Hurricane Katrina hit two years ago today, while I was on vacation, and for that reason it was one of the weirdest vacations I’ve ever had. I was on an island in Maine, with no Internet access, no cable, no TV reception, little radio reception and hardly any cell phone service. I was vaguely aware that a big storm was brewing in the gulf, but I had no idea what had happened until a couple days later, when I bought a New York Times in Belfast and saw on the cover that New Orleans had become part of the sea.
Especially for a TV critic, the experience was strange and frustrating. When I got back to work the next week, Katrina was the only news there was, and the entire political dynamic of the country had changed–as had the media’s treatment of the Bush administration, as evidenced by the dramatic coverage of the disaster and TV news’ adversarial questioning of authorities… none of which I was able to see. As a TV critic, I may as well have been on the moon that week.
That said, it was interesting professionally to experience a major news event for once not by immersing myself in every electronic source, but simply by picking up the occasional newspaper or what few news shows I could tune in in the car. No talking/screaming heads, no hitting Refresh every five minutes. In the long run, I don’t think I was any less well-informed.
In general when I go on vacation, I try to vacation from the media too. But I will take screener DVDs for work, and I will cheat, checking e-mail or Tuned In. I try not to, though, and I shouldn’t. Sometimes you just need a break from stimulation, from the incessant electronic hammerhammerhammer.
All of which leads up to this: I assume you’re a more media-obsessed audience than average. When you go on vacation, do you also go on vacation from TV, the Web, your email, your cell phone, your Blackberry (that electronic dog leash) and the news? Or do you find yourself jonesing for your information fix? Is it even possible to get away from it all anymore?