Back during Lent I turned off the Radio, which for me consisted mainly of News and talk radio. I also switched off cable TV news. It was the aftermath of the last election cycle, and  all the franticness and severe partisan debate that talk radio and 24/7 news channels love to generate and I was exhausted, had felt ill-served and uniformed. Most of the talking heads I listened to had been dead wrong about the election and the mood of the American people.

As a kind of news junkie I new it would be hard. But I also knew that the all-too steady diet of that stuff was ruining my peace.  Since Ash Wednesday, I haven’t gone back. When I have the radio on now, I listen to Catholic Radio. I also listen to podcasts more.

Frankly the news and talk radio world thrive on generating a sense of crisis, conflict and consternation.  I gave up on them for the same reason I stopped reading newspapers ten years ago, I felt like I was being played. There seemed to be a desire to stir me up, get me angry, or manipulate my thinking and views more than to inform me. I am not sure I need to be told what to think. But it does help to know what is going on. But I wasn’t getting even that.

I was also being pelted with lots of dumb information that was not only useless but was quite annoying, such as what certain Hollywood people were doing, thinking, who they were dating, divorcing, or what strange things they were naming their kids or causes they supported, etc. This is not news, it is infotainment. And all the giggling on morning news shows but on TV and radio really annoys after awhile.

The news does not really seem to be the news. Either it is advocacy journalism, or it is simply trying to peddle crisis and controversy or just showing how shallow and debased our culture has become. The result for me was too much anger, anxiety, and even a sort of bitterness for “them” i.e. the people on the other side.

Yes, I was being played. And I didn’t like it. And most of the people who were trying to play me and sell increasingly insulting news do not share my faith and even feel free to ridicule what I find sacred, holy and valuable.

 Dale Ahlquist in his book Common Sense 101 has some interesting insights that resonate with me. He himself is also reflecting on G.K Chesterton. Here are a few quotes along with some additional comments by me in red:

Modern man is staggering and losing his balance because he is being pelted with little pieces of alleged fact . . . which are native to the newspapers; Chesterton says that journalism consists of saying “Lord Jones is Dead” to people who never knew that Lord Jones was alive. The news is either irrelevant or irreverent….…..it is an insult to the common man to say that he is as vulgar and silly as most of the newspapers are.

Yes, at some point too much information is no information. We are simply overwhelmed with distractions and have trouble sorting it all out and prioritizing. And so much of what the news focuses on is banal, trivial and exotic. And all the infotainment stuff really is an insult. 

 The great weakness of the news industry is that it “must be a picture made up entirely of exceptions”. The newspapers, says Chesterton, cannot announce the happiness of mankind at all. They cannot describe all the forks that are not stolen, or all the marriages that are not dissolved, all the murders that are not committed. And so they do not give a normal picture of life at all. “They can only represent what is unusual.”

Exactly. The news is not really the news, it is the bad news, the strange news, the starling, odd, and exotic news. The news is biased, not only because it is left or right but because it leaves out the most important news of the day: that Jesus Christ is risen from the dead and is at the Father’s right hand interceding for us, and that we must prepare for his great second coming.

 [And there is]  the great fallacy that the press is somehow neutral. [This] has in turn fed the idea that neutrality itself is a great desirable quality, that not taking a stand is somehow admirable, that “tolerance” is the supreme virtue.

Of course we all know that that the idea of an unbiased press is and always has been a lie. Frankly most of it is left, and even those on the right, like to call themselves “Fair and Balanced.” Why not just come out and state what everyone really knows: The Washington Post: News from the left. MSNBC, news from the far left. Fox News: News from the right. Just say it!

And as Ahlquist points out, why is neutrality so prized anyway. We in the Church surely need to rediscover that to speak the truth is to stake out a position and to declare that the opposite of what we teach is false. We need to stop all this pretending that we’re just neutral and stand firmly for our sacred teachings without lots of bows to a supposed neutrality, which doesn’t exist anyway.

We live in an age of journalese. The very language that we are forced to use attacks our traditions, our morals, and our faith. Things that are degenerate and sinful are called “progressive” and “liberating”. Good words that were once pure and noble, like “choice” and “gay”, now have reprehensible meanings. Traditional religion, which has given light to millions across the world and across the centuries, is called dull and narrow. 

