I’m a recovering news-channel junkie
This past fall I realized that I was an addict. It wasn’t a common one like drugs, alcohol, sex, food, or social media but it was an addiction. It was causing me to lose control of my life and driving me to try and hide it from family and friends.
Today I can now say that I am a recovering addict of cable news and the insidious and all-consuming 24-hour news cycle. I am in recovery now but each day I must fight the urge to grab a cable remote and turn on Fox News, which was once my “fix” of choice, so that I can hear that stirring phrase “Fox News Alert” that once sent shivers of anticipation through my body.
As a child of the television age my addiction probably started when I was young. I remember watching the Camel Caravan on NBC in the early 1950s. The anchor was John Cameron Swayze in his pre-Timex days. Later I watched the Huntly-Brinkley Report on NBC and by the time I went to college I watched Walter Cronkite on CBS.
By the time I was 11 or 12 I became fascinated with network coverage of political conventions and when I was 15, I took a portable radio to the 1960 Boy Scout National Jamboree in Colorado Springs so I could listen to the Republican Convention. Had I exhibited these symptoms today my parents likely would have sought professional help for my incipient news addiction. But those were simpler times when children were allowed to roam free and grow up free of clinical pigeon holing.
For the next decade my life went on with no worsening of my addiction until 1986 when cable television came to Silver Creek and I now had access to CNN founded in 1980 by a man foolish enough to marry Jane Fonda, Ted Turner. I had news 24 hours a day. Like today there usually wasn’t a lot of fresh news to report everyday but CNN’s reporters could find new angles on a story, no matter how preposterous at times, and supply talking heads who could analyze a story, no matter how much of that analysis was repetitious. I didn’t care. It was news and CNN knew how to beat a story to death.
Through the early 1990s I continued watching CNN and MSNBC but I now know that both cable channels leaned to the left and harbored elitist bicoastal tendencies out of sync with America west of the Appalachians and east of the Sierras.
It was around 1996 that I began hearing about Fox News founded by Roger Ailes who had put Rush Limbaugh on national radio in 1988. It took our cable company until 2001 to add Fox News but I latched onto it like a man in the desert latches onto water or a news junkie latches onto a hot story.
I rarely watched CNN or MSNBC anymore. Fox News was my happy place and I even put up with Bill O’Reilly’s misogyny and constant interruption of guests. My addiction was fed on a daily basis beginning with Fox and Friends in the morning until Hannity in the evening and if I had trouble sleeping, far into the night.
During the 2016 presidential campaign I sensed that news was beginning to control my life. I shouted at anchors and talking heads as if they could hear me. There were days when all I did was wait by my television for the next Fox News Alert or the next repetitious remark from a Washington talking head. Fox News was on constantly and when my wife would get tired of it, I would surreptitiously watch on a bedroom television.
Finally, in the run up to the recent midterm elections I could no longer live with my addiction and the endless, and repetitious stories concerning which party would win which houses of Congress. I was also beginning to understand that those continuous Fox News Alerts were nothing more than a come on for poor news addicts like myself. I had reached a point where I didn’t know what to do. But then a light shown through the fog. The source was Rush Limbaugh who one day stated on his show that it was possible to break one’s addiction to cable news and in doing so you could become a happier person.
It hasn’t been easy to break my addiction to cable news because it took a lifetime to get where I am but I’m working on it. Now I limit my new intake to the OBSERVER, magazines like National Review and Commentary, and to a lesser extent The Buffalo News. Those publications tell me what I need to know: is the nation at war, has our economy and the stock market collapsed, what are Beetle Bailey and Sergeant Snorkel up to this morning and will I be able to solve the Hocus Focus picture puzzle today?
Today I may be slightly less well informed but I am far happier. For any of you who are also addicted to cable news and the 24-hour news cycle understand that there is hope for recovery.
Thomas Kirkpatrick Sr. is a Silver Creek resident. Send comments to firstname.lastname@example.org