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Tourists stand under the Eiffel Tower in Paris, Aug. 2, 2018 (AP photo by Michel Euler).

A ‘Quieter World’: Taking a Break From a Deafening News Cycle

Wednesday, Sept. 5, 2018

PARIS—What does the world look like when you’re not watching it? Every year at the end of August, I have the chance to answer that question when, for two weeks, I unplug and check out of the online media sphere. Often, with the help of my archaic non-smart phone, I’ve been able to remain entirely out of reach of the internet and email. This year, I limited my “staycation” news consumption to a morning glance at The New York Times homepage.

By some odd fluke, my August media fast has often meant learning about major news events the old-fashioned way: word-of-mouth reports from friends or acquaintances that led to a quick jaunt to the local newsstand for a glance at the front pages. The five-day war between Russia and Georgia in 2008 and Barack Obama’s reversal on threatened air strikes against Syria in 2013 both occurred in August. In 2014, walking down the street in Lima, I saw a headline in a Spanish-language Peruvian newspaper that suggested Russia had put its nuclear forces on red alert. With no way of actually checking what was going on, I figured I’d learn of any cataclysm in due time. I never did find out what that headline was about; to the best of my knowledge, no nuclear exchanges took place that summer. ...

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