Daniel Sanders: A Day in the Life of the News

From an existential.cjr.org post headlined “A Day in the Life of the News”

Daniel Sanders

I get up, consume a little caffeine, and sit for fifteen minutes while that kicks in. I shake the cobwebs out, then peruse the National Review app on my phone. I read an article that’s sort of a “Good riddance!” to President Trump called “Witless Ape Rides Helicopter.” The first line is “Well, that sucked.” It’s funny. The writer is Kevin Williamson—I like him. He’s one of the better writers in the country—that I’ve bumped into, at least.

I scroll Facebook and click on a Forbes article about how QAnon followers fell apart after the inauguration. I give it credence because what’s reported feels like a believable response for such desperate people. I eventually see other sources reporting the same thing. From the 2016 election on, I found myself obsessively diving into as many different perspectives as I could find. Somehow life turned into a real reality show, and I was obsessed. The day after the inauguration, though, finally, I’m no longer frantically scrolling through Facebook for the dopamine hit of the latest incendiary comments. I’m actually able to kick back. I’m curious to know if this is a honeymoon period.

Most of my car time is dedicated to NPR or other types of podcasts. While driving this morning, I listen to a thirty-seven-minute talk with David Blight about “The Spirit of Democracy” from the New-York Historical Society. I saw a link for it on Facebook.

I don’t get as much news from Facebook as I did in the past. Friends would share these big splashy headlines, and then I would read the articles and they’d be nothing like what they seemed. So now I try to avoid that. My Facebook is a professional DJ page, not a personal one. It’s mostly people that I run into through DJing or people that follow me. As much as I would like to believe that my fans and followers are well-read and discerning people, history has pointed against that.

But I love things like this program. David Blight in particular has the kind of voice that I can listen to forever. He’s a history professor at Yale, and his course on the Civil War and Reconstruction is free. It’s astounding. He can tell a story like few other people I know

I read a few articles from The Dispatch, primarily about the new Biden administration and upcoming strategies and actions. I’m curious to see what things are getting done—what’s happening, as opposed to what’s being said. I spent the last four years really angry. I probably lost some of my ability to debate and think well. The Dispatch—at least the things that I’ve read—tends to be within reason.

I tend to like Jonah Goldberg and David French. The first time I encountered Jonah Goldberg was probably on Bill Maher. The things he had to say were reasonable. And when you can back things with the Constitution, okay, great—hard to argue with that.

I try to find educated but generally less incendiary news sources. On the right, I’m looking at The Dispatch, David French, or his old colleagues at National Review. I also read stuff from the Times, The Nation, and more standard things.

I tune in to C-SPAN on my internet browser to listen to some of the Buttigieg confirmation hearings. I liked Buttigieg back in the Democratic primaries. I thought he was the right kind of intelligent, and boring. That would be nice to have. And he’s smart. He never says anything wrong. Boring is good—I think we can use a breather.

I read a story on my PBS NewsHour app about the Biden administration’s approach to COVID-19. I find it hard to believe that the Biden team is starting “from scratch” on vaccines, which I’m seeing pop up in a few places. Most hyperbole rings false to me.

I have a few news apps. I have one for the National Review. The New York Times. I’ve got PBS NewsHour and BBC. Al Jazeera. Obviously Apple News. I have AP. The Economist. Cyprus Mail, too—my wife is Cypriot, and we were close to moving to Cyprus a few years ago. We’re still considering retiring there someday, and I find it interesting to follow what’s happening.

I listen to the Washington Post’s Presidential podcast on my Apple Podcasts app. For an hour and forty-five minutes, I listen to the episodes on presidents James K. Polk through Abraham Lincoln.

The present is nothing new. This gives me perspective. Politics, and the divisiveness of the media—especially around Lincoln, the antebellum period, and through Reconstruction, my gosh, some of the most racist, horrendous stuff that our nation’s gone through—it’s as heated now as it was then. Maybe even a little less now. The ubiquitousness of information now, I think, is probably the problem.

We’ve gotten away from the classical model of education. People haven’t learned to discern what is good information and what is not; they don’t have that ability. I get in arguments with people all the time about why we need to learn trigonometry, how high school should teach more than balancing a checkbook and how to make a bed. You need trigonometry, you need philosophy, because they teach you how to solve problems. They teach you how to evaluate data. You need history; you need to be able to write a research paper so you can look at something and say, Okay, well, Wikipedia is probably not the way to go.

The first thing I learned in English composition is that everything has a bias. Absolutely everything. Even news that’s written by an algorithm. But some biases are less hidden than others. Things that use hot words, these days, like “destroy,” “eviscerate”—I don’t even give stuff like that the time of day.

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