TV and Limitless News Coverage Are Turning Our Brains And Our Economy to Mush

The TV news is turning our brains to mush.

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By Mary Kate Cary, Thomas Jefferson Street blog

I was in College Station, Texas last weekend, where the unemployment rate is hovering around three percent. The stores were busy, the hotel was sold out with three different softball teams, and the Live at Five news seemed to be all about the weather. When I asked locals about the effects of the economic recession, I got shrugs and shaking heads. No problem here, they said, hasn't affected us at all.

After I returned to town, we began packing boxes and moved back into our home. We'd moved out over a year ago for a major renovation and now the job was done. But Verizon can't connect the phone and internet for at least three more weeks, and the TV's not getting connected until next week. All I've got is a wireless card for my laptop and the daily paper.

It's actually quite pleasant.

Without a television, I'm living life without a constant news feed across the bottom of the screen. I can't get any live streaming video on the wireless card, so CNN, MSNBC and the networks are not a part of my life right now. I get my news from a "dead tree" version of the paper, once a day. I even stopped at a newspaper box on the street and fed in a bunch of quarters to get a paper copy of the Wall Street Journal. How retro!

As a result, I think today I'm a lot calmer than a most other people in Washington. I feel like the locals back in College Station. No problem here, the economy isn't affecting me at all as I unpack boxes. The president's budget is the talk of the town, but I feel very removed from it. My anxiety level has dropped in direct proportion to the silence in my house. And so it occurred to me: will the constant Squawk Box-type chatter, the news crawls, the RSS feeds, the constant barrage of bad economic news all act as a force that continue to suppress consumer confidence? Or will Americans tire of the bad news—as they have with around-the-clock saturation coverage, for example, of high-profile legal trials, missing kids, and sensational murders—and just start tuning it all out?

One of the big differences between the current situation and the previous economic crises we've faced over the last century is limitless news coverage. The breathless this-just-in tone combined with the constant stream of reports about layoffs, unemployment figures, and drops in the stock market is one thing. But the fact that we're getting it every time we look at a TV, cell phone, computer screen or blackberry is adding to the frenzy. The question is not if people will get fed up, but when. We all need to stay informed, but maybe those Hulu ads during the Superbowl were right: TV is turning our brains into slush. And our economy.

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