Is too much ca­ble news mak­ing us sick?


Albany Times Union - Sunday - - CAPITAL REGION - Chris Churchill

UEast Green­bush ntil re­cently, Bill Bronk would head over to the YMCA four morn­ings a week and walk on a tread­while mill watch­ing MSNBC on one of the tele­vi­sions hang­ing above the gym.

Bronk is still get­ting his ex­er­cise, only with­out the MSNBC. The East Green­bush Y no longer lets him — or any­one else in the gym — watch ca­ble news on its shared tele­vi­sions, a change Bronk finds un­nec­es­sary and ir­ri­tat­ing.

“If a per­son doesn’t like what’s on the TV, there are four oth­ers to choose from,” Bronk said. “Other peo­ple next to me watch Fox, oth­ers watch CNN, and we’ve never had a prob­lem.”

The ban on Fox, MSNBC and CNN (but not lo­cal news) ap­plies to all Cap­i­tal Dis­trict YMCA lo­ca­tions. The ru­mor around Bronk’s gym has it that the change re­sulted from a dis­pute be­tween pa­trons at an­other lo­ca­tion, which would

make the re­stric­tion an­other ex­am­ple of our hy­per-par­ti­san di­vide and how we just can’t get along.

But YMCA spokesper­son Erin Bres­lin said the change wasn’t made be­cause gym-go­ers were bick­er­ing, but be­cause the or­ga­ni­za­tion de­cided ca­ble news is un­wel­com­ing and in­con­sis­tent with a fo­cus on well­ness. (The pol­icy doesn’t ap­ply to TVS di­rectly at­tached to in­di­vid­ual ex­er­cise ma­chines.)

Bres­lin stressed that the pol­icy is not new, al­though some lo­ca­tions have been slow to en­force it. In fact, the change was made just ahead of the 2016 elec­tion — in Oc­to­ber, when the in­fa­mous “Ac­cess Hol­ly­wood” tape was dom­i­nat­ing news cov­er­age.

“We’re just ask­ing peo­ple to step away from the 24-hour news cy­cle dur­ing their time with us,” Bres­lin said. “It’s just very neg­a­tive and not at all wel­com­ing.”

The Cap­i­tal Dis­trict YMCA isn’t alone in its de­ci­sion. Life Time, a fit­ness chain with lo­ca­tions in the Up­per Mid­west, banned ca­ble news in its gym ear­lier this year af­ter de­cid­ing it was in­con­sis­tent with a “healthy way of life.”

There’s truth to that. Af­ter all, ca­ble news seems less and less about pro­vid­ing ac­cu­rate in­for­ma­tion and more and more about gin­ning up anger and outrage.

This was true be­fore Don­ald Trump’s elec­tion, but the trend is get­ting worse. Watch the two anti-trump net­works and you’ll be pro­vided with one set of provo­ca­tions to be fu­ri­ous about; watch the pro-trump net­work (hint: it rhymes with “box”) and you’ll get an­other.

The rise of ca­ble news par­al­lels the rise of the par­ti­san anger that con­sumes our pol­i­tics, which prob­a­bly isn’t co­in­ci­den­tal. The news as pre­sented on Fox and MSNBC es­pe­cially, but also on CNN, is largely about bias con­fir­ma­tion and bub­ble cre­ation. The bi­nary, left-ver­sus-right, us-ver­sus-them world of ca­ble news has more in com­mon with “Survivor” or “Keep­ing up with the Kar­dashi­ans” that we’d like to think. So there’s a temp­ta­tion to thank

Yet we can’t turn away. We’re the Cap­i­tal Dis­trict YMCA for hooked on the outrage-dopamine of­fer­ing a respite from it all. And feed­back loop, and the net­works yet, there’s some­thing pa­tron­iz­ing are more than will­ing to feed our about an or­ga­ni­za­tion telling ad­dic­tion while keep­ing us di­vided adult cus­tomers what they can and anx­ious. On ca­ble, there and can’t watch. can never, ever “It’s like Big Brother,” said be a slow news Bronk, who finds the re­stric­tion day. both in­sult­ing and silly. “Ev­ery

Break­ing sta­tion, no mat­ter what they put news! Look at up there, there’s go­ing to be some­thing what Trump that up­sets some­body.” did now!! (clicks That’s true. It isn’t as though to Fox) Lib­eral the rest of tele­vi­sion net­works are mobs are on the of­fer­ing up a whole­some view­ing at­tack! (clicks to diet.

MSNBC) Rus­sia! Wanda Fis­cher, a for­mer mem­ber Rus­sia!! Rus­sia!!! of the Guilder­land Y, said

Trump has that when the lo­ca­tion turned proven mas­ter­ful off ca­ble news, she sub­se­quently at us­ing the saw the fol­low­ing on its TVS: net­works (CNN es­pe­cially) as a a movie in which peo­ple were foil and ma­nip­u­lat­ing cov­er­age mowed down by a ma­chine gun­ner; to his ad­van­tage. The fo­cus of a “Dr. Phil” episode fea­tur­ing ca­ble news is al­ways, al­ways on a teenage drug ad­dict who him alone, the rest of the world be was beat­ing up his par­ents; and damned. Trump likes it that way. an end­less ar­ray of soap op­eras, So do the net­works. with all the ly­ing and cheat­ing

Rat­ings and rev­enue have been typ­i­cal of the genre. up sig­nif­i­cantly since Trump’s Yuck. Be­ing made to watch all elec­tio n, which is good for the that while strolling on the tread­mill net­works but bad for our men­tal might cause even a MAGAHAT health or abil­ity to think ra­tio­nal- wear­ing Trump lover to ask ly. We would be bet­ter off with less the fol­low­ing: “Can we pleeeeeeaze of it. (And less Face­book, too.) watch CNN?”

Rat­ings and rev­enue have been up sig­nif­i­cantly since Trump’s elec­tion, which is good for the net­works but bad for our men­tal health or abil­ity to think ra­tio­nally. We would be bet­ter off with less of it. (And less Face­book, too.)

Evan Vucci / As­so­ci­ated Press

CNN jour­nal­ist Jim Acosta does a standup be­fore a news con­fer­ence with Don­ald Trump in the White House. A YMCA spokesper­son says ca­ble news is in­con­sis­tent with a fo­cus on well­ness of­fered at the gym.

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