Brad Johansen
Some unorganized thoughts

Reading the News

I am constantly reading the news. I subscribe to The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, The New Yorker, The Economist, Bloomberg, The Houston Chronicle, The Financial Times, Foreign Affairs, Foreign Policy and of course, I am always on Twitter. In addition, my job gives me access to Eikon which includes almost 8,000 other news sources.

Needless to say, I have think that I need to reduce my news consumption or at least make it more focused. I plan on significantly limiting which publications I read on a regular basis in 2020. I plan to limit my regular news consumption to The Economist and Financial Times in addition to whatever I access at work, through Eikon.

Out of the approximately 10,000 news stories you have read in the last 12 months, name one that – because you consumed it – allowed you to make a better decision about a serious matter affecting your life, your career, your business – compared to what you would have known if you hadn’t swallowed that morsel of news. The point is: the consumption of news is irrelevant to the forces that really matter in your life. At its best, it is entertaining, but it is still irrelevant.

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Afraid you will miss “something important”? From my experience, if something really important happens, you will hear about it, even if you live in a cocoon that protects you from the news. Friends and colleagues will tell you about relevant events far more reliably than any news organization. They will fill you in with the added benefit of [meta-information], since they know your priorities and you know how they think. You will learn far more about really important events and societal shifts by reading about them in specialized journals, [in-depth] magazines or good books and by talking to the people who know.

This quote comes from Rolf Dobelli’s essay “Avoid News” which I recently read. I agree with a lot of what Rolf says in his essay, which discusses why you should not consume any news. In response to this quote, I want to disagree on two points.

First, news is a conversation starter for me. I work with people all day who are constantly reading the news and trying to figure out if they can make money from the content of a news story. Without constantly reading the news, I’m not sure what I would use to build relationships with these strangers. But that might be more of an indictment of my conversational abilities than anything.

Second, one point I think Rolf forgets is that news was created primarily for the financial markets. News today still moves the markets and some of the largest news organizations today cater primarily to financial clients (WSJ, Reuters, Bloomberg). Traders, financial professionals and the individuals that work with them (read: me) are dependent on real-time news to do their jobs.

My struggle will be my need to consume the news for work, but limit my consumption outside work.