It is amazing the power that wordsmithing has. The Times and Post have far too much power in this regard. The cultural left has this tactic down cold. We in the Church are real rookies when it comes to this. 

We might be able to take the newspapers more seriously if they would not take themselves so seriously. Honesty always laughs, because things are so laughable.” the only reason to read the newspaper is to find out what the enemy is up to. Hah!

All quotes are from Chapter 5: The Daily Truth

I realize that there is a danger in trying to stay away from the manipulation of the media. I do need to stay informed and have some idea what many of my parishioners are (sadly) being exposed to and listening to. Currently I depend a lot on others to throw items over my transom. I also hear some news on Catholic Radio, and over at sites like New Advent. But I do feel less aware about the “buzz” of modern culture. And that is good, but has drawbacks.

Here’s my question: do any of you know some good news sources that help one to stay informed but without all the deleterious, poisonous and trivial stuff mentioned above? Perhaps there are some good sources, Catholic and otherwise that can keep us informed but without all the poison. I tend to watch little T.V. and am more rooted in Catholic Radio and Internet.

At the end of the day, I want to stay more focused on God and be more immersed in my faith. The pull of culture has become so poisonous and troubling. But, as most of you know I am will and ready to make use of good things in culture and to comment on things that come to my attention. But too much raw exposure to it is not good for my soul. Yet I want and need to know the basics of what is being said and done in our all-too-distressing world. Any suggestions are appreciated and I suspect that we can also help each other find alternative sources for news.

79 Responses

  1. Dave in NC says:

    drudgereport.com;

    http://pjmedia.com/richardfernandez/;

    instapundit.com

    for starters.

  2. Patricia says:

    You echoed my own thoughts as well, I like Zenit, Catholic News report, Lifesite News and I usually just skim the Google News headlines to get the main ideas.Takes a lot of will power to skip clicking on the link though.
    I dislike knowing intimate details of celebrity lives, I consider all that toxic and try to stay away, having said that I will admit its sometimes like driving past an accident , in more ways than one.
    On some level its good to know how bad the culture is Ie , during the papal conclave, I made the mistake of following a link to Huff Post, oh boy , the interview with “female catholic priests”, left me flummoxed and incredulous that such ridiculous blather could even be considered journalisim. On the up side ,its a great way to get inspiration to pray!.
    I too, have gone on occasional news fasts, and blog fasts, If a site leaves me feeling anxious, without hope, I drop it. God bless Father, I will say your blog is a new treat for me.

  3. Hegelian Dialectic says:

    Welcome to the real world. And if you want to go down the path of knowledge quite a bit more go to
    http://www.cuttingthroughthematrix.com. It’s the education you were never meant to have. No baloney.

  4. Hegelian Dialectic says:

    P.S. Most “news” is run underneath the Reuters umbrella. There isn’t very much that Reuters doesn’t have its fingers in. Remember, they also run Thomson-Reuters –which used to be WestLaw before it’s many incarnations. This should frighten (and inform) any sentient person. Stop being naive.

  5. francois says:

    I like; http://www.newadvent.org
    I have been using it for several years.

  6. RichardGTC . says:

    At work, I listen to a podcast, 45-55 minuters, of The Wall Street Journal that came with the audiobook club that I joined. That costs money. I would not have subscribed to of choice, but, because it came with joining, I do listen to it. I get a rough picture of the big news from that and my non-knowledge of financial events is made even clearer to me. Other than that, I look at the DrudgeReport a few times a day (I have no idea why I look at it more than once a day.) to see if there has been a new disaster.

    Back when there was the USSR, there was a big picture that people could understand. I don’t know to what extent it was fake. Efforts have been made and are being made to reinvent the big picture. As far as I can tell, only one thing is true about the big picture: Christians are being pummeled in one way or another everywhere.

  7. Sue Korlan says:

    I gave up the BBC for Lent and haven’t gone back. I’ve also recently given up listening to the radio news. So I know what you’re talking about. I think in my case God wants me to do this so I will have more time for prayer and other positive pursuits.

