Hi. My name is Michael and I’m a news addict.
It hasn’t always been this way. When I came to Georgetown I barely managed to browse Time magazine every week. I only knew the outside world existed because my dad and I would watch CNN Headline News after “The Simpsons,” catching the occasional sound-bite while silently lusting after the CNN anchor Rudi Bakhtiar. Ignorance is bliss, they say, so I was content, but grossly uninformed, knowing little about anything that the good people at CNN decided wasn’t newsworthy or, more importantly, visually interesting. I knew nothing of China, but everything about the unsolved kidnapping of Elizabeth Smart, the Dow-Jones high and low for the day and, thanks to a brief break for local news, which grocery store had had a canned-food drive with cute children that day.
I’d still be the same way if there had been free cable in Harbin my freshman year. There wasn’t, so for several weeks I got no news beyond the tidbits I picked up from dinner conversations in which I pretended to have heard the news already. After a while, my ignorance began to show through and this strategy became untenable, so I was forced to turn to the New York Times online. It took just 10 minutes to browse each of the main headlines so I wouldn’t look like a fool.
Unfortunately, like many habits you pick up because of peer pressure, it became an addiction. It started out innocently—just the top stories—but soon that wasn’t enough. I’d have a few extra minutes, so I’d glance at Times Science … then Times Technology … then Most Frequently E-mailed articles. I’d tell myself, “We’ll just see what Friedman has to say,” then move on to Dowd, just to argue with her. It got to the point where I’d spend 45 minutes every morning, sitting in my towel looking over housing prices in Manhattan while I was “waiting for my hair to dry.”
But the Times was just a gateway to harder stuff. By the end of sophomore year I’d usually have exhausted it by lunchtime. During my time abroad in Spain, I came in contact with El Pais, the dominant Spanish paper. In the few minutes between classes, I started glancing over the Spanish daily, only reading two or three articles, I swear.
It deteriorated from there. I took a class on Israel, so I started reading Haaretz to get a better idea of the conflict. I began learning Italian and the Corriere della Sera is great practice. I took a seminar on Islam and Democracy, so I have to check Al-Jazeera (Google-translated version) just to keep a balanced viewpoint. I pick up Express and El Pregonero when I ride the GUTS bus. I work for the Voice and obviously need to read our competitors at the Hoya. I tried to cut back once, by reading the abbreviated tabloid 20 Minutos for Spanish news. But I still find myself at El Pais almost every day, only now I also have to check out 20 Minutos.
The effort to follow news is futile, but at the same time, intoxicating. On an average day I waste at least three hours reading news from all over the world: Italian fireworks explosions, Israeli IDF appointments and Spanish sex habits. Every day I check the Al-Jazeera daily poll and lament their short-sightedness. But it doesn’t help at all; every article I read introduces a new subject I know nothing about, and the chain continues. The more you read the more you realize what you don’t know, and the more frustrating it gets when you’re sitting at dinner bewildered by how a friend of yours knows how hot French presidential candidate Ségolãne Royal is and you haven’t read a thing about her. Because that’s how the news is—no matter how much it dominates your life, you’re always going to be one step behind.