Hide table of contents

I would be interested in hearing EAs perspective on whether/to what extent they read the news and whether they think it's beneficial. I don't read the news much and mostly endorse this position but I'm curious to hear other perspectives and would like a low-cost way of ensuring that I receive important actionable information about the world.




New Answer
New Comment

5 Answers sorted by

https://www.econlib.org/archives/2011/03/the_case_agains_6.html by Bryan Caplan is relevant. Caplan is very much against spending time reading the news.

I don't think Bryan Caplan self-identifies as EA, but he is favorably inclined to EA (see https://www.econlib.org/the-good-group/ for instance) and has appeared on some EA-related podcasts as well as debated Peter Singer (see https://betonit.substack.com/p/im-debating-peter-singer for more).

There was something interesting I observed about myself: I have tried replacing reading the news by reading more relevant articles a number of times -- and I have failed just as many times. This made me realize that reading the news fulfils a certain purpose in my daily life and it is not information consumption. Rather it is: winding down, entertainment, etc. I usually read the news when having lunch. And when I tried intentionally reading something valuable (yes, I am thoroughly convinced that reading the news is hardly valuable) didn't deliver the same kind of reprieve.

I try to keep abreast of world and local events, including ones in countries that are less popular in mainstream media (because they're poor). I want to stay aware of the big problems that I and the rest of the people here are trying to solve.

For that purpose I joined a few dozen country subreddits, I regularly read a national newspaper, and I get Telegram updates from two additional independent newspapers. By "read" I mean mostly read the headlines - sometimes the first paragraph - less often skim articles - and in rare cases read an entire article (maybe once every week or two). I also look at the suggestions from Google Chrome quite often, and these lead to more articles being actually read.

I find the main disadvantage of news sources to be their fucked up prioritization. But going over headlines without clicking most of them gives you the ability to substitute yours.

I had periods of not reading the news at all, and it was perhaps better for my mental health in harder times, but for now I think I found the right balance.

I follow some Twitter accounts that I trust will tell me if something important is happening. I started doing this since I was late to hear about covid.

I have what I call a “gopher” strategy. When it’s time for an election, I poke my head up and research the candidates, then choose. Then I shut the news off (literally, blocking it on my devices) for the rest of the time. If there’s an issue I want to learn about in depth, I read longform articles or books. This keeps me better informed and less outraged than I would be otherwise.

The second part of this strategy is having IRL relationships I trust to tell me if something important slipped through my filter. This involves some trust, but has worked well for me. I can’t imagine how many hours I’ve gotten back.

More from Fergus
Curated and popular this week
Relevant opportunities