  8. James says:

    I “unplugged” a couple of years ago because I was literally becoming depressed with all the bad news. Now that the news addiction is broken, I’m back to listening to the morning show on WMAL. The show format is 10 mins segments broken up by traffic and weather. You get all the important headlines in about 30 mins. That’s more than enough, sometimes too much depending on what is being talked about. In the evening, I might scroll through the Drudge headlines and maybe PewSitter.com for the Catholic headlines. I feel that I’m still informed but at the same time, detached enough from the news that what I do hear doesn’t affect me. During my “news detox” period, I managed to build some really good Pandora stations. My baroque/classical station puts WETA to shame!

    PS. – I threw my t.v. away too! Thank you John Senior!

  9. Betsy says:

    This fall, EWTN is going to start an evening news program; I’m going to give it a try.

  10. CN says:

    I’ve been in the news business — mainly as a photographer and partially a writer — for six years and agree with Msgr. Pope. Naturally, I’m a news junkie, and read both liberal and conservative sources. I’ve grown more and more dissatisfied with reading news, especially of the long form. The BBC is tolerable because its news items are short and try to be as concise with few words as possible. Publications such as the New York Times, the Globe and Mail in Canada have really depressed me with their essay-ish styles, which amounted to lots of writing with very little substance.

    It’s hard to avoid the fluff when a person navigates to these sites. About 80 per cent of the content is advertisement disguised as news, lifestyle stories (eg. a video about a naked yoga studio stood for months), and an assortment of petty features.

    To be fair, the news business does try to be neutral when it comes to serious stories, but when it isn’t, it’s largely affected by sources. Changes in the press flow with changes in secular society. It’s gotten to the point where I’m simply not interested in interviewing most of my subjects anymore, but yet must do a good job until my last day in the office. I’ve resigned from my job.

    I’ve substituted most of my news reading time with prayers these days. Half a year ago, I started going to newadvent.org. The words of wisdom from Msgr. Pope, et al. are more satisfying. Keep it up and thank you.

  11. JohnR says:

    Two comments mention New Advent. I have used this for several years. The only radio I listen to is, here in Australia, “ABC Classic FM”. This is a radio station which has the odd news item on the hour from 5-00 am up to 9-00 am, then at 12-00 Noon and 1-00 pm, then again at 5-00 pm and 6-00 pm. Each news broadcast is only for five minutes and the rest of the time the station broadcasts Classical music. It runs 24 hours every day.
    For me, most of the day my TV is off. I can and do receive EWTN from time to time and I do watch local TV for evening news and also some programmes but I am careful what I choose to watch because so many are very left-wing and I avoid them.
    If I am an addict it is to the internet and then, usually, for Catholic blogs like this one, which New Advent suggests.

  12. Charles says:

    For comfort and the Truth Catholic radio, as you know.
    For the painful truth about domestic politics with humour and insight: Rush Limbaugh

  13. Thanks Everyone for these wonderful sources. I think I will compile them into a sort of catalog and post it next week.

  14. Richie says:

    The Blaze TV

  15. Hegelian Dialectic says:

    Monsignor Pope: a couple of other sites:
    http://www.memoryholeblog.com
    http://www.zerohedge.com

    and I know you may not be thrilled with this one:
    http://www.traditio.com

    In addition:
    please advise if you’d like to receive a couple of books that will, I think, be a bit of an eye-opener for you. I’d be happy to mail them to you.

  16. ellen myers says:

    I agree with the others on this page. I too am doing more praying. I had to give up EWTN because I can not afford the Dish.I really loved that station.
    Will send information on this page to my e-mail friends. Ellen & her Angels

  17. Erin says:

    Here’s one: Catholic Pulse, a daily news site run by the Knights of Columbus. You can get a daily email of headlines from them, then click any headline to go to the site. They divide stories as to whether the story is national, international, or church news–and they seem to do a good job picking stories that are of importance and excluding gratuitous and/or gruesome stories that you don’t need to know. (Some otherwise good sites, even Catholic ones, give too much gory detail for my taste and well-being sometimes!)

    Also, don’t most news sites let you set up an RSS feed to send a headline list to your internet browser, by topic, and then you can review them at will in a drop-down list- or something like that? Then you can radically reduce the detail and image overload and pick what you want to explore more.

