In a previous professional lifetime, at the end of every shift, I walked across a bridge from the news network’s downtown Atlanta headquarters to my car in the parking lot.
Having spent the previous eight, 10, maybe 12 hours in the newsroom that we likened to a terrarium, I would eye the cars passing below and think: Those people don’t have a clue what’s going on in the world – an admittedly arrogant thought.
Then I would wonder: Are they happier for not having their heads crammed full of the minutiae from events across the country and around the world? Particularly when that day or night had been mentally exhausting, I assumed that the answer was yes.
In those years, I described my job as keeping 200 balls in the air at once, constantly reordering them in priority so that none hit the floor. I went through fistfuls of pencils; details changed too quickly to use ink on my legal pads.
Today I have my Twitter feed set up to provide a constant stream of news, Jews and soccer.
At its worst, Twitter can resemble the scrawling on a bathroom wall. On occasion, it prompts interesting discussion.
For example, TIME magazine national reporter Charlotte Alter recently posted that “the most pervasive bias in political coverage is not left vs. right it’s ‘follows politics’ vs. ‘doesn’t follow politics.’”
Among the responses: “Most people follow politics in the way that I follow Olympic Track and Field. Every 4 years, we get into it, watch the heats, get to know the people, stake our bets on the finals, celebrate/commiserate. Then, when it’s over, we pack it all back in a box until next time.”
If there is a “follows politics” (in and out of season) bubble, that is where I reside. Politics is a food group in the diet of news that I consume as a matter of habit.
I do understand that most people choose not to live this way.
I’ve never known a time when I didn’t follow the news, politics included. I learned to write by tracing newspaper headlines. My first byline appeared in a mimeographed junior high school paper. Two-thirds of my life has been spent in the profession.
I read articles all the way through before reposting them. If it links to a study or document, I likely will read into that, too. That is part of what is referred to as “taking a deep dive” or “getting into the weeds.”
As for op-eds, I share what I find interesting.
On a recent Saturday I posted an op-ed published in The Times of Israel in which Abe Foxman, the former national director of the Anti-Defamation League, endorsed former vice president Joe Biden for president.
On the Sunday, I posted another op-ed from TOI, a rebuttal in which Norm Coleman, the former Minnesota senator and chairman of the Republican Jewish Coalition, explained why President Donald Trump deserves Jewish support.
Then there are polls, which proliferate like weeds before elections.
The more interesting numbers are found not in the highlights, but in the crosstabs, where data is broken down by party affiliation, age, gender, race, religion, and other categories. I recently read through a poll on voter priorities conducted Aug. 30 to Sept. 3 by the Kaiser Family Foundation. The methodology appeared sound, so I share the following.
Overall, the highest priority issue was the economy, at 32 percent, followed by the coronavirus, 20 percent; policing, 16 percent; race relations, 14 percent; health care (in general), 10 percent, and immigration, 4 percent.
In the crosstabs was evidence of a noteworthy divide.
Among Democrats, the coronavirus led with 36 percent, followed by race relations, 27 percent; health care and the economy, each with 14 percent; criminal justice, 6 percent; and immigration, 1 percent.
For Republicans, 53 percent rated the economy as most important, followed by criminal justice and policing, 23 percent; immigration, 7 percent; health care and coronavirus, each with 4 percent; and race relations 2 percent.
The results were more closely bunched for self-identified independents, with the economy, at 29 percent; criminal justice and policing, 20 percent; coronavirus, 19 percent; race relations, 13 percent; health care, 10 percent; and immigration, 4 percent.
Even if you’re not the “follows politics” type, there’s a lot you can learn by diving deeper and getting further into the weeds.