Sunday, February 19, 2012

Switching off from the bitching

First, an admission.

I’m a news junkie. Especially radio news and current affairs. Probably in part because I spent a decade working in the RTE newsroom as a broadcast journalist through the 1980s. And also because I’m still a journalist, and still interested in what goes on around me.

But after a month in Australia with my daughter and her family to start 2012, I’ve been trying to kick the habit. A little bit, sure. But definitely trying to tune out somewhat.

The time difference meant that I couldn’t conveniently listen in over the internet to Morning Ireland, Today PK, News at One, Liveline, or Drivetime. I could, and did, read the online newspapers and radio stories, but it wasn’t the direct part of my day which those and similar programmes have been over many years.

As a perspective, I have been away for long periods before without that same kind of contact. I was usually glad to come back to the norm of being all the time up to date with the happenings.

When I was in Australia this time I didn’t at all miss the direct connection. I could have made the effort, with the various internet playback and podcast facilities, but I didn’t. That there’s still a buzz of optimism about the Australian scene was no small element in my switching off from home.

But, you know what was the key thing? Not hearing the whinging. Not listening to the tit-for-tat reactive politicking in the Dail. Not having to wince when a Fianna Fail former minister complained about something the successor Government was doing. Not reacting to current Government constantly blaming their predecessors for where we are (time they stopped that). 

Not switching off the radio every time Gerry Adams or his acolytes pontificated about what was wrong with an Ireland they had done their proxy damndest to put out of business. And being quite glad that a pink shirt and similars, along with a long-established and lugubrious Socialist bottom-feeding Euro MP who wouldn’t know positive if it was a gene replacement, were not twittering in my ear.

I came home. Had a think. Did I want to get back into the flow? I suppose, honest, I wasn’t really sure. I compromised. 

I decided, for an indeterminate period, to abstain. Not cold turkey. I still light up my MacBook in the morning to check out the news, locally and global. And I’ll listen to the Irish radio news. But not the local current affairs programmes, radio or TV. Foreign is OK, so BBC News 24 is a sometimes thing, Al Jazeera also. But these not even that much. I do check the global edition of the New York Times most of the time, because the journalism is excellent and their viewpoints are considered.

I have tuned into my local radio station a bit more. Because local news is what I’m at anyhow, apart from my global automotive and travel stuff. All three are part of my living.

I told a longtime friend of mine last week—he’s a career editor in RTE—what I had been doing. “I don’t feel deprived,” I said. “In fact, I feel very positive.”

He shrugged. In a non-offensive way. “You’re right. And I understand. But remember, we have to present all sides. We’re a state organisation, we can’t take sides.”

I used to be like that. Presenting all sides. I’m a journalist more than three decades, and I have done my best all those years to write my stories in a fair and balanced manner. I still do.

But I have now gone beyond what I call the journalistic balancing act. I will be fair, always, but that doesn’t mean I won’t take sides sometimes.

And in the last couple of weeks, tuning myself out of the whinging, I feel better off.

Hey, I run a small business. Anything that makes me feel more positive has to be good for that. Also, I’m a person like any other of us on this island. If we all listened more to positives, we could be quicker out of this.

And that’s the side I’m taking.