Rolf Dobelli has a radical idea. He wants you to give up following the news cycle. As he puts it in his new book, Stop Reading the News, (an excerpt of which was published on The Correspondent): “news is to the mind what sugar is to the body.”
On 6 January, in the Tivoli theatre in Utrecht, the Netherlands, we spoke in front of a packed audience, many of whom had some pointed questions for the writer:
"Isn’t it a luxury to be able to ignore the news?”
“If you’re only allowed to read long pieces, don’t you shut a lot of people off from the world?”
Rethinking the news
Ten years ago, Dobelli’s news criticism inspired me to look at journalism in a completely different way. His essay, Avoid the News, was one of the reasons I threw most daily news out of the paper where I worked as editor-in-chief, and shifted focus to the underlying causes of events, rather than just their visible symptoms. Later, in 2013, I founded De Correspondent as an “antidote to the daily news grind”.
I largely agree with Dobelli about his most basic objections to the news: it focuses mainly on exceptional events, it doesn’t help you fundamentally understand the world, and it makes you cynical and anxious. But I also don’t agree with a number of his arguments.
For example, Dobelli thinks there is no point in dealing with events "over which you have no influence", such as the forest fires in Australia or politics in the Middle East. But even if you have no direct influence on forest fires on the other side of the world, these events are linked to the effects of climate change. And no matter where we are in the world, our behaviour does have an impact on the climate. In other words, doesn’t Dobelli’s argument make our sphere of influence too small?
We had a fantastic, informative conversation on this topic and many others, followed by challenging questions from the audience. By popular demand, we recorded the whole evening. I’m curious to learn what you think!