On December 14, 2012, I got up from my desk and walked out the doors at Microsoft to the women’s room. I needed a break. I was a news editor and after long months of reporting the news of shooting after shooting, the Newtown shooting at an elementary school was unbearable to me. I did the best I could to turn off my empathetic human side and be in full journalist mode all morning, but once a backup team was in place, I had to get out of there.
And I don’t just mean get out of that day or that story. I had to get out of that career.
The 24-hour news cycle was hurting me. In those days, I’d wake up in my New York apartment and look at the breaking news alerts on my phone before I even got out of bed. While getting dressed, I’d stream NPR, so I’d know the basics before sitting down at my desk. While walking to the office or waiting at the bagel cart, I’d read headlines scrolling by on neighboring news buildings. When I got to my desk, I’d turn on the TV next to me to a cable news channel where it would be in my peripheral all day.
Back pre-cable news, we gathered around our TVs once a day for the evening news. The format was the same: The biggest stories came first. The heartwarming story about a missing turtle returning home closed the show. 30 minutes and we’re done.
Now there’s no top of the broadcast or close of the broadcast. If you’ve ever had a delayed flight and watched CNN Airport News over and over, you know what I mean. There’s no scheduled time when the theme song starts and the broadcast begins. Viewers drop in and out all day. That means for ratings, the show has to be exclusively made up of those big stories that once came first. Everything got more sensational and dramatized.
Increased television news has been associated with depression, anxiety, and post-traumatic stress disorder. I don’t think you need me to tell you that none of those things are healthy.
So I was enthusiastic when I saw that LifeTime Fitness, a Minnesota-based gym, has decided to stop broadcasting cable news in their locations.
The decision “was based on many member requests received over time across the country, and in keeping with our overall healthy way of life philosophy and commitment to provide family-oriented environments free of polarizing or politically charged content,” Natalie Bushaw, a Life Time spokeswoman, said in The New York Times.
I worked out at some chain gyms during my recent holiday travels and the line of TVs in front of me showing disturbing photos and alarming headlines was my biggest complaint. I tried to position myself on a treadmill in front of a Rachael Ray episode to avoid unpleasantness but still left feeling shaken by what I saw on the other screens.
It’s been four years since I left my news journalism career. I’ve turned off all but the NPR and Seattle Times breaking news alerts on my phone. I don’t watch television news. I get my news from reading NPR (sometimes listening, but I prefer reading on their app), The New York Times, or the Seattle Times.
And I’m healthier for it.