Travel the back roads

This charming Cape Cod, MA street, which I photographed in 2009, is just one example of many attractive small towns throughout America and the world.

This charming street on Cape Cod, Massachusetts, which I photographed in 2009, is just one example of many attractive small towns throughout America and the world.

“To read the papers and to listen to the news… one would think the country is in terrible trouble. You do not get that impression when you travel the back roads and the small towns do care about their country and wish it well.”Charles Kuralt

Recently I’ve had to sharply curtail my exposure to news reporting in both online and print versions (I haven’t watched TV for years).  With all our current challenges, I simply could not afford to add discouragement to my life.  “If it bleeds, it leads,” the saying goes, and the advent of 24/7 news stations has only made this worse as production teams scramble to find titillating sound bites, worrisome speculation, or outright gossip to fill their airwaves and bring in viewers.

Since I travel a good bit, I cannot help noticing that what I see and hear is in marked contrast to the supposedly accurate press I read.  Wherever I go, most of the people I meet are courteous, friendly or at least benign.  Increasingly diverse populations live together, for the most part, in cooperation and peace.  Attractive, well kept homes and appealing towns adorn almost every place I visit, and I return from my travels feeling encouraged about the state of my country and the world.  Yes, there are many bad or disappointing experiences, but there are still far more blessings, if we seek and notice them.  I often wonder whether people who lived even a century ago would think us mad to be unhappy with such abundance and opportunity.

Next time you find yourself feeling low, try unplugging from the constant barrage of largely irrelevant news hype that creates so much noise in our world and inside our heads.  Get out, reach out and find out how much there is to celebrate.

This post was originally published seven years ago today. You can view the original with comments here.

8 Comments

  1. cjbeam79

    Hi Julia, I hope you are good. I’m sure you’re busy. Just wanted to tell you that I’m enjoying reading the 7 year ago posts, the “reruns”! 😊. And I do have a question. I’ve noticed that there are virtually no comments to any of the re-postings. Is this a coincidence? I’m not a “regular” contributor, but did read and enjoy the comments each week. The daily re-posts have had only a comment or two since you started and I’m curious. I was afraid to make a comment; maybe we’re not supposed to? Well, here are my belated comments. Loved the picture of you and your sister a couple days ago. So precious! Today, I would agree completely with “the back roads”. Newspapers, and online news, is still disappointing after all these years. When I was a cadet at West Point, the New York Times carried many stories about the Academy. As cadets, we were subscribed to the Times, and perused it daily. In every instance, we, the kids who lived at the school, could read an article about our institution and see the blatant mistakes that were printed as the “facts”. At the time, I thought the circumstance was amazing. How could such a prestigious newspaper print a story about such an iconic institution as WP and get the facts wrong? Well, that’s the business. You hit the nail on the head when you refer to sensationalism. If the outlet can’t generate the hype, they’re out of business. After 40 years, I’ve come to believe that articles in any newspaper are usually 50% accurate, at best. Some are better than others, but the nature of “news” articles doesn’t lend itself to getting the details right. So, I, too, read less newspapers and online news. Well, enough about that. Jeanne and I have a good friend here that recently lost her husband to cancer. She’s adjusting and trying to get by, but I know she has bad days as well as some good days. I plan to invite her to your website/blog. (Don’t know why I haven’t thought about it until now??). I think your content will bring some peace and comfort to her. You’re the best, my friend! 😊 I hope this email gets to you. Not sure if you received my last email, but hopeful you did. Thanks for listening. Take care, Chris

    Sent from Chris’ iPad.

