410 | News Fasting: A Year Without the News Media (Janice Campbell)
Have you ever done a media fast? I did one years ago and am planning another one this year. Here's a bit on why to do them and the good things that happened when I did.
Janice Campbell, a lifelong reader and writer, loves to introduce students to great books and beautiful writing. She holds an English degree from Mary Baldwin College, and is the graduated homeschool mom of four sons. You’ll find more about reading, writing, planning, and education from a Charlotte Mason/Classical perspective at her websites, EverydayEducation.com, Excellence-in-Literature.com, and DoingWhatMatters.com.
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Janice Campbell Hello and welcome to The Homeschool Solutions Show. My name is Janice Campbell and I'm one of the many hosts here on the podcast. Each week we bring you an encouraging conversation from this busy and blessed journey of educating our children at home. While the title of the show is Homeschool Solutions, we don't pretend to have all the answers to all the homeschooling questions. It is our hope that this podcast will point you to Jesus Christ that you may seek his counsel as you train your children in the way they should go. Parents, here's a riddle for you: Homeschoolers love them, enemies of freedom hate them. What are they? It's the Tuttle Twin books. With millions of copies sold, the Tuttle Twins series helps you teach your children about entrepreneurship, personal responsibility, the Golden Rule, and so much more. Get a discounted set of books with free workbooks today at TuttleTwins.com/homeschool. And now on today's show.
Hi, this is Janice Campbell, and I'm so glad you're here with me today. We're going to talk about going on a news diet. 2024 seems like a prime opportunity, at least if you've been through an election cycle or two and know how it goes. If news stories are just continually recycled in normal years, an election year is exponentially worse. Almost nothing said actually addresses meaningful issues. Instead, it's more like a series of pre and post game interviews on a sports channel. Much ado about nothing. Empty words that accomplish nothing but filling airspace. It's enough to send a thoughtful listener straight off a cliff. It's been a while since I've done a complete news fast, but I well remember the first time I did it. I've never been a heavy consumer of news or pop culture, but I faithfully read the daily paper for decades and listened to radio news a few times a week. I don't watch television, and never have. I was immensely blessed to be raised in a household without it. And boy, what a blessing that was. But at one point when the boys were younger, I was still spending close to an hour a day absorbing news. And I just remember toward the end of one pre-election year, I opened the newspaper and realized that I'd read every single story in it before. The names and details may have changed, but the basic stories were all the same. Somebody was born. Somebody died. A politician did something or didn't do something and that sort of thing. At the same time that I noticed this, I was feeling sort of dry of spirit and undernourished in mind, and just trying desperately to regain some time to do some important reading. And it occurred to me that this was the perfect time for a media fast. So for a whole year, I stayed away from all media except for the Sunday paper. And after that, the only thing I've resumed is my daily newspaper. Except, of course, for a bit of online news reading during the plague.
There were four benefits I gained from that media diet, and they were what made it all worth it. The first one was that I freed up time to do the things that I really cared about. Although quitting my sources, my newspaper, radio, whatever, freed up only an hour each day, the time rescue turned out to be far greater than that. Because by the time I had finished the paper in the evening, it was often too late to begin reading anything deep. So I often spent the rest of the evening with a magazine, social media, or other suboptimal use of time. So with no daily newspaper and only the Sunday paper, I was able to spend my evenings reading and thinking and writing almost from dinner to bedtime. And that was really plenty of time for meaningful and interesting reading and thinking. And since this is the type of reading that has always been essential for my spiritual life and the work I do, and plus reading is fun, it was a huge win for me.
But secondly—the second benefit was that I gained mindspace for creative and contemplative work. So without the endless loop of artificial hype and repetitive news, laugh tracks and whatever, I was able to focus on something other than the tyranny of the present. Cicero said, "to have identified education as a key to escaping the tyranny of the present," and it is indeed one of the factors. However, I think that silence must be part of that freeing process as well. The removal of extraneous information clutter has reawakened some of my delight in creative projects. Sometimes I sketch calligraphy layouts, study a variety of topics, and just enjoy handwork and crafts in a way that I used to do and was missing for a while.
