No News Is Good News?

News papers stacked together from various locations

By Sara Veltkamp, Minerva Strategies —

I recently conducted an experiment: I went without reading the news for a month. For a person who works in public relations, this is a big deal. I was helped by being in Vietnam and digitally disconnected. I’d left my laptop at home, and any news I passively saw was easy to ignore because it was in Vietnamese.


A lot happened while I was gone. The abortion debate raged in painful and divisive ways. President Trump said something offensive and both sides attempted either defense and justification or all-out evisceration. Neither side was successful. Several shootings happened or almost happened. Teachers walked out of classrooms to improve their pay. Children got measles in anti-vaxxer hot spots.


But here’s the thing – I didn’t really miss any of this. When I returned home, it was still news.


You do not need to follow the constant churn of news to stay well-informed. I knew this before I left, but I had not tested it; now my experience backs me up.


Let me start with asserting that reading the news and supporting credible outlets is critical. Journalism is one of the backbones of democracy and without it, we would have fewer ways to check the power of government actors. However, real news has staying power. If you miss that one article the day it’s posted, you may be less popular at that evening’s cocktail party, but if it matters, it will also matter the next day or the next month.


I want to take this one step further. In many cases, following the churn of media – not to mention the media-like posting on blogs and social media – can lead to a skewed perspective of what is newsworthy. Missing the forest for the trees is an apt metaphor. Due to many things, including the need for media sources to raise money through advertising, things that are newsworthy often take a backseat to eye-catching headlines and sensational pieces that drive clicks.


What is important in news, and in many aspects of the complex world we live in, is understanding the trends and the system of which we are all a part. Being able to see the forest – including the trees – without getting lost in it.


Reducing my daily news intake and thoroughly reading Sunday editions of print papers have helped me improve my knowledge without getting weighed down by the sheer volume of information available. You do not actually need to have a Sunday edition delivered to your doorstep, though I enjoy that and find it easier to focus on a non-digital story without getting sucked into an online wormhole and accidentally buying shoes I don’t need (but are so cute. Thanks, Rothy’s). The Sunday editions of credible papers like The New York Times and others tend to be a more in-depth look at the news of the week or analyses of (real) news from the week before.


Sometimes, just for fun, I hold my New York Times Sunday editions for a month and read them all at one time. This method provides a clear understanding of what stories have staying power and has the added benefit of convincing people who visit that I’m a hoarder.


Because I work in PR – and like to be popular at cocktail parties – I spend around ten minutes reading two daily news summaries from aggregators that provide balanced coverage, listen to “The Daily” podcast, and keep news alerts set up for clients. I do not believe these efforts keep me better informed as much as they allow me to follow water cooler conversations, understand the media environment our clients live in, and track the language that’s being used to describe the challenges our clients are addressing. This helps me advise clients on how to use that language to their advantage.


If you’re like me, you want to know what’s going on in the world so you can better engage with people and ideas. But engagement is challenging when you’re overwhelmed with headlines and noise.

About The Author

Sara Veltkamp

Sara Veltkamp

Vice President

Sara lives in New Orleans, Louisiana and is Minerva's vice president. She takes a lead role in all aspects of Minerva Strategies’ smart communication strategies and implementation. She loves a challenge and is obsessed with learning new things, from how to use new platforms and tools for storytelling to languages like Amharic, French, or Farsi to mastering a difficult yoga pose. She applies this energy and curiosity to all clients’ communication challenges. Learn more about Sara.