I am sort of a news junkie. I read wire stories, check CNN, The Washington Post and The New York Times frequently, listen to news radio and NPR. But I've found I end up scanning the headlines, but reading very few of the actual stories.
Why? After years of paying attention to the news, I've become a bit jaded about what actually matters. Most stories are repetitions of what I've already heard, stories that most people knew were coming, or variations on the same theme.
Let's look at the current Reuters headlines.
- Carter Meets Castro for Talks on Landmark Visit -- Once you get beyond the statement, "Jimmy Carter's going to Cuba," there's not much information there.
- Israel's Likud Vote Further Blow to Peace Talks -- Oh, and they were doing so well before. It's somewhat interesting from an Israeli political standpoint that Sharon, who is generally a hard-liner, opposed the resolution against a Palestinian state. Other than that, I'm not sure what any of this signfies.
- Jordanian King Says Mideast Crisis Bolsters Bin Laden -- Well, everybody's entitled to their opinion, even if it's obvious. This is one of these stories that gets reported because of who says it. I am confident that a month from now nobody will remember this story. When you come down to it, "Mideast Crisis Bolsters Bin Laden" is a significant story, but this isn't.
- Powell, Ivanov Back Arms Accord Before Summit -- So the US and Russia are reducing their nuclear arsenals? No? Well they're talking about it at a summit? No? They're preparing to talk about actually doing something? Good work. (And I mean that.) But wake me when we get there.
- G8 Justice Ministers Focus on Terrorism, Crime -- I spend far too much of my life in meetings; I can pass on reading about other peoples'.
- British Assisted Suicide Campaigner Dies -- This actually seems like it might be interesting if I were British or had a strong opinion about euthenasia -- well, it would probably require both.
- First Lady Setting Out Solo for Europe -- I can't even think of a reason why this might be interesting, so it's hard to explain why it doesn't interest me.
- Firefighters Battle Huge Fire North of Los Angeles -- This actually strikes my attention, since Christina, Janie (Christina's sister) and I are going to LA in a few weeks. If it keeps up, I'll have to get more details.
- Tea Builds Bone Density, Taiwanese Study Finds -- Well, since I don't like tea, this isn't going to make me increase my tea intake. Hmm, come to think of it, I'm not 100% sure I need denser bones. Maybe it's a good thing I don't drink tea.
- 'Spider-Man' Swings Past $200 Million at Box Office -- Well, since it made so much last weekend, this is one of those stories the writer can write on Friday, then come back from a long weekend and fill in the details.
I guess my point is that none of these stories gives me a more complete understanding of the universe around me -- a tall order, but that's why I pay attention to the news these days. What I'm really looking for is the unexpected -- Israelis and Palestinians making peace, Finns and Swedes fighting a war, a cure for cancer...
Often times, though, these stories aren't on the front page. Perhaps the most interesting story I read today was on page A17 of today's Post. "Egyptian Radicals Veering Away From Violence." "Egyptian Radicals Denounce America" makes the catchier story, but this is more compelling. If we don't want things to get really ugly, we need to see a trend towards moderation in the Middle East. As I type that, I realize how obvious it sounds. Good; that means it's probably true. So it's worth watching this to see if it's a trend -- from the article, "veering" seems a bit of an exaggeration, but this is about a trend that could make a difference.
While finding the link for that article, I ran across several others from the Post that bear reading. There's an article about fears of "belt-bombers" in the US -- that'll keep me up tonight. There's an article about an arrest in the US that may be related to the Sept. 9 slaying of Gen. Ahmed Shah Massoud, leader of the Northern Alliance -- kind of freaky that an American postal worker may be involved, but it's heartening that investigators are making progress. That's one of the reasons I, and a lot of others, I'm sure, turn on the news these days -- to see if the good guys are catching the bad guys. Keep your fingers crossed. The article about people upset about DC's new Grand Prix race is pretty interesting too. It brings together a few things that I keep an eye on -- attempts to revitalize the DC economy, the high-handedness of these attempts toward local citizens, the general whininess of local citizens...
I guess as I get bombarded with 24-hour news, the what, when and where is so easily available that I barely need to read the stories. What I really am looking for is the whys and what ifs.