Is there such a thing as ‘news addiction’? If there is not, perhaps there should be: a clinical condition whereby one feels compelled to turn on the radio or television at every opportunity lest something might have happened.
I have always been addicted to news. I used to watch the television news, even when I was at primary school, not that I understood most of it. Life on the television news seemed to make sense; the world seemed a controlled and ordered place. I didn’t understand the awful things that were happening in Vietnam, but I assumed that the good guys were winning and that everything would be all right in the end.
During years as a curate, there was a lady who always troubled me. The lady lived a few streets up from the town centre. Terraces of plain, neat houses lined either side. Two up, two down, with a scullery at the back and the toilet in the yard, the lady’s house was like that of countless others. It was unlike many of them in being completely spotless, even the fireplace shone. Her daily routine changed little; she rose at six each morning, cleaned out the fire and set the one for that day (it would not be lit until later, coal was too expensive). Once the fire was set, she would set about giving the house its daily clean with brush, mop and dustpan. Breakfast followed the cleaning. Apart from mealtimes, the rest of the day would be spent reading her Bible saying her prayers and thinking. Once a week she went down the street for her shopping, otherwise she saw no-one. She had no television, no radio, saw no newspapers, and, apart from her Bible, read no books. How did she survive without hearing the news? Was she not worried about what might be happening in Washington or Moscow, the significant places in the late 80s?
Spending two weeks in south-west France seems to have broken the addiction. There was a television with a Sky box in the house; we watched ‘Jeeves and Wooster’ and detective programmes; there was BBC news, but what was that to do with us? We did not live in Britain, and nor were we staying in Britain. RTE was among the radio channels, but one burst of ‘Morning Ireland’ was enough to deter any further news listening.
Driving home, John Creedon’s excellent RTE 1 music programme was followed by the news in Irish, flicking channels for ten minutes, I turned back at ten o’clock; it was the news and some political panel programme. Enough of that, Bruce Springsteen was in the CD player. The headlines on the website can bring any news I need
I often wondered in the past what it was like to live in very rural places, did it not feel isolated? Was there not a sense of being cut off from the world? In a world where one can do little to change things, hearing no news and living one’s own life might not be such bad choice.