All the News That's Fit to Ignore: Beware Information Overload

I’m sure my readers think that I learned about the election of Pope Benedict XVI on the Internet. Well I didn’t. No, I was driving in the car returning from the worksite of our new monastery construction when I turned on that much older technology – the radio. However, even if I had been on the Internet it seems I would have had to wait to learn this breaking news from online sources.

Harry McCracken posted on PCWorld’s website that he was watching TV in the waiting room of a car dealership when he learned about the election of the new Pope in a news flash on a local station. The station then switched to CNN’s continuing coverage of the event. Harry just happened to have his notebook computer with him and a Wi-Fi network access point enabled him to immediately go online. He informed a couple of friends via Instant Messenger that a new Pope was elected. His friends responded with some doubt as they checked news sites online and found no mention of a new Pope. This led to Harry’s comment, "The Web, for all its amazing power as a news source, still isn't all that quick. If something interesting is happening in real time, old-fashioned TV will still spot it faster and keep up better."

Harry wasn’t alone in noticing the real time news lag online. Evan Brown first heard the same breaking news from a co-worker. Not having access to a TV she immediately went online and checked major news websites. She only found articles about the previous appearance of black smoke at the Vatican. Then slowly a headline appeared that a Pope had been selected. However, the link from the headline brought up old news. She switched to various news sites with the same results. Finally, as the news sites began catching up, it took another fifteen to twenty minutes for Google News to reflect the new Pope breaking news. From this experience Evan commented, "I found myself quite disappointed by the Web's inability to tell me what was going on right now."

I normally have no interest in instant news. However, the past month had plenty of news of interest to me – the death of Pope John Paul II and the election of Pope Benedict XVI. And even I found myself searching on the Internet for news and information concerning these events. The Vatican website was obviously overwhelmed during the final days before the death of Pope John Paul II. It took a very long time for any page on the Vatican site to even come up. EWTN’s website faired a little better but still their online video streaming coverage kept breaking up. Even the Internet has its limits!

Now it is evident that some people I know are news junkies. If you watch the same CNN headline news over and over again, you qualify as a news junky. One of the symptoms of a news junky is needing to know breaking news immediately. There is news coverage that is important to know about immediately, for example, severe weather warnings in one’s area. But a lot of news we really don’t need to know at all or certainly not immediately. And at times news tends to focus only on the negative thereby giving a lopsided view of our world and at times making people feel helpless to change things. "No news is good news" for some of us is healthier.

But if you are a news junky, the Internet has now found a way to satisfy your cravings – RSS readers. Also called "feed readers" or "RSS aggregators," RSS readers are one of the biggest new categories of software in recent memory. A quick online search will find more than 50 programs designed to scan subscription news feeds, and each one works a little differently than the others. A free IE plug-in is called "Pluck" available at pluck.com. There is also a web edition of Pluck that you can access from any PC or browser.

Pluck’s RSS reader delivers your favorite news and blog updates automatically into a folder on your computer. Pluck’s toolbar will auto-detect RSS Feeds while you browse the Internet allowing you to subscribe to those that interest you. You can create a "Perch" (persistent search) of webpages and product listings on Google, eBay, Amazon, MoreOver News and web blogs. Perch works as a free web research and shopping assistant.

I took a quick look at four Catholic news sites like Catholic News Agency, Catholic World News, Vatican Information Service and Zenit and didn’t find any RSS feeds available there. However, the Ryan Memorial Library at St. Charles Borromeo Seminary in Wynnewood, Pennsylvania has a list by subject of RSS Feeds at scs.edu/library/feeds/rss.htm. Click on the right arrow next to a subject to find the source of the feed, a description, and the subscription address.

Hopefully by subscribing to Catholic news you should get some "Good News" that includes inspirational stories and instructional material. Then perhaps you will be inspired to make some "Good News" of your own!

May is traditionally Mary’s month so let’s focus on some May as the month of Mary webpages for this month’s web picks.

The Marian Library/International Marian Research Institute in Dayton, Ohio has a "May, Mary’s Month, Marian Coronation" page at udayton.edu/mary/meditations/crownmed.html that has some interesting information including why May is Mary’s month.

Women for Faith & Family have a webpage discussing May Crowning along with family activities for May at wf-f.org/MayCrowning.html.

Father Pat’s page at http://frpat.com/mary.htm will give you some traditional Marian prayers to pray during this month.

Many of us are already familiar, hopefully, with praying the Holy Rosary. Why not try praying the Mexican Rosary to be different? Check out the well put together guide with accompanying pictures at ixeh.net/faith/Treasure/Companion/order-mex/start00_mx.html.

Ann Ball, author of Catholic books and articles about modern saints and Catholic heritage and traditions, has a webpage discussing Mary Gardens – a possible activity for May and Mary, at annball.com/mary_gardens.shtml.

Guys shouldn’t feel left out during May. Check out Domestic-Church.com’s article for men and May at domestic-church.com/CONTENT.DCC/19980501/EDITORIAL/9805EDITORIAL.HTM.

Brother John Raymond welcomes
e-mail at john@aplusconsultingnow.com.

He is author of Catholics on the Internet: 2000-2001,
Webmaster of www.monkofadoration.org