So the third benefit that I experienced with a media diet or media fast, I was able to regain a bird's eye view of life and kind of seeing a forest view rather than trees, you know that old saying about seeing the forest versus the trees? I am a forest person. I flourish when I see the forest, and that's what I usually see. I'm not detail oriented and I've always tried to focus on priorities and the big picture, beginning, as Stephen Covey suggests in Seven Habits of Highly Effective People, with the end in mind. But that's not easy to accomplish when you're bombarded with ceaseless yammering of an industry that gets its money by filling time and space with noise. So it was just a huge, huge benefit for me to take a media fast. I wouldn't suggest that it's impossible to have these benefits without a media fast. But the point is that unfocused media consumption can be such a waste of time. The fast allowed me to analyze what types of information I needed or wanted, and find sources that would provide it. Your choices will vary with your place in life, your interests, and your calling. But I would suggest that purposeful, targeted choices will serve you better than being awash in random information.
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I'm looking back now because this will be another year of changing media for me, for better or for worse. The first thing that has to change in our home is our newspaper subscription. The cost has reached eye-popping levels. It's now over $1,000 a year, if you can imagine. So we're just not going to renew when our current year expires in a couple of weeks. Even though it's shrunk to a shadow of its former self and takes maybe 15 minutes to read, at the most, I'm still sad about losing it. It was my introduction to the culture, concerns, and regional differences of my new city when I arrived over 40 years ago. The culture shock then was huge, but the paper at least helped me make sense of the area. And it kept me from asking that horrible question that would have gotten me immediately banned, you know, "what were you talking about?" But it has been a pleasant part of my evening routine for all these years. I've been able to stay adequately informed without drama, hype, tracking, or clickbait headlines. There's no idle speculation about what an interviewee might say, nor pointless recaps of what he just said seconds ago. I could read the parts of the paper I cared about and ignore the rest. Hello, sports section, and I could clip animal-related articles to send my mother, as she has always done for me. It'll be sad to say goodbye to all those things. I'm thinking about brief and bearable ways now of keeping abreast of essential news, so I'm considering some options. Since news can be read and processed very quickly in printed form that's what I prefer. Even if there is an event, though if there's an event on the scale of 911 or wildfires headed my way, I will take whatever is needed to learn about it. But essential information, clearly presented, is what journalism used to be about, and that's what I'm looking for.
So as I've been looking, I found a couple resources I think will help me with my search, and I'll share those here, just in case you might be feeling a need of a media diet too. The first is Ad Fontes Media and they have a media bias chart. It kind of charts where different publications fall on a political spectrum, sort of whether they're left or right or extreme on either side. And I found their charts interesting and helpful, and that's adfontesmedia.com and the address will be in the show notes. And there's also a similar site called allsides.com. And again it's a media bias chart and it shows which way a particular source leans. I figure, even though I'm giving up my daily newspaper, I would like to have some way of understanding where my new news source is coming from and just try to balance out, not get too far left, too far right, whatever. So I think these two sites adfontes.com and allsides.com will be helpful.
Although I'm sad at the upcoming end of our newspaper subscription, I'm remembering the benefits I experienced the first time I did a media diet. More time for hobbies and good books, and a deepened ability to focus on the things that really matter. I suspect that I may experience those benefits and more this time around. So have you ever done a media fast or media diet? I'd be very interested to hear about it if you did. I'd like to know what benefits you experienced and if there were any downsides. Thank you for listening. I wish you joy in the journey.
Thank you for joining us this week on The Homeschool Solutions Show. You can find show notes and links to all the resources mentioned at Homeschooling.mom. Don't forget to check out my friends at Medi-Share because you deserve health care you can trust. To learn more about Medi-Share and why over 400,000 Christians have made the switch, go to GreatHomeschoolConventions.com/MediShare. If you haven't already, please subscribe to the podcast and while you're there, leave us a review. Tell us what you love about the show. This will help other homeschooling parents like you get connected to our community. And finally, tag us on Instagram @HomeschoolingDotMom to let us know what you thought of today's episode. Have you joined us at one of The Great Homeschool Conventions? The Great Homeschool Conventions are the homeschooling events of the year, offering outstanding speakers, hundreds of workshops covering today's top parenting and homeschooling topics, and the largest homeschool curriculum exhibit halls in the US. Find out more at GreatHomeschoolConventions.com. I hope to see you there. Finally you can connect with me, Janice Campbell, at EverydayEducation.com where you'll find my Excellence in Literature curriculum, transcripts made easy and more, as well as at my blog DoingWhatMatters.com and my literature resource site Excellence-In-Literature.com. I wish you peace and joy in your homeschooling.