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Heard on Detroit Today with Stephen Henderson

The News Cycle Is Making Us Sick. What Can We Do About It?

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Image credit: Shiraz Ahmed / WDET

There’s a massive amount of news being circulated everyday, some of it good, but most of it is negative. What does that mean for those of us who are consuming it?

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Whether it’s a refugee crisis, a school shooting, the latest climate report, partisan divisions in Washington, police brutality, a natural disaster or something else… it’s safe to say that if you follow the news you have likely felt mentally, physically or emotionally sickened by all of it at some point.

While there are advantages to living in this age of globalized and instant communication, the burnout from the 24/7 non-stop news cycle is real, and much of the frustration circles around the current dysfunction in Washington D.C.

From psychology we know that the way we consume news can have an impact on how it affects us,” Dr. Shannon Chavez-Korell, Michigan School of Psychology.

Two people both concerned about the impact of news, but with very different perspectives, join Detroit Today Host Stephen Henderson to talk about this.

Kevin Smith is the Olsen Chair and Political Science Professor at the University of Nebraska Lincoln and Dr. Shannon Chavez-Korell, Chief Academic Program Director at the Michigan School of Psychology.

Click on the player above to hear the full conversation.

Smith was one of the leaders in a study conducted by the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, and he says the findings indicate that 40 percent of Americans are stressed out by the news and more than one in 10 say that political news has adversely affected their physical health. As far as the reasoning behind these issues, Smith says “clearly politics is more divisive and polarized” than it has been in the past. He adds that online and social media has done nothing to help the situation. “The study that we did is the only one that really takes a comprehensive inventory on the effects of politics on peoples’ lives,” says Smith.

Meanwhile, the deeper issues at the heart of many news stories are also getting to people for a variety of reasons.

Chavez-Korell says there are many micro-aggressions perpetuated through various media outlets, adding that she thinks “the way that news is delivered makes a huge difference in terms of how people receive it.” Chavez-Korell notes this is all part of the larger issue of media competing for our attention, and attempting to capture us once we are tuned in. 

From psychology, we know that the way we consume news can have an impact on how it affects us,” notes Chavez-Korell, who says that the more senses engaged in the information consumption experience, the higher risk we are at for psychological distress.

You can’t really tell someone be more emotionally stable because that’s a trait not a state,” says Smith.

As far as the possibility that this could be a public health issue, Smith says  he’s spent a great deal of his adult life teaching people that it’s good to be engaged, and he is hoping that this research will reveal the implications of encouraging political discourse, whatever the outcome may be. 

Correction appended, 12:09 pm, December 4, 2019: The original version of this post misstated Dr. Shannon Chavez-Korell’s organization in the text of the story. The organization is the Michigan School of Psychology. 101.9 WDET regrets this error.”

Detroit Today

Dynamic and diverse voices. News, politics, community and the issues that define our region. Hosted by Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Stephen Henderson, Detroit Today brings you fresh and perceptive views weekdays at 9 am and 7 pm.


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