In communications, our job is intimately tied to and depends upon the news. To do the job well, we must be in the know, stay connected, and be up-to-date. There is nothing novel about this, but lately something feels like it’s drastically changed in this relationship. Sure, there were always days when I got information overload or terrible things popped up in the news and wiped me out, but it was never a daily occurrence. The onslaught of political spectacle now seems to be the sole component of what comprises news.
And I don’t know about you, but truly, I’m feeling fatigued.
I’ve taken steps to minimize feeling so overwhelmed by the news before, and I continue to re-evaluate and switch up my media diet as needed. (If you’re looking to adjust your news consumption, check out this New York Times article for tips.)
In the mornings, I’ve taken to only reading regular higher ed newsletters and general briefs, like The Skimm and, on Erin’s suggestion, The Daily and Morning Briefing from the NYT. I save diving in deeper for after second breakfast or, even better, after lunch. I rarely have TV news on in the background, I log off of Twitter regularly throughout the day, and I try to get outside for walk, even a quick one in the backyard if I’m really pressed for time. And when I’m done with work for the day, I log off—and I’ve taken to forcing my household to log off, too. No news media after dinner here and zero political topics are allowed in conversation after 5 p.m. (My husband is less than thrilled and I suspect he sneaks on Twitter when I’m not looking.)
In the past, these strategies have worked well for me to mitigate the information overload in my personal life. But strangely, the fatigue is leeching into the professional realm as well. And it’s not just me, I swear—this Wall Street Journal piece even suggests that there is a major decline in worker productivity due to political news.
There is so much information coming from so many sources all of the time—literally, it’s never-ending unless you step away. And all of this information, instead of spanning a spectrum of topics and themes, is now solely focused on one thing. The Twitter barrage feels especially assaulting most days. Now, instead of trying to manage the volume of my news intake (which, though challenging, is totally doable), I’m also trying—and failing—to manage content (as in, it’s feeling impossible to get any non-political news). At times it’s as if my social media feeds have been hijacked and tailored to someone else’s interests, and I can’t figure out how to get them back. My phone has even proclaimed that it’s showing me articles because I’ve shown an interest in Donald Trump, but that’s not it—I just can’t find news about much else.
It feels as if all eyes are on the White House and the Capitol at all times—and newsrooms seem to be devoting most of their attention and resources to covering political topics. It’s getting more and more difficult to break through the noise as more and more reporters seem to get pulled into the political fray with their reporting.
I don’t think that communications professionals, or the media, for that matter, are exempt from this distraction. It’s a weird situation, to have a job dictated by the news and yet somehow also derailed by it. It’s beyond the issue of battling fake news, which is hugely problematic on its own (as we’ve pointed out here and here and here). Rather, the news cycle has shifted in that political news has superseded all other topics and supersaturated the media. And it doesn’t show any signs of letting up.
It’s certainly going to be a challenge for communications professionals and journalists alike to figure out how to break through the noisy political news with, well, news.