News in the Age of Abundance

The news is just like cereal.

Even though cereal is now viewed as over-processed and sugary, it was once viewed as a health food. Americans heard about the health benefits of cereal and ramped up their consumption. From the beginning, companies made heavy investments in advertising cereal because most people eat the same breakfast every day.

Thus, just as readers are loyal to news sources, consumers are loyal to their favorite breakfast cereals. And like news, consumers inhale cereal during the frantic rush before work. Even if they aren’t the healthiest options, they’re cheap and easy to consume.

Marketers promoted the benefits of cereal with slogans like “breakfast is the most important meal of the day.” Similarly, news organizations position themselves as an irreplaceable daily habit and with slogans like “Democracy Dies in Darkness.” While the Romans believed it was healthiest to eat only one meal per day and our ancestors only heard about major events, but we have been trained to be constant consumers, so we eat too much food and read too much news.

In addition to advertising how fast you can consume their newsletters with headers like “all the news you need in three minutes or less,” they promote the benefits of making news consumption a routine. That way, you can be “well informed.”

Both cereal and the daily news began as well-intentioned efforts to improve American lives. But just as cereal turned into sugar for the body, news turned into sugar for the mind.

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