How many times do we hear that phrase? When we hear it we usually prick up our ears as it normally conveys something which is taking place or has just taken place. That is unless you are watching CNN where they have a program called “Breaking News” and it is nothing but old news regurgitated – and usually more than once! The media fight to be the first to carry major news items as though we are all taking notes as to which channel is pipped to the post with the breaking news.

My query is this. How beneficial is it for us to know what is happening around the world virtually at the precise moment it is occurring?  I once read a book which indicated that our minds and our thinking have been skewed by mentally ingesting the constant barrage of information. I can see how that could be. We hear of tragedies, accidents, of atrocities and crises almost the moment they occur. Hence our minds extrapolate the frequency of these events exceeding the actual number.  In other words we begin to think that they are far more prevalent than they really are.  Consequently there is an unnecessary rise in the fear and concern factor among the populace.

Let me give you an example. In 1989 there was a scare in the United States about a chemical called Alar which had been sprayed on apples to control their growth and preserve their shine. In testing this chemical a researcher fed mice and rats an extraordinary high dosage. Consequently the animals grew tumors. Immediately the chemical was reported in the press as a carcinogen and apples suddenly became the dreaded fruit of the day. Millions were destroyed. Growers suffered immensely. Even an opposition delegation reported on the dangers to the government. Some people even queried whether apple juice was toxic. What was overlooked and not reported, was that the dosage given to the rats and mice far exceeded in ratio anything that humans could or would ever consume. The chemical in fact was later found to be minimally carcinogenic with a minuscule health risk. Ironically it was thought that people’s health had probably suffered more by them not consuming the apples. The fear was totally out of proportion to the risk.

If we had read the report we too may have avoided apples from anywhere which would not have made sense. We hear of an airplane crash but our next flight is just as safe as if we never heard about it. Nothing has changed. We constantly hear of accidents on the roads but the potentiality of our being in an accident is no different to what it was before we heard. Likewise with terrorism. We hear of all terrorist events around the world within minutes of their occurrence. The chance of dying from a terrorist act is negligible if you compare it to accidental death.

It is said that the media influences the public but the media is also influenced by the public. The media know what sells newspapers and causes people to listen to the news. That which is graphic, extraordinary, disturbing, frightening and can create widespread paranoia is choice material for the news. We are captivated by such reports.  So next time you listen to or read the news, do so with an inquiring mind. What are the true facts? What are the real implications of it?  How does it affect us or does it affect us at all? Not that we should be insensitive to other’s suffering and misfortunes, not at all. But don’t allow the immediacy of the event cause unnecessary mental urgency. Take everything quietly and in your stride. Remember this, the chances are pretty close to 100% that you will be watching the same news at the same time tomorrow. So don’t lose any sleep. Let those who create or report the news worry about it.

This applies particularly at this time when we are hearing about the corona-virus constantly. It is serious but we should not allow it to become fearful. Take sensible steps to stay safe and keep your family safe. That is all you can do and cut down the constant diet of negative news from around the world. It would also be helpful if they would bring on some good news for a change?