I stopped watching the news the other day. Or reading it. Or listening to it.
Let me restart: I’m what you call a news junkie, and I always have been. I grew up watching the evening news. Living in rural Arkansas, my parents were early adopters of satellite technology, and our dish would scan the heavens for those miracle birds that would beam the news into our living room. At suppertime, we’d watch ABC, CBS and NBC—an hour and a half worth of programming, picked up by us via the Armed Forces satellite feed. If you visit my parents’ home today, odds are high you will find CNN on. All the time. Even right now.
My high school had a radio station on its campus where we practiced writing and reading the news. I spent some time in college running the news shop at the big stick radio station in Jonesboro, Ark.
I left for Idaho in 1995, where I continued to work in news, first at the TV station in Twin Falls and then for the newspaper in Burley. For more than 25 years, my life has been a steady stream of broadcasts and newsprint and news websites. A large chunk of what Idaho Freedom Foundation does involves the news.
In 1993, I covered the murders of three 8 year olds, Cub Scouts, in West Memphis, Ark. It’s not lost on me that those kids would be in their late 20s about now. I covered the trials and convictions of the three teenagers who were implicated, and I believe, wrongly convicted, in the crime. I’ve been reading about the case for years: the appeals, the new evidence, new documentaries, new activism. I read about their release from prison last year. I read about how one of the convicted three, Damien Echols, is moving on with his life. Damien has a new book out and there’s a new documentary chronicling the killings, the trial and the trio’s release. A friend once told me that you never stop “covering” a case like this. I guess that’s true.
A week ago Friday, in the wake of the Sandy Hook shootings, I stopped reading, watching and listening to the news. I suppose I can’t escape the image of little ones looking forward to the Christmas that would never be. Their parents lovingly having wrapped presents that will never be opened. And I didn’t want to listen to the self-serving politicians talk about what laws they might pass to supposedly make our kids safer. Or listen to the pundits talk about the political implications of politicians wanting to pass laws to supposedly make our kids safer. And I still can’t take it in. And I won’t.
The time to talk politics and policies—about guns and violence and constitutional rights—will return, and when it does, I’ll be there. At that time, we can debate with clear minds and clear hearts the impacts of our decisions on future generations of American youngsters, whether we make them safer in a society that is armed or disarmed. Torn by emotion, flooded with horrific details and stupid punditry, this is not the time.
This Christmas, I ask that you just hold your children closer, grateful for every second we have with them, for the chance to be their parents and to watch them grow.