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From Prince Charming to Paschal and his sandwiches, bring on the silly news

June 24th, 2024 12:00 PM

By Southern Star Team

From Prince Charming to Paschal and his sandwiches, bring on the silly news Image

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ACCORDING to a report by the Reuters Institute, 39% of respondents worldwide said they are actively avoiding the news, describing it as depressing, relentless and boring.

According to the global study, wars in Ukraine and the Middle East may have contributed to people’s desire to switch off the news, with younger people preferring to get their news online or via social media.

This is ironic, given the relentlessness of overwhelming information is most likely the result of those same companies in Silicon Valley designing their apps like information fruit machines, rather than anything that is going on in news rooms.

It’s a rock and a hard place scenario for traditional news editors who are trained to communicate the complexities of the world in the fairest possible way.

The problem is the amount of news available at all times. I’ve even been looking for ways to install more good news stories in my daily information diet.

One obvious way is to ditch social media from the phone, which I’ve done by deleting X and Facebook, although I allow myself a little Insta-indulgence from time to time. TikTok, I am not even going to entertain.

But I am an ardent supporter of and subscriber to proper newspapers where I go for comment, nuance, truth and proper reporting. Sure, the content can be depressing but we had some pretty dark stuff going on during the 70s, 80s and 90s and people weren’t taking aim at journalists then. There was a genuine threat of nuclear war. There were never-ending bombings and stories of horror on this very island. There was the music of Stock, Aitken and Waterman.

Of course, there are some places you can go for some more optimistic stories. I did try checking in with the Good News Network this week, a website which attempts to amplify good news stories in its daily feed.

The problem with this is that it overcorrects massively and has the effect of being utterly annoying. A sample of headlines from the site yesterday included ‘Mom Throws a FUN-eral for Late Husband with Bouncy Castle and Goodie Bags – Making Positive Memories for Their Kids’ and ‘Widow on Her First Holiday Without Husband Makes A Lifelong Group of Friends’ and ‘Disney Superfan Lost 230-lbs So He Could Play Prince Charming and Go on The Rides’.

I mean, good God almighty.

I have found other places where I go to find solace amongst the grimness of the news, but these are the places humans have always returned to in times of darkness.

Whether it’s Michael Harding’s meditative podcast, the upbeat and refreshing newsletters from Bill Gates or The Marginalian, a brilliant newsletter about art and philosophy by Maria Popova, there are many positive and restorative places to go, while still being grown up enough to handle the realities of the darker stories that are front and centre in the daily news bulletins.

No free lunch at the count

PERHAPS the best example of a middle ground was the recent viral success of RTÉ’s Paschal Sheehy during the very long counts for the European elections.

During a live interview with Eileen Whelan, Sheehy stated that Billy Kelleher’s team had just arrived with a tray of sandwiches and that there was probably more interest in the distribution of those sandwiches that of votes, at that stage. He finished up saying: “My presence on this plinth is a source of some mirth for some people here because I am being kept away from these sandwiches.’

Fair play, Paschal, a bit of silly fun in the midst of the slow, important process of democracy. I hope he eventually got fed.

Meanwhile, I read that the Pope was expressing his worries about unfettered AI at the G7 earlier this week, urging leaders to make sure humans aren’t doomed ‘to depend on the choices of machines’, and calling for a ban on lethal autonomous weapons. Amen to that.

Surprisingly, Silicon Valley has been paying attention. The Vatican developed AI guidelines in 2020 called the ‘Rome Call for AI Ethics’, and they’ve been signed by Microsoft, IBM and Cisco Systems.

It’s not only AI that the Pope likes to keep abreast of, it seems. He invited a load of comedians for an audience with him too, including Tommy Tiernan, Ardal O’Hanlon, Patrick Kielty and a whole host of American A-listers, from Conan O’Brien to Jimmy Fallon. Blessed are the gag merchants, eh?

Sky was Rishi’s limit

WHEN I was a nipper, the old people would tell us stories about going to school in bare feet or perhaps having to share an eggcup between them.

My version of these stories is telling my son and daughter about how I grew up in ‘two-channel land’, where you watched what they programmed for you instead of choosing from a thousand series yourself at any time of your choosing.

Someone with similar tales to tell is Rishi Sunak, who detailed during the week how he struggled through his childhood without Sky TV. Bless him. Asked in an interview whether there was anything he’d had to go without, the PM said his parents never had Sky. Not exactly Dickensian poverty, perhaps, but for a Tory that’s as close as you get to destitution I suppose.

GAA gone a bit gaga

I AM bamboozled by the GAA football season, I have to say. Endless fixtures that don’t make any sense. Never knowing where to watch the games. They were even on the radio this week suggesting more rule changes, like earning more points for scoring from out further. I can’t keep up.

Can they not just stop fiddling with rules and formats and channels and return to some sort of clarity and consistency before they lose all their support to the 4x400 relays?

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