Slow News

How much news do you really need? How fast?

Among those of us for whom “well-informed” is a badge of honor, news consumption scratches the itch that other people satisfy with social media or sports.

But here’s the thing: in an always-on, omnichannel, infinite-scroll world, more news does not necessarily make us better informed. “Keeping up” no longer serves as a valid goal, status, or excuse.

What can we do instead?

First, get clear on principles. There are more details than anyone can read in a lifetime about the specifics of how and where and to whom our systems are unfair, cruel, and violent. Most of us pick several issues to care about specially, but almost all of us need to stop being shocked at another ICE outrage and start wrestling with the overarching facts of being ICE’s customers, bosses, and paymasters. Do you really need to watch another wildfire unfold in real time to take climate change seriously, or is that just a distraction?

Second, read history. It makes unfairness, cruelty, and violence a little less surprising when we’re finally forced to confront them, and it offers better guides for what might be done about them.

Third and perhaps above all, slow down. In the 1989 manifesto that kicked off the international Slow Food movement, Folco Portinari wrote:

We are enslaved by speed and have all succumbed to the same insidious virus: Fast Life, which disrupts our habits, pervades the privacy of our homes and forces us to eat Fast Foods.

To be worthy of the name, Homo Sapiens should rid ourselves of speed before it reduces us to a species in danger of extinction. […]

In the name of productivity, Fast Life has changed our way of being and threatens our environment and our landscapes. So Slow Food is now the only truly progressive answer.

That is what real culture is all about: developing taste rather than demeaning it. And what better way to set about this than an international exchange of experiences, knowledge, projects?

Try reading these lines with “news” substituted for “food” — and consider whether homo sapiens (the knowing, the wise) might do well to slow down and develop taste in this way, too.


Dan Carlin’s latest episode of Common Sense — released after a three-year hiatus — is the most important 90 minutes of audio you can listen to this week (or month, or possibly year). The hidden-in-plain-sight answer to the question of how we got this way is media — and the money behind it.

Slow down and trade some of this week’s mindless scrolling for some provocative listening.