    I do think we need to hear some things promptly so we can pray about them, because all of our prayers CAN and DO impact the course of world events in the present moment. That’s where targeted alerts/updates by email are helpful, from selected organizations. But I’m sure you get those already! For example, it helps to know that Hobby Lobby will be in court tomorrow, because we can all pray for the Lord be merciful to us and grant them victory in this next step of their case against the evil, unconstitutional, un-American HHS mandate. (Anyone reading this on Thurs/Fri, PRAY!)

  18. Therese says:

    What I do is glance over the headlines (and intro summaries) on google news or WTOP.Com and then if a story interests me, I google it. The headlines are enough for me to get an idea if I want to read the story or not. I also use my facebook page for select sources. I like that you get a few lines and usually a descriptive enough healine that you know if you want to read it and you can also be up enough on the trivia that I don’t be come culturally detached to the point of not being able to decipher pop cultural references and use them when appropriate with certain age groups.

  19. Jaim says:

    Although I’ve been struggling with the same conundrum for many years, sadly, I’ve come to the conclusion that there are no objective news outlets, (if there ever were). I’m simply tired of hearing about everyone’s personal agenda, and the blatant, unforgivable dismissal in the media of anything that might reference God. I simply use the Internet and scan headlines, (trying not to click the links) across the myriad of polarized news sites that work feverishly 24/7/365 to keep us all polarized and engaged in Group-Think.

    And even the Christian and Catholic media (also heavily polarized) it’s either hypocritically holier than thou or borderline heretical. Sirius XM has an afternoon program (with a Priest) that frankly I cannot believe is still on the air. (That’s all I’ll say about that).

    So I’m reading my Bible more, Philosophy/Logic, G.K. CHESTERTON and some fiction and figure if it’s REALLY news I’ll hear about it one way or the other. When I stop hearing about the news I’ll either be dead, or it’ll be the Second Coming, so the news won’t matter.

    While many of you have good intentions to provide Msgr. Pope with avenues to stay in touch with the news cycle and not feel, as so many of us do, that we’re stuck in the food court at the Sodom & Gomorrah mall, I might remind you that a huge percentage of news outlets receive their, “news” from either the AP, AHN and UPI news wire services. Across the pond it’s PA and Reuters.

    These massive conglomerate wire services can effectively slant the news in any way they want based upon the old social mechanisms they often manipulate of race, class, religion (or lack thereof), politics and gender.

    These media outlets are best described, in my opinion, by:

    Proverbs 6:16-19
    “There are six things that the Lord hates, seven that are an abomination to him: haughty eyes, a lying tongue, and hands that shed innocent blood, a heart that devises wicked plans, feet that make haste to run to evil, a false witness who breathes out lies, and one who sows discord among brothers.”

    Today’s news services, again in my opinion, have done all of this, and continue to, whenever they purposefully ratchet up the tensions in this country, (at the cost of innocent lives) simply to create more news.

    Makes me recall the lyrics from two songs, Don Henley’s “Dirty Laundry”

    “We can do the Innuendo
    We can dance and sing
    When it’s said and done
    We haven’t told you a thing
    We all know that Crap is King
    Give us dirty laundry”

    and John Mayer singing,

    “Cause when they own the information, oh
    They can bend it all they want …”

    And you all know what the acronym N.E.W.S really means don’t you? “Never Ever (the) Whole Story”

    - Pax Christi

  20. Nick says:

    Its a tricky situation nowadays, many news sources are misleading and unreliable. But in spite of this we must continue to stay informed about whats going on in our world for our own good. As Catholics we have a responsibility to be informed of what’s going on, so that we can continue to be able to do good in the world.

  21. Becky says:

    A lot of commenters are suggesting NewAdvent.

    I used to go there frequently. I applaud Kevin and volunteers for making the Catholic Dictionary and writings of the Fathers free, digital, searchable.

    But I noticed during the run-up to the last election season that Kevin never seemed to link to news about the progress same-sex marriage activists were making in the states of Maine, Maryland, Minnesota, and Washington.

    Obviously there was an excess of coverage in the mainstream news, all of it favorable, and then plenty of Catholic responses online.

    One could argue that SSM is a lesser evil; Kevin included plenty of links on the HHS mandate, and pro-life efforts.

    But he picks and chooses what to include. He did not include any news about the march of SSM. So, like any news aggregator, you get what he wants you to get, and it may not be enough.

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