We had family visit over the past weekend, and I discovered anew that I tend to be more content when my attention is on children and grandchildren instead of news feeds.
It pains me to say that. My professional life was in news. News accurately reported and even-handedly delivered is as important to the continued existence of the country as anything I can think of.
I remember the first time I met a guy named Jim Carrier. He was a fellow scribe for The Associated Press assigned to the Sioux Falls bureau and in town to meet the Pierre bureau. Nancy and I had invited Jim over for supper. We sat in the kitchen talking, but when it came time for the evening network news broadcast, we hustled into the living room. “We’re just a bunch of news junkies,’’ Carrier said. We laughed, but it was true. News has been my passion; so to say I’m happier when I miss it isn’t easy. But there it is.
Our older son, his spouse and their 11-year-old daughter spent the weekend here on the river. We boated the lake, dined out, had ice-cream creations for dessert, talked and laughed, and with some exceptions ignored our handheld communications devices. I was just fine with a couple of days free from the latest outrage from Washington, D.C.
Eventually, I returned to my news feeds. A believer in an informed citizenry, I wade through the nonsense and misguided comments and intentional falsehoods to find the sites and sources I trust. Even as I did that late in the evening after the visitors left, I could feel my upbeat mood slipping. A counselor might suggest that I explore my need to return again and again to something that too often messes with my attitude.
What I should do is pay less attention to the always-on, always-frantic news world that social media offers me. Out here in the middle of the country, it’s usually more than enough to read a couple of daily newspapers, visit the local library, catch an occasional network news show. My longtime news friend Chuck Raasch posted a couple of things recently that suggested the same sort of thinking. And, yes, I recognize that I’m about to use a social-media source to support my less-social-media argument. I do it because his comments made sense.
Raasch is from the Castlewood area of South Dakota. He spent most of his exemplary reporting career inside the Beltway, as some people call the area around Washington, D. C. Even so, he hasn’t become lost in the “we’re pretty important and you’re just fly-over country’’ mentality. Maybe it was his rural upbringing. Castlewood, like Reliance or Winner or Platte or Bijou Hills, is home to folks who generally don’t inflate their own worth and who can be quick to deflate the ego of anyone who shows signs of getting above his raisin’.
People in our part of the country knew you back when, you know? They’re proud of any success you have, but they know how many people contributed to that success. Much as the sophisticated folks might look down on this part of the country, it’s a good place to live. We know you have to plant seeds and work diligently to raise a crop, and we still know the difference between promise and performance.
During a trip back to fish the Missouri River, the mostly retired Raasch tweeted, “The further you get from the D.C. conversation, the more you realize that the politicians and media who cover it are talking an entirely different language than the real world.’’
He said buzz words like “optics’’ mean nothing “in the real world, polls are ignored or laughed at, most people think our campaigns are way too long, and an awful lot of people I've talked to have long given up on their politicians addressing issues that affect their real lives. Striking.’’
He knows what he’s saying. That doesn’t make me think news is less important, but it reminds me I should pay more attention to what people are doing out here in the real world and less to what people are saying in Washington.