Evans: Taking a news ‘vacation’ brings on withdrawal symptomsby Mark B. Evans on Jun. 14, 2008, under Opinion
I love the news. Stop the presses. There’s hardly a waking minute when I’m not consuming news, whether via television, Internet, magazine or newspaper.
Three weeks ago I started a two-week vacation determined to take a news vacation, too. I intended not to watch TV, surf the Web or read a newspaper during our trip to California.
I failed on day two.
I had gotten the idea from Dr. Andrew Weil, the University of Arizona alternative medicine guru and author who recommends taking news vacations.
It’s part of a regimen he suggests for de-stressing the body or readjusting your chi, or something like that, in order to reduce your anxiety or lower your blood pressure or whatever (I didn’t actually read the book).
I never paid much attention to alternative medicine; it’s too touchy-feely for me. But I viewed this advice with particular skepticism because it hit me where I live.
Weil seemed to be telling people the news was bad for them and they could become healthier by avoiding it. That sounds like bad advice to a guy who makes his living gathering and reporting the news.
Usually our family trips are planned out like the invasion of Europe: At 0900 hours we arrive at the aquarium, 0930 we watch seal feeding, 1130 hours we eat lunch . . .
My family politely told me this trip was to be different. No plan. We would take each day as it came.
That seemed disastrous, but I agreed to try. And to get into the spirit of this supposed no-stress vacay, I decided to give up the news.
It was harder than I thought. Every hotel tried to defy me, putting newspapers in front of my door each morning.
Of the 30 or so channels on hotel TVs, a third were trying to give me the news, five were 24-hour cable news – CNN, MSNBC, Fox, CNBC and CNN Headline News – and five or six were local channels and network affiliates that all had four or more hours each of morning, evening and night news shows.
Every restaurant seemed to have a TV on the wall tuned to either ESPN, CNN or Fox.
Even my phone kept trying to feed me news. I have it set to receive breaking news alerts from the Tucson Citizen and the Arizona Daily Star. I couldn’t figure out how to make it stop, so I had to ignore the incessant chimes and vibrations.
I was a miserable no-news failure.
Day two of my trip was the day the Phoenix Mars Lander was scheduled to land. The Citizen has put a lot of effort into reporting on the Lander’s trip, and I couldn’t wait another 10 days to find out if the thing had crashed.
So I tuned in to CNN and found out everything was copacetic.
I then resumed my fast. The next eight days were easier. I learned which TV stations to avoid, didn’t look at TVs in restaurants and started packing the days with more and more stuff to do.
We rolled into Las Vegas on June 2, the fourth city on our trip, exhausted. We were there to see “Spamalot” and to break up the long drive from San Francisco to Tucson.
I also wanted to do Vegas stuff – watch the volcano erupt, the ship sink, the fountains dance and whatnot – but we were so tired, all we could manage to do was sit in a casino ice cream shop for 2 1/2 hours waiting for the show to start.
While we waited, my phone went berserk. I broke down and took a peek. It said a Tucson cop had been killed.
My experiment was over. I read my phone every chance I got. I read the newspaper, watched the TV and couldn’t wait to get back to Tucson to read the news online, including 10 days of archived stories.
I was voracious.
Trying to reduce my stress by avoiding the news had raised my stress.
I guess what I learned is that I need to know. It’s what makes me happy.
If only everyone were like me.
Read Tucson Citizen Assistant City Editor Mark B. Evans’ blog, “Why a Free Press?”