Stop Reading the News

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  • [status:: read]
  • [rating:: 4.75]
  • [added:: 2022-10-30]
  • [started:: 2022-10-30]
  • [read:: 2022-11-09]

Summary / Reflection


  • The fundamental fraud is that the new is being sold as the relevant (p. 15)
  • When you read a good book for the second time it’s ten times as effective (p. 20)
  • Soft route: just read the Der Spiegel feature piece weekly with a timer, in one go.
  • Most of the news doesn’t matter to you. What would a personalised newscast look like for you? A status update on your friends, the health report on your dad’s surgery, new technologies in web dev, events from your local church… None of this is interesting to a lot of people, so it isn’t covered in the news.
  • Stay within your circle of competence is the advice Warren Buffet gives (and that also was mentioned in The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People)
    • Read the specialised media that matters to your niche
  • News gives you a skewed perception of risk. So strongly that even being aware won’t stop it shifting your worldview
  • News removes complexity. It does events without context.
  • Negativity bias: loosing 20€ is worse than finding 20€ makes us happy. News reinforces this, giving us harmful stress.
  • Hindsight bias: News explains cheaply. Complexity is reduced to a story that makes sense. The world is more complex than that.
  • News pressures you to form opinions about everything (affect heuristic). This is exhausting and irrelevant.
  • News is not representative. It prefers drama over over prevention.
  • News doesn’t give you the important information. You don’t know what will be relevant and neither do journalists.
    • Example: Mosaic, the first web browser, wasn’t reported on that day but the Pope’s sprayed ankle.
  • Study by Nicholas Carr: comprehension of text decreaseses proportionally with the hyperlinks present. Each time we encounter a link or brain has to decide whether to click it. (Keep this in mind for
  • Herbert Simon: “What information consumes is rather obvious. It consumes the attention of its recipients. Hence a wealth of information creates a poverty of attention.”
  • News makes our pool of competition global, so we feel smaller than we actually are.
  • By the time we read the news, it’s out of our control. We passively absorb the bad events, knowing we can’t change them. The effect of learned helplessness spills over into all of our life.
  • Serendipity is overrated. The few gold nuggets you find aren’t with the hours spent combing through things outside your circle of competence (this is a similar argument to Deep Work: focus on your one thing)
  • Sturgeon’s Law: 90% of everything is crap.
  • News makes terrorism possible. Terrorism is strategic: it’s not the bomb that matters; its the attention. If a terrorist attack would only affect the people it hurt, it’s powerless. Hence terrorism only became a phenomenon when widespread new coverage entered.
    • Yuval Harari: “They [Terrorists] kill very few people but nevertheless manage to terrify billions and rattle huge political structures such as the European Union or the United States. The theatre of terror cannot succeed without publicity.”
  • Epictetus: “You become what you give your attention to … If you yourself don’t choose what thoughts and images you expressed yourself to, someone else will.”
  • How many need reports do you remember from the last 10 years? What were significant events in your personal life? Draw a line where each of the prior affected the latter. None is not a surprise.
  • What about democracy?
    • Argument: News is needed to make educated choices in elections.
      • Counterpoint: Democracy flourished prior to news. American Revolution, French Revolution, Revolutions of 1848, fall of Soviet Union — none of those required news feeds.
      • You doing the research is much more impactful than news presenting it to you.
      • In fact, sometimes news can be damaging to democracy. As media rose, political discourse declined (I could see Amusing Ourselves to Death elaborating this point)
    • Argument: News is needed to keep an eye on those in power.
      • Democracy functions only with a free scrupulous press.
      • We need 1) investigative journalism, which uncovers facts and wrongdoing and 2) explanatory reporting, which provides background information. (This is a good definition, add it to Domain - Communication)
      • None of these two are well served by our current news format. They need space, time and money. This is different from daily journalism. No journalist can be an expert in ten areas.
  • Four trends of news
    • There will be exponentially more (as there are more people, interactions increase exponentially)
    • They will be everywhere (accessible through digitalisation of the personal life)
    • They will be more efficiently targeted (algorithms know you better than you know yourself)
    • They will be less and less true (through advancements in algorithms and news AI)


  • The author lists Nassim Taleb as a big inspiration. He mentions The Black Swan specifically for diving into hindsight bias.
  • You Are What You Read by Jackson. Manifesto for constructive Journalism