“We all know the saying “you are what you eat,” but I have found increasingly, we are what we read…and scroll past, and click on.”
I (Julie) spoke these words from the stage of my first TEDx talk, “We Need Heroes Again,” last October in the midst of preparing to launch Vol. 1 of Noble Pursuit while caring for my 3 month-old baby who was set to have a minor surgery just five days after my talk. As a mother to young children, who is utterly consumed by the well-being of my kids, it speaks to the degree to which I carry a burden for redeeming media, and the urgency and passion I believe this topic deserves—especially now.
In a culture increasingly consumed by consumption itself, I have noticed a trend: we truly become what we read. The words and images and messages that we allow into our minds are grafted onto our very souls and become a part of who we are.
Once upon a time, the stories we told were intended to instruct and inform, to provide moral guidance as well as warning, and to inspire us towards more meaningful and honorable lives.
Today, many stories spurn feelings of fear, envy, despair, anger, outrage, and hatred and our collective filter when it comes to media is worn out and rusted through, so much so that we hardly know what’s real anymore, letting anything and everything into our brains to keep feeding the beast that is our increasingly shrinking attention spans at the expense of tuning our thoughts and focus to well-told stories that empower us to live lives of impact.
Noble Pursuit exists to elevate stories of hidden heroes with lives worth imitating, to encourage hearts, to inspire impact. It is a magazine for a meaningful life, telling stories from a world of good so that we might all live better.
In the age of COVID-19, the news has become beyond overwhelming. We are faced with sifting through news story after news story, trying to determine the truth when facts and figures are changing by the minute. On our social media feeds, the comparison trap hasn’t slowed with a deluge of tips and tricks about how to “make the most” of a global pandemic.
It is hard to know what’s worth reading anymore. So if you are, like we and so many others, confused and discouraged by the media and looking for a better way to consume information, here’s a bit of encouragement and a few places to begin:
- Take inventory and limit exposure
- Consider print
- Seek the good and invest in good storytelling
Take Inventory and Limit Exposure
Often times, media exposure and consumption during a crisis happens on a subconscious level. The first step in bringing meaning to our media consumption is to take inventory of which (and how many) outlets/Instagram accounts/Facebook profiles we are coming to for updates again and again and editing this down to a few reliable (and varying) sources and viewpoints.
Then, its helpful to establish rhythms that help to limit exposure. Because what is the news for? To inform us about what is going on in the world so that we can live as responsible and compassionate citizens while making decisions for the wellbeing of our communities, our neighbors, our families and ourselves.
Most news outlets, including the New York Times, The Atlantic, Bloomberg and the Walls Street Journal have removed their paywalls at least for coverage of the coronavirus pandemic, and many offer daily email roundups that can be delivered in the morning or evening. We’ve been reading Axios’ dashboard for quick updates that offer important information without falling down the rabbit hole.
Also consider setting specific times to check in on Instagram and Facebook, where content ranges chaotically from corona-memes to quarantine venting to online sales, and limit your time on the app. And then, pick up a book, or a magazine, or check in on Marco Polo or FaceTime with your actual human friends and family!
Which leads us to our next tip…
The Columbia Journalism Review recently published a piece entitled “The Infinite Scroll” in which the author describes the decline of the publication this way:
It all happened in the way that decline generally happens in American culture, which is one anxious, hopeful, cynical capitulation at a time. We have compressed and corroded and finally collapsed what used to be the core of a publication—its relationship with its readers, and the basic notion that one should not make it hard for them to read.– David Roth, “The Infinite Scroll.” Columbia Journalism Review
But in a digital advertising age, reading online is hard for our minds. Roth goes on to paint a picture of a typical digital reading experience:
“We are deep into the wild now. Local crime stories and international news-of-the-weird stories alternate with attractive offers on fixed-rate mortgages and last year’s SUV’s. Prince William is “furious” at Harry; you did not know that these 25 celebrities were gay; these mattresses are quite good; here are some photos of young women enjoying a music festival in Florida; here is “the perfect business phone tailored for your needs” and here is a man who was killed after saving a child from a dog attack and here is an album cover quiz and here is a man who confessed to murdering his girlfriend and here is something that all drivers born before 1993 should do, in the state in which I live, without a car.”
Consuming information via a print publication is an entirely different and far more immersive and tactile experience.
In The Revenge of Analog, (a worthy read for our present day) author David Sax writes of his interview with The Economist deputy editor Tom Standage:
“Standage felt the paper edition of The Economist had actually grown because of something he called “finishability”: the ability of readers to actually finish an issue. A magazine has a defined beginning, middle and end, and reaching that end is incredibly satisfying.”
When reading on digital platforms and scrolling our newsfeeds, the news is never done. There are always more articles to click on, more memes to share, more content to consume. If the internet is and endless buffet of junk food, a printed story in a beautiful publication is a home-cooked meal served by a trusted friend, nourishing, satisfying, just enough to keep you going.
Make no mistake, the chief end of most media outlets is not only to inform, but to turn a profit. And they must do it via distracting and enveloping online ads unless readers are willing to support good journalism by paying for it. Endless information is free, but great journalism shouldn’t be.
Which leads to our final (and most encouraging) piece of advice…
Seek the Good and Invest in Good Storytelling
While there is not enough good news circulating on cable news and in our social media feeds, there are many places that are doing a good job bringing positive and/or helpful and truthful information to this unprecedented time.
On Instagram, we’ve just discovered @goteamhumanity and love @goodgoodgoodco for good news updates. Independent nonprofit journalism organizations ProPublica and the Pulitzer Center for Crisis Reporting do important unbiased investigative reporting, with the Pulitzer Center recently announcing a new grant for “Innovative Coronavirus Reporting Collaborations.” Wire services like the Associated Press and Reuters churn out quality, fact-based stories disseminated across a variety of news outlets (outlets will disclose wire stories in the byline). And it goes without saying that if you’re feeling discouraged and craving scree-free time with a beautiful publication, Vol. 1 of Noble Pursuit certainly fits the bill.
But good independent journalism and coffee table-worthy print publications can only survive through the support of their readers, so find your favorites and pay for their stuff! It ensures a better future for journalism, media, and the content we consume.
As for us, we’ll do our best to curate content (and great news stories and sources) that helps us all orient ourselves towards what is good and beautiful and true as we seek to #livenobly through unfamiliar and uncertain days together.
Stay-tuned to our Field Guide: COVID-19 page for updates on good news stories, how to help and where to shop to support small business owners with a noble-minded mission and, as you see stories from a world of good unfold amidst this crisis, feel free to send them to firstname.lastname@example.org for inclusion in our Field Guide or in and for Vol. 2 of our publication.
Julie and the Noble Pursuit Team