Google engineer goes news-free for a month

Matt Cutts is a self-improvement stuntman. Every month the Google engineer tries to challenge himself to give up or take up something -- exercise, vocabulary-building, meat-eating, mustache growth -- and then he duly records the result. E.g., "it turns out that Northern California (and especially at Google) is a pretty easy place to go vegan."

All of that seemed pretty harmless until Cutts gave up news for a month.

I’m not kidding when I say a huge fraction of my “entertainment” time was actually news consumption. And if news is your hobby, that’s fine, but it should be a deliberate choice, not something you back into.

So out went watching his Twitter feed (though he decided his "mostly news-free" mentions column would be OK). No more reading on the smartphone when he waited in line. And in what would make me really do some soul-searching if I was an editor there, he decided that Wired magazine was fine.

Two weeks into his news-dep routine, Cutts reports he's doing great.

Without news to occupy me, large swaths of time have opened up to do other things. I’ve gotten a lot more stuff done in the last couple weeks. It’s curiously freeing to have no idea who won Super Tuesday or what company just bought what other company. When an occasional piece of news lands in front of me, I’m much more aware of my heart speeding up as I get wrapped up in that story.

There may be a few heads exploding at the notion of a guy who works for a company that recorded more revenue than the entire newspaper industry last year giving up on the RSS feeds, Twitter streams, incremental blog posts and cat/bacon videos that keep food on the table for what's left of the news business. You have two weeks to write whatever you want about that!

  • Andrew Beaujon

    Andrew Beaujon reported on the media for Poynter from 2012 to 2015. He was previously arts editor at and managing editor of Washington City Paper. He's the author of the 2006 book "Body Piercing Saved My Life," about Christian rock and evangelical Christian culture.


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