Monday, August 8, 2011

What I do

(When I'm not blogging about old books, of course.)

I know I sound like a pretentious twit when I say this, but I kind of don't get people who aren't news junkies.

This is not new. But I was reminded of it tonight courtesy of a tweet from a friend who had been unaware that riots are currently happening in London and other English cities.

No matter how much I say I'm not judging her for that, you're free to start the name-calling now.

That's why I can't imagine having the experience my parents did two summers in a row:

We went on August road trips, to the Four Corners area in 1990 and Yosemite Lake Tahoe in 1991. Both lovely places, remote in parts, but hardly cut off from the world.

And both times, my parents (and the rest of us, but as I was still in the single digits I can't take too much credit) figured out that something big had happened during those trips when they stopped at a gas station and found the prices much higher than the last time they'd filled up.

Something big, August 1990: Iraq invaded Kuwait.
Something big, August 1991: A Soviet coup briefly deposed Gorbachev.

And somehow, when those events happened, we didn't have a newspaper. We hadn't turned on NPR. (I didn't grow up with TV news, so that one's not surprising. And yes, y'all, this was pre-Internet. I'm old.)

We were on vacation, and it didn't occur to my parents that some kind of news consumption was an essential part of our day. That's a choice I just don't see myself making.

I check news sites first thing in the morning. On a day like today, I had the NYT front page up in a tab all day. And let's not even talk about how often I check Twitter.

This isn't just a generational thing; the Internet is just the most current mode of information transfer. What I do -- what I want to do -- is know what's going on and tell other people about it.

It was, to some extent, what I did when I was at ABA. (That was the external side. The internal side involved a lot of me popping into my boss' office to share the latest industry nonsense developments, and it was a hit.)

If Andy Carvin didn't exist, I'd want his job. (Unfortunately, I was not hired when I said that, more elegantly, when I interviewed at NPR.)

This is what I do. In some form, it's what I will always do, whether or not it's part of my job description.

But if someone wants to pay me to do it, I wouldn't say no.

(Post pics are -- assuming I labeled them correctly -- from the 1991 Yosemite trip. Taken with a magenta flip-flash camera, baby!)

[Update, 8/9: So much for my steel-trap memory. A conversation with my mom tonight led to us determining that the August 1991 trip was, in fact, to Lake Tahoe. We spent a long weekend or something like that at Yosemite in the spring of that year. No breaking news during that vacation; it was mostly memorable for my first-ever coyote sighting. In addition to name-calling, you are also now free to mock.]


Gina Choe said...

No name calling here:)

At my last job, I was a bit of a news junkie as well. I was propelled by an insatiable desire to be connected to the world outside of the working space that my corporate colleagues called an "offic-icle." Beyond the connectedness, I needed to feel passionate about something because that job wasn't doing it. So the BBC, the NYT, even the Boston Globe were constantly being refreshed as I proofread textbooks.

Not that job satisfaction = deliberate ignorance of news. Maybe for me, though.

Well, that's not quite right either. I think I've replaced political news with a constant cultural feed. There is crossover since world lit often comes with political baggage, current or historical. So does art, music, and language.

This must sound like I'm sticking my head in the sand. Or that I'm looking at the world through peripheral vision.
I can't deny the fact that I could benefit from a more balanced stream of information. Good lord, how did I miss the London riots?

But here's my question for you: do you look for anything in particular when you check the news or are you more of a generalist?
Even when I was more diligent about keeping up with/following the news, I kept my eye on the world, so to speak. More specifically, my interests were on the Muslim world and how the rest of us were reacting to them post-9/11. Especially in Francophone countries. I also had my eye on Asia since I have that familial/cultural tie. And of course, financial news (hello, student loans).
So even though these were larger issues, I had a personal connection to them. Which is not a bad thing. Nor is it good.

I'll stop there.

Sarah Rettger said...

Actually, you've reminded me -- it was a job that made insufficient demands on my time (how's that for euphemism) that first introduced me to the world of blogs.

And it totally doesn't sound like you're sticking your head in the sand. I realize that not everyone is like me -- *I* wasn't always like me, though to some extent I've always been this way. Any time I want to deny that, I just have to think back to how I used my free periods in high school to catch up on the news.

I am a generalist, I think, with an inevitable focus on the US because that's where I've got the cultural knowledge to process things quickly. (Although reading UK-based fiction gives me a leg up on their cultural references!)

But, because I can't do anything simply, I'm a generalist with niches -- the book world, astronomy, Puerto Rico, and the kind of stuff Racialicious covers, among others.

Theresa said...

Sarah, You didn't get your interest in news from me. I have taken to not turning the radio on these days, it is just too much overload. Thanks for keeping me informed though.
Love you, Mom

Sarah Rettger said...

You definitely get credit for introducing me to it, though, you and Dad both. No idea what I would have turned out like if we hadn't been a Newsweek-reading, NPR-listening family!

david elzey said...

in an odd blip of a moment in high school, i joined the school newspaper and harbored for a short time a possible career as a photojournalist. this was in the late 70s, and while that career trajectory was jettisoned early on the interest in and inculcation of world news has not left me.

had the internet been around back then, had i the access to sources of information as easily as we do now, i think i might have ended up a research librarian for a media outlet. who the hell thinks of a career like that when they're 17?

and so, like you sarah, i wish i could get paid for having an insatiable desire to not only consume news but to make sense of it, to find the connections and use them to draw bigger pictures. the joke in the house is to say i am constantly doing "research" when in fact the fam is basically accusing me of surfing the internet, as if lazily chewing bon-bons and lounging lazily. it is okay, i've come to understand that they, like some, cannot see the point and value of it all and like others prefer a level of deliberate ignorance (as you put it) because it can all be too overwhelming.

all of this to say: i hear you, sister, i hear you.

Sarah Rettger said...

I'm glad you do, David, 'cause I'm not always sure *I* know what I mean.

Also, let's take a moment to be glad we don't get stuck with the jobs we consider at 17. Because while journalist was a strong contender at that point (and research librarian is awesome), I was also seriously thinking about becoming an intelligence analyst and learning Farsi and Arabic.

Yeah, that would have been a great move when I graduated high school in 2001.