Watch the News Right or Turn it Off

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News over the years has deteriorated into biased reporting, slanted by political opinion. Finding quality news to form your own opinion is nearly impossible to find. Yet, without good information you can’t make informed decisions in your investing, business or personal life.

As bad as it is, there are ways to still get quality news reports. It requires effort to sift through the garbage to find facts you can use to improve your business and personal life. The BBC, The Economist, and National Public Radio still provide solid reporting with a minimal of political bias. Fox News is not news, except for those rare occasions when they report an event they have not had time to work a political angle on yet. CNN is somewhat better, but still contains plenty of bias.

Before you blame to broadcasters and the internet news feeds, remember, we are the ones feeding the beast. By consuming meaningless opinion pieces we encourage more of the same production. Our own personal biases will determine if we love Fox News or hate it. I don’t care for Fox News for a completely different reason I will share shortly.

Polarization and populism has taken over. People only want to hear what they want to hear. News no longer informs with facts; it reinforces already existing personal biases. It caters to base emotions like anger and hate. And let’s not pick on Fox News alone. I don’t watch TV so unless I am visiting family or in an airport, I don’t get much TV news indoctrination. I prefer internet news feeds. CNBC provides business news, The Economist provides a wide variety of news from around the world, and gasp, I also tend to sift through the dung pile of Yahoo’s news feed.

Anger Management

For the last eight years I have had a small number of clients who would come in with only one mission on their mind: obstructing Obama. I found this to be shallow at best. These same people generally were broke, too. Their happiness was predicated upon who occupied a white building on the east coast. Insane!

The refrain has now changed. People either yell or scream, ‘Yeah, Trump!” or seethe in anger at the news they are reading, saying, “Somebody ought to kick that idiot in the ass!” If you are in either camp you are consuming news wrong, and, dare I say, might be consuming biased opinion rather than news.

News is meant to inform, not illicit strong opinion or emotion. For Americans, how do you feel when you read about George Washington and the winter at Valley Forge? You might think about the men suffering in the elements; you might think they were brave; you might ponder on the skills Washington had keeping his men together through the difficult time so they could fight another day. The emotions might be there, but they are different. What Washington did had a greater impact on the future than what most of the stuff today’s politicians are doing. The political biases mean absolutely nothing. They are not facts; only opinions. And you know what they say about opinions. Right? Today’s news should illicit no more emotion or anger than a reading of Washington at Valley Forge.

News is important. However, we consume too much news. Most of what the 7 billion plus people on the planet do in a day is not worth noting. Twenty-four news has no choice but to devolve into opinion sludge. There is NOT 24 hours of news to report each day. People are not that interesting. It’s like watching paint dry.

There are important pieces of news we should consider. Weather, especially when it is extreme, is important to know about. School might be closed and parents need to know before venturing out into the elements. Health news is important. We need to know if a bug is going around and how to prevent it. Some news is informative and fun. For example, I enjoy reading about a NASA spacecraft reaching a new world or other destination.

Even political news can inform. I could care less about anyone’s politics, but I am interested in tax law changes and how the changes will affect my clients and me. Business news is important for a reason you might not think of. Business news means nothing when it comes to investing. I use index funds and then focus my time on things I have control over, like my business (which they never report on for some strange reason). I glean the business news in search of information on how to run a successful business. Since I have a business I want to know how I can improve my results. Pieces on where a certain stock or the stock market in general is going do not interest me. It is only opinion.

Educate

Not all useful news (I guess that would make it old news) is current. If it is new to me it is news. Information from traditional news usually is a waste. Reading news about tax changes is important; it is more important to study the tax code currently in effect.

Weekly news journals, like The Economist, provide plenty of information in a timely enough manner for our needs. The exception might be weather reports, depending on your plans for the day.

Watching television news consistently destroys happiness. You cannot fill your mind with the endless negative messages and remain mentally balanced. It is a form of hypnosis you need to break away from. No one political party is that great and the opposition is not all that bad. The world is not so black and white. The constant message bashing one group over another is the perfect formula to feel depressed all the time.

