EDITORIAL: No news is not good news, even if depressing

The saying “no news is good news” is beginning to resonate in an area where it largely shouldn’t, as some news readers take the phrase a little too literally when it comes to being aware of today’s current events.

However, this particular avoidance of the news doesn’t just stem from a lack of interest in jogging to keep up with the headlines of a changing world. Rather, it’s inspired by a fear of upsetting oneself from reading the more depressing stories.

A columnist at the L.A. Times recently explored the internal struggle readers may have in wanting to be knowledgeable about the day’s news and feeling it causes too much grief, noting comments to a Facebook post on the subject, which included one person who “feel(s) the suffering in the world too much.” Others commented that they need to have strength to read the news or said they avoid it to keep their sanity intact.

First, one might wonder how it’s even possible to avoid current events in the first place, as anyone who uses social media can either see some form of news stories in a “trending” box alongside the page or see them translated into a two-word hashtag.

More importantly, though, is why someone would commit willful ignorance, as other commenters noted, to save themselves the trouble of being empathetic, if that truly can be called a problem.

That’s not to say news sources aren’t pressed for space for depressing stories. Every day there is a new death to be reported in the local papers, and often it’s a gruesome story of accidental death or murder.

On a larger scale, the news exposes the country to terrorist attacks that resulted from free speech causing offense, to the stories of unarmed black men and children who were killed by police officers and to the growing problem of gun violence in the country’s schools. The instantaneous access to disturbing photos and videos doesn’t make the news any easier to digest, either.

As much as these occurrences may cause people to want to cut ties from the media outlets that draw attention to them, doing so doesn’t allow anyone to get anything out of the circumstances surrounding them other than the satisfaction of not experiencing unpleasant feelings.

Though the news is often loaded with doom and gloom, the people who create or consume the news have a social responsibility to learn from the tragedies and prevent such incidences from happening in the future.

To avoid the news, and in turn avoid the human response it may cause, raises a barrier between social events that arise and subsequent social change. There would be no support of causes, such as those which have become recognizable by the few words “Yes All Women,” “Black Lives Matter” or “Je suis Charlie,” without first having an awareness of them.

One of the questions the L.A. Times column poses is how much people are responsible for being conscious of current events. Avoiding the problematic or the depressing doesn’t make either disappear, even if they are not within close proximity, and the problems that inspire saddening news are what should, ideally, inspire people to want to know more about the world in which they live. While interest in these events may not necessarily become a maintained, personal responsibility, it is something that should be worth sacrificing personal calm.