News Fatigue

This is the day that the Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it (Psalm 118:4).

Watching the evening news, reading the daily paper, listening to hourly newscasts, getting news updates on your cell phone, subscribing to news magazines (hard copy or electronically): the bad news is endless.

Disasters, tragedies, political turmoil – it just never ends. Psychologists are now saying that too much negative news can cause something called compassion fatigue – sometimes nicknamed “news fatigue.” 

The first sign of this kind of fatigue is usually feeling burnt out and detached. Soon after, your happiness and even your relationships start to suffer. A well-know example happened in the USA back in 2006 when thousands of burnt-out people wrote to National Public Radio (NPR) begging for a break from the tragic stories about the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. Now it’s 2018 and news fatigue has become an epidemic because bad news is everywhere you look. 

Strangely enough, bad news sells a lot better than good news. An avalanche burying a skier in the mountains makes news, while the thousands of skiers who come home after an exhilarating day on powder snow get nary a mention. The fact that the Colorado potato beetle is chomping away in my potato patch worries me much more than the joy I should be getting from my bumper crop of tomatoes.

A new lead story
We need to give ourselves a break from the constant state of media alarm we experience. We need to learn to balance out all the bad news with the good news. We need to take time each day to focus on the simple, joyous things in life. And I do mean simple. Open a good book. Spend time with loved ones. Go for a walk outside and leave your cellphone at home.

We all know that there are terrible things in the world. And those deserve our prayers and attention. However, there are also wonderful things, and those deserve our attention too. And the best part is that those wonderful things are right within reach: air in our lungs, clothes on our back, food on our plate, people to love, jokes to laugh at, good wine to savour, and sunshine (or rain) outside. These are beautiful gifts that God has given us, many of them daily.

As Christians we often forget that it is not our responsibility to bring God’s kingdom fully to fruition; God will do that in God’s good time. True, we must be faithful servants in a broken world, but perhaps the most faithful task we have is to live the good news (the gospel) that, in Christ, all things have been made new and that death has been defeated by our Lord Jesus. Wouldn’t it be great if that was the lead story on this evening’s newscast? 


  • Bob is a retired Professor of Education (The King’s University) living in Edmonton.

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