Books can be news. Reading Adam Smith’s The Wealth of Nations, published in 1776, can provide new understanding of our capitalist economic system. It is old, but it is new to you. The library is filled with great books. You can learn all day for the cost of walking to the library! Unlike newscasts or internet newsfeeds, books dig deeper into the subject matter. News, by its very design, is a glossing over of the facts. News gives you a quick glimpse while books allow a satisfying deep gulp.




News must inform to be of any value. Opinions have zero value and are why most television news is worthless. If news is presented right it should cause you to want to dig deeper into the subject. Proper news directs you with a few salient facts to get a book that fleshes out the subject matter.

Can you imagine your tax professional getting all his tax knowledge from a newscast? Insane! Your favorite account reads news pieces on tax law changes. Then he reads the tax code, tax journals, attends continuing education tax seminars, and more. If your tax guy doesn’t read tax court rulings you might need a different tax guy. The news only gives us a brief glimpse of a few select facts (if it is not opinion disguised as news) so we can get the whole story later if it has an impact on our life.

Danger, Will Robinson!

The worst part about modern news is the amount of it we consume. Sitting around listening to the same opinions, I mean news, regurgitated is unhealthy. Either the news is important and you take note or it is not and you should move on. Most news is not important. It might be important to someone else; it is not important to you. School closings are only important to the people living in and around the snowstorm.




Watching endless mind control robs you of your individuality. Watched long enough, news will manipulate who you are and what you think. There is no worse kind of death. What you give up to watch and read the same drivel about the President is too much. Love him or hate him, he is the President. I am not so stupid as to believe there will not be problems. What I do know is most things I have absolutely no control over. No amount of digested news will change that.

There are things I do have control over. I can turn off the TV or newsfeeds. Things that apply to my life get read. If they are really important I might get a book on the subject. Tax issues will encourage me to open the tax code for further review. But then it is time to stop. Time to get off my derrière and do something important.

Health declines when we sit too much. (Look who is talking. I run a business where sitting on the tail all day is part of the culture.) Spending anymore than a token amount of time watching or reading news is too much. Less news and more walking and outdoor activities have multiple benefits. By reducing the amount of mind numbing manipulation you will enjoy better mental health. The extra time outdoors will improve physical health. Time with friends and family brings greater levels of wellbeing.

News is killing us. Opinion disguised as news is designed to pull us in and keep us glued when nothing of value is being added. We must stop spending so much time consuming things of no value!

It is so easy to get sucked in. Readers of this blog tend to be wealthier. Financial independence also has risks. The extra time afforded us allows us to partake in addictions with fewer consequences—at first. With more time to do what we want, it is important to not get sucked into the afternoon soaps or the opinion dramas of Fox News.

Good books, time with friends, and reading well written blogs are a better use of time. You can reach your financial and other personal goals faster if you spend less time consuming commercial news.

You can also use the extra time to read awesome blogs like this one, where I never interject any opinion, and always stick to the facts.




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Keith Schroeder

2 Comments

  1. MilitaryFIRE on January 27, 2017 at 6:58 pm

    Jim Collins says in his book that losing investors pay attention to the “Foam.” I think you are making the larger (and much needed) point. Most of the news is nonsense. Every I watch a newscast with a a sensational headline, a pitch for the latest singing competition, and a missing teenage girl in some small town i think: ’30 some Thousand people die on the nations highways each year. 14 Thousand are Murdered. None of this news really applies to me…’ That being said, I read a few newspapers in there entirety each week, and scour the Atlantic online edition weekly. I chose topics that interest and educate, not titillate.

    • Keith Schroeder on January 29, 2017 at 5:08 pm

      Putting me in the same room with Jim Collins is an honor. The point of this post is to remind me it is okay to ease up on the news since I read too much of it as it is.

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