Stop Reading the News by Rolf Dobelli
In 2013 Rolf Dobelli stood in front of a roomful of journalists and proclaimed that he did not read the news. It caused a riot. Now he finally sets down his philosophy in detail. And he practises what he preaches: he claims he hasn't read the news for a decade.
Stop Reading the News is Dobelli's manifesto about the dangers of what he calls the most toxic form of information - news.
Full disclosure: I make my living as a journalist and I first stepped foot in a newsroom almost two decades ago.
When I first started reading this book, I couldn't take it seriously.
Dobelli begins by stating that he has been 'news free' since 2010. Yet, he instantly goes on to state that in 2013 he was at the British daily newspaper, The Guardian, hoping to have another of his books printed within its pages.
It felt a little hypocritical - he happily rips into 'the media' but is happy to court 'the news' for his own benefit.
He goes on to discuss things in a very roundabout, one-sided way. He states how, after reading 'the news' he doesn't understand the world, nor does he make better choices. In my head I was arguing with him, there are countless example of the media highlighting issues and empowering people - look at the funds raised for the Australian bushfires, or the outpouring of support following the Christchurch terror attacks.
Any counter argument to the points he raises in the first half of the book, aren't discussed until much, much later.
One of his arguments is that in the past debating societies, pamphlets, and public gatherings led to democracy, not newspapers. Which is true, but it doesn't account for the changes in society. One of his solutions is "the news lunch" - where people get together with journalists over lunch and discuss different topics. The idea is laughable and ableist - using this idea 'news' would only be accessible to those that can physically attend a lunch hour.
Other points he makes, like news junkies not being creative or reading books (maybe I'm the exception to the rule?!), are based on his own observations and can be instantly debunked.
Yes, Dobelli is right in some cases - some 'media' is junk. Yes, the journalism world is changing. But it is still a vital part of our world, and our society.
What we need is more understanding - fact checking, fake news countering, less reliance on clickbait. Consumers need to start understanding they are part of the problem, and they can be part of the solution.
We need better diversity of media - not just in medium, but in journalists and editors and publishers. We need less influencers and more resources to create the type of 'media' that he talks about.
He also goes on to talk about Sturgeon's law - the adage that 90 percent of everything that's published is rubbish, regardless of genre. I couldn't help but see the irony in that.
While it's an, let's say interesting, viewpoint about the media, Breaking News by Alan Rusbridger (funnily enough, the Editor in charge at The Guardian when Dobelli was there in 2013), or Truthteller by Kiwi journalist Stephen Davis, offer far more reasonable and realistic ideas and insights into the media landscape.
Reviewer: Rebekah Lyell Hodder & Stoughton, RRP $29.99