It’s important to establish some kind of personal boundaries with news. Choose what you engage with, how you do so, how much. The question as we’ve now entered the Biden presidency is how should people shift their media consumption habits?
The sad fact of media is there is too much of too many kinds that even if you wanted to, you cannot read or be aware of everything. Podcasts and newsletters and doomscrolling will not even scratch the surface of the total information both available and important. Indeed, any service or system or group that promises to tell you everything you should probably be aware of is lying. There’s just too much to ever keep up with.
On the other hand, giving up and heading to the seamster to get measured for a bespoke veil of ignorance won’t do. We have to try to grok some amount of the world’s events in something like realtime.
Under Donald John Trump, there was this sense that at various points things could really deteriorate, and there was no steady hand available if it happened. Over the coming decades we will continue to find out just how true that was, just how bad it got at times.
But under Biden we can break habits, find better ways to keep up. The good news is that Biden will help. There will once again be regular and ruly press briefings. There will be policy roll-outs. There will be policy itself.
The bad news is that there will always be too much information available, lots of it wrapped in boilerplate and lead-ins, other bits swimming in seas of empty copy put out as a placeholder, maintenance for beats that don’t generate too regularly, or as something approaching native advertising or pitched content.
In any case, now that we have a new administration, try to figure out how to adjust your media consumption. Try to find some ways to keep yourself aware while not stressing too much about all the things we cannot read and do not know.
The other side of news, journalism, has its own challenges ahead. Already there are attempts to say the inauguration coverage was too soft on Biden, and there will be attempts by conservative media critics to cause reversion to the mean in media. They seek the return of “but the deficit!” and other tried knee-jerk tactics that were popular back under Obama and Clinton. The media should resist that easy path in favor of breaking its own habits and finding its own better ways to be critical of government.
The last four years showed how too short life really is. Any media that forgets or pretends to forget these four years have happened are not worth our time. It matters what was done, it was wrong that it was done, and it must inform our media and our policies moving forward.
At the same time, it’s a new administration that must be treated the way any future administration should be: tough but fair. Build back better, media. Establish new routines and practices that will define modern journalism moving forward with an eye on preventing anything like the administration of Donald John Trump from dirtying America’s doorstep ever again.