    >

    • Hi Chris, thanks for asking about the long delays in answering the comments. Others have wondered as well. The most immediate situation is that I’m traveling a good bit lately, including a week away just recently. Then when I get back, there is a lot of “catch up” in terms of keeping up with tasks at my two homes. On top of that are all the usual unexpected events such as Matt’s recent cardiac mini-crisis, and an upcoming hospitalization related to that. I just don’t have the time to devote to the blog that I once did, now that Jeff is not here to help me with daily life. It’s much easier and quicker to schedule re-posts of the old ones, so I settled on that as a sort of compromise over just letting the whole thing go. I schedule them 2 weeks in advance and thus don’t even check the blog daily as I used to do. I’ve had enough feedback to convince me to keep re-posting for the present time, though much of the feedback has been offline from people who contact me through other means. I did get your email but unfortunately, I am even further behind on email than I am on the blog. I’m too confused by having so many communication channels to keep up with (texting, email, voicemail, Facebook, blog, etc.) and it seems different people expect to communicate in their preferred method so there’s no way to gracefully limit it to one or two channels. I almost never use Facebook so I have gotten direct messages there literally weeks or sometimes even months later than they are posted. Despite all this, I’m absolutely determined to prioritize real-time, face-to-face interaction OR actual postal mail (with old fashioned handwriting and stamps) over all the digital venues, which I check for urgent business and Matt-related messages, but don’t always have time to immediately answer personal messages. So, comments are still enabled, but it might be awhile before I get around to them. But once they are posted, they become a permanent part of the blog, as the posts from 7 years ago demonstrate.

      Regarding journalism…where should I start? I studied journalism at both Lipscomb University and Georgia State University, and I can tell you that the ethics and standards we were taught then (mid 1970’s) seem nowhere to be seen in today’s media. There have always been egregious errors but they are totally out of control now and seemingly often intentional, including blatant and obvious grammatical faux pas (and I’m not talking about matters of debate, but hands down obvious typos, word misuse and other flaws). Caveat lector! One thing I was taught in both journalism and library science is to always identify the bias…and there always is a bias! Sometimes it’s more obvious, sometimes hidden (such as asking, who paid for this research/article/episode?). You need only look at the ads in magazines, on TV or online to see who is behind much of the content. And one need only identify the political identity of the journalist to explain much of what that person produces. I could go on forever with my own biased takes on all this, but suffice it to say that yes, I agree, the news is whatever the producers want us to see, nothing more and nothing less. One way I get around this and create my own version of balance is by listening (in my daily flash briefing on Alexa) to both the NPR and Fox News abbreviated broadcasts. Sometimes they are so different as to have seemingly come from different planets, but I do like the way they balance each other out and actually complement each other (NPR is more global, Fox more local).

      Thanks for passing my blog along to your friend. I hope she will find it helpful.

      • Susan

        Julia, just seeing this now; thanks for explaining so we don’t worry about you 🙂 . I agree, we have so many communication channels, which is wonderful but also a challenge! I sometimes miss phone calls and voice mails because they are mixed in with so many spam calls. Happy to know that you’ve been able to do some traveling. And I hope that Matt is okay?

        • Susan, he is scheduled to be hospitalized soon for cardiac issues (in this case, the rhythm disturbances that have been more or less of a problem since 2000). But he’s doing remarkably well, all things considered. As always, he shows no sign of the chaos in his oft-reconstructed heart, which must by now be a mass of scar tissue around all the hardware.

  2. Well, hello there Julia (02/20/20)!
    How interesting that this post was SEVEN years ago…which was prior to the current news hype era we live in now! Sheesh!
    Big hugs. Pat

    • Pat! I am always so happy to see you here in the comments. I had missed your friendly daily Gravatar on the blog for some time before it reappeared, and I actually have had a blank note card sitting on my kitchen table for WEEKS ON END on which I intended to sit down and write to you. So if you get a card stained with tea and blotches of mustard, you will know what happened, hee-hee. Seriously, YES, I had the same thought when I read this post again. I thought, “seven years ago I would never have believed how much worse it would get so quickly.” But then again, there is a LOT that I would not have believed would happen in the next seven years!! 😀 😲 😀 😲 😀

  3. Hi Julia…yes, once you started going to a weekly blog (Monday) a while back, I got out of the habit of checking daily…but I’m back to that now! Plus, I was out of town for the birth of our grandson in January and on my iPhone (vs MacBook) it’s trickier to click ‘like’. No worries, I am still a fan of your blog…and coffee/mustard stained cards are always welcome! Pat XOXO

    • Pat, CONGRATULATIONS!! How wonderful to have a new grandson to love. No pressure to check my blog…but as I mentioned many years ago, seeing your Gravatar there is like a friendly secret handshake I always appreciate, so I was very happy to see you there again 😀 ❤ .

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