What's the purpose of following political news?

Like many others here, I follow politics avidly and spend a lot of time reading the news.

Lately, though, I have been wondering what the point is.

I used to think (especially in pre-Internet days) that keeping yourself politically informed day to day

  1. benefited society as a whole

  2. gave you a competitive edge over others

  3. allowed you to recognize and perhaps protect yourself from a coming political catastrophe (war, dictatorship, etc.).

But now - especially since 2016 - I’ve started to feel that simply keeping up with current events serves no larger purpose.

Following political news might be useful if you are active in politics or political journalism. And every two years, it may make you a more valuable voter. But otherwise, it is effectively just another spectator sport.

Am I wrong? What’s the point of an ordinary person being politically informed?

Providing shit tons of cash for the makers of blood pressure medicine.

Me being better informed with what’s happening means my representatives have another informed voice giving them opinions from their constituency. Will it change the world on its own? No. But something something, drop of water, something something, tidal wave.

I don’t understand the purpose of breathlessly following the DC minutiae either.

Journalism died a long time ago, and all that remains is a perpetual outrage machine staffed by carnival barkers. And their only goal is holding our attention for their advertisers. I stopped watching it entirely after the ‘16 elections. When elections are nigh, I read the candidates’ positions on their websites and make my decisions accordingly.

With the exception of extreme weather events, I haven’t watched a minute of national news since. I follow some local events and keep informed of various city council stuff like zoning, changes to codes/trash/etc., but that’s mainly through local websites.

It’s probably useful if you have low blood pressure and want to juice it up without pharmaceuticals.

I have almost completely turned off certain aspects of political news (the perpetual ongoing Trump-collusion-Cohen-Stone-Russia-Mueller-Mueller-Mueller trauma) because it’s endless exclamations over the same rancid tidbits that don’t lead anywhere but give talking heads the chance to ooh and ah.

Wake me up when actual events ensue.

Well this is pretty much what it feels like in the UK, with the Brexit fiasco occuring. Not that I’m in any sort of position to protect myself if it does go ahead, but in the event of an election in the near future, I’ll have to think carefully about who to vote for, as in my opinion Brexit supersedes other issues.

In less intense times, I find it generally entertaining and infuriating in equal measure.

If you are willing to take a few minutes once or twice a week to call each of your elected representatives, being up on the news will give you an idea of what’s on their plate that you might should express your opinion about.

I always looked at it from the awareness perspective- what are the legislators up to, and how might that affect me and mine, and what/how do I need to communicate with the legislators to make my opinion known. There’s also the impending catastrophe angle.

But yeah, I don’t much care to watch a bunch of pundits and professional analysts go bananas over a leaked comment about Mueller’s investigation, or how Trump only made 2 tweets the previous night and what does that signify? Or watching how someone, somewhere is always protesting something, and it’s the WORST THING IN THE WORLD!!ZOMG!

At some point fatigue sets in; seeing people with placards chanting just makes me tune out until the next story, and so does the traditional TV panel interview/discussion with 2-3 people and the interviewer.

Honestly though, the TV news is always about a day or two late vs. web news, except on local and national issues, so that’s why I watch the 10 o’clock news- it’s mostly local and state stuff here.

It’s easy to feel apathetic in the trump era:

“Would you believe Trump’s latest outrage!?”
Yes I would, because the man’s a fucking idiot and I expect him to say and do stupid things, but unless there’s some consequence this time, can we look at what else is happening?

And generally the way politics is reported in the US: letting politicians get away with far too much BS, “both sides”-ing everything and booking guests that will fight. It’s a reality TV show and it’s pretty frustrating (and pointless) to watch.

Not sure what the solution is, just wanted to say I feel the same as the OP…

The point is to get you to a buy a product or a service. That’s why we have emotional news channels, radio shows, and print. How else will they keep people engaged to the content without provoking a strong emotional response?

That’s the point of (some of) the media existing, not the purpose from your point of view of consuming it.

Yeah. You are correct, I answered the wrong question.:frowning:

There are basically two main reasons as I see it.

  1. To be informed so that you can make better decisions to improve your life and the lives of others. Obviously the main way is through voting, but also you may choose to boycott one or another institution based on their actions, to recycle more to help prevent global warming, stock up on ammunition because the government is soon going to ban it, write my congressmen to tell him to impeach Trump, etc.

  2. For entertainment purposes. Many people may discount this a frivolous, but its probably the main reason we learn much of anything. Why do people follow sports teams even though no action they take can have any affect on whether or not the patriots win on Sunday. Why do I read articles about Ultima Thule? It has absolutely no effect on me, and I can’t affect it, but I read about it because I find it interesting, and so that I can talk to my friends about it, and maybe feel a bit smarter for having read about it.

Well, just to mention one thing, once I found out about Howard Schultz, I decided to boycott Starbucks. Other than voting, there is not much else I can do.

Schultz left Starbucks, didn’t he?

I used to follow the news in both print and broadcast media, but I soon tired of the idea that one had to follow every twist and turn all day long. I still take a daily paper, but my old pressure is much better off for minimising my exposure to radio and TV news to the brief headlines on the BBC’s classical music station in the morning and sometimes the evening news on TV (and then only in genuine crises).

For the past few years the political news in the UK has been dominated by the twists and turns of the Brexit saga.

One purpose of following it is to see whether any politician has resigned or has lost their nerve in response to the alarms coming from all directions as the country drifts towards the edge of the cliff.

Few people other than journalists really understand the nuances of the political process so a lot of the public have switched off utterly bemused. There is a constant cascade of comment from pundits, experts and journalists about what this ill-defined notion actually means in practice and what the consequences will be. There is an information overload and much it is confusing and full of ambiguous definitions.

I guess news media feel that is important to explain to the public that the rather simple decision for leaving the EU is not in the least bit simple to put into practice.

For light relief there are always news from the US where the politics seems like an absurd reality TV show.

I think a lot of people yearn for a return to normality.


I know it’s like complaining about the kids on my lawn, but political coverage used to be about policy. Sometime in the late 80s it shifted to be about strategy. It was no longer about how a certain policy would effect people, or the economy, or the environment, but rather how it would appeal to soccer moms. This sort of reporting is super lazy.

And Schultz is still the largest stockholder at Starbucks, he hired someone else to be CEO.

I think if one follows politics/social issues worldwide, not just the US alone closely, he or she will might realize the the US is, in many ways (healthcare, voting system, presidential system, obligatory tipping for almost any service), an anomaly rather than an archetype in developed countries.

Whether or not such realization may really benefit an individual would be another question.

“Political news” is really just another term for news about current events pertaining to governance and public policy. What’s the purpose of following it? Because if people don’t, they become uninformed and apathetic, and democracy becomes endangered. In fact, the following sequence of events might happen:

  1. Voters are so spectacularly apathetic that some significant number of eligible voters – at times, nearly half of all eligible voters – don’t even bother to vote.

  2. The result of (1) is that those who do vote have a disproportionate influence on the outcome, contrary to the basic principles of democracy. And since those voters aren’t particularly well informed, either, because they either don’t “follow political news” themselves, or get their news from a single highly biased source, their knowledge of many of the issues they’re voting on is either grossly distorted or completely flat-out wrong.

  3. The result of (1) and (2) is, hypothetically, that an ineffably corrupt, dangerously incompetent, pathologically narcissistic moron gets elected president of the USA.