tremlett’s explanation is fascinating and depressing, casting news media in a very poor light. For instance, he suggests the Express eventually targeted the parents simply because it had run out things to say: “A Daily Express reporter wearily explained to me that his editor expected a front page splash every two days.”
I used to devour the news like an addict, but long before the COVID-19 situation I’d given it up. This happened around the same time I quit Twitter, but also in response to Rutger Bregman’s Utopia for Realists, where he points out that the daily news is a terrible way to inform yourself of what’s happening in the world:
Because the news consists of what happened today (BREAKING NEWS: TERROR ATTACK IN PARIS ) and not what happens every day (BREAKING NEWS: THE WORLD ’ S TEMPERATURE RISES BY 0.00005°C ) many believe that terrorism is the biggest threat we face.Bregman, Rutger. Utopia for Realists (pp. 221-222). Bloomsbury Publishing. Kindle Edition.
When I want to know the latest lockdown advice from the government, I just look it up. Before, I’d have left a 24 hour news channel running, and watched the press conferences live. My mental health, my schedule, and my idea of what’s going on in the wider world are, I’d say, improved.