Or to put it in a cost-benefit perspective, is the cost in money (Internet access, owning a TV, buying a newspaper and the cost in time (watching or reading the news) worth the benefits one receives? What benefits?
- The Warm and Fuzzy Benefit. In other words, the sense that you've done your bit to participate meaningfully in a democracy
- The Work Benefit. A lot of jobs, especially in an information society, require you to be up-to-date on what's happening.
- The Interpersonal Benefit. Or, simply put, having something useful to say in a conversation, especially when it turns to the day's events.
So costs have, in many ways, decreased. And the benefits, for many, are significant. But a lot of people have simply given up on keeping up. They find the news irrelevant -- to their lives, to their work, to getting by on a paycheck or getting by on government support. In part I blame Journalism with a capital J and the kinds of stories we cover and the ways in which we tell them. And in part I blame the partisanship of the times. And let's not leave out schools and parents and a host of other responsible parties.
All this begs the question -- is it really worth the hassle to stay informed, at least for a lot of people out there? A Downsian economic approach would suggest no, it's not worth the time, it's not worth the cost, at least not for many. And there are so many other ways to spend one's time -- entertaining ourselves to death -- that I can see the argument by many that the News simply doesn't mean anything to them. And so, why bother?