You work hard to achieve the benefits of a low-information diet: improved focus, less anxiety, and more time and energy for the relationships and goals that really matter.
You’re also a knowledgeable citizen and an active participant in your community and world. You’re driven to stay educated and informed. But even the slightest peek at a news site (or worse, social media) opens up a vortex of unlimited stimulation – which is a huge risk to your mindset and productivity.
The sad truth is that no one can “just check in” anymore. Even the best publications live and die on page views, and everything about their design is built to suck you in and keep you clicking. And if you do manage to take a few days off, you risk totally missing something valuable, because the “more more more” of the 24-hour news cycle means a great article might evaporate if you don’t catch it in time.
You’re smart. You’re accomplished. You’re productive. But when it comes to the infinite inputs of media, your brain is working against you. It’s simply impossible to effectively filter the visual, auditory and literary overload without the risk of getting sucked back in to the addiction and anxiety of click-driven news.
We all cope with this challenge in different ways.
Tune out completely, and you risk losing touch with the important events and movements in your world. Try to limit yourself, and you waste precious mental energy fighting a futile neurological battle against every click. Rely on your friends’ Facebook echo chamber, and you’re just screwed.
For eight years, I’ve searched for a neurologically balanced approach to staying informed.
I’m Rob Howard, the author and founder of Hiatus. I’ve spent the last eight years working to bridge the gap between the benefits of a low-information diet and the desire to be a knowledgeable, engaged participant in my democracy and my world.
My background in journalism, publishing and design has taught me that there are great reporters out there telling stories worth reading. The fact that the traditional newspaper and magazine industry has been upended by infinite, inexpensive competition in the Internet age hasn’t changed the value of journalism, but it has made it a hell of a lot harder for an individual to separate the wheat from the chaff.
I’m also a web developer and technology entrepreneur with an inside perspective on the business models and design techniques behind click-addicted news. It’s no secret that our digital world is built to light up your brain with constant check-ins and perpetual motion. No matter where you look, no matter what web site or device you’re on, everyone’s angling for one more minute of your time.
There’s nothing inherently wrong with lots of competition or with making money from advertising impressions. The problem is that the result – an environment of infinite inputs and unlimited stimulation – no longer accomplishes the most important goals of the individuals news organizations say they serve. A deep dive into a great publication used to be a thoughtful, deliberate experience. It’s now the neurological equivalent of a sitting down at a shiny, spinning slot machine.
I searched high and low for a solution that could provide me with a slower, calmer, more neurologically balanced experience without resorting to cutting myself off from the events of the world. The challenge is that publications have financial needs – and at the moment, the best way to meet those needs is to turn your web site into a thinly veiled casino. Even if they have the best intentions, there’s no immediate payoff for publications to slow down your engagement. They’re competing in an industry of “more more more.”
That’s why I created Hiatus – to redesign the experience of engaging with your world.
I’ve spent decades building a thriving career as a technology entrepreneur by merging my background in journalism, design and advertising with my passions for web development and lifestyle design. My start-ups have been featured in Entertainment Weekly, TechCrunch, Newsweek and U.S. News & World Report, and my clients have included Harvard, MIT and The World Bank. Through it all, I’ve spent thousands of hours cultivating a low-information lifestyle that allows me to achieve focus in my personal life and career while staying involved in my community and my world.
Hiatus is the simple, powerful tool I’ve always wished I had.
Introducing Hiatus, a new way to get your news the old-fashioned way.
Hiatus redesigns the experience of reading the news to deliver a slower, calmer, neurologically appropriate balance that keeps you informed without hijacking your brain.
Hiatus is a straightforward, insightful summary of the week’s events, delivered to your inbox every Thursday.
Every week, I’ll send you a short-and-sweet exploration of current events, in a form that’s easy for you to digest and is specifically designed as a one-time, focused learning experience, with no distractions. Since I don’t care about clicks, I do things differently:
- No external links to news sites or social media
- No likes, comments or social sharing
- No clickbait or over-the-top headlines
- No distractions
Each issue will include a briefing on current events – a mix of government, entertainment, business and sports – and an occasional deep dive into a specific focus area or outside resource – such as a book or documentary – that I think is particularly insightful, educational or fun, so you can spend focused time on something that’s truly valuable (and avoid the urge to aimlessly surf).
With Hiatus, you can finally ditch the vortex of unlimited information – without sacrificing your role as an informed, educated, active citizen of the world. And you can stop fighting an endless, unwinnable battle of willpower to reclaim your time and focus – because you know everything you need will be delivered to you in a simple, relaxed, respectful weekly e-mail.
Every week, Hiatus helps thousands of people stay informed without losing control.
“I had to stop reading the news.”
Over and over, I heard my friends say this. The most engaged, intelligent, honest people I know were being forced to completely check out of current events. They correctly identified that news publications were playing to our worst tendencies – stirring up fear, anger and emotion instead of reason, compassion and compromise – because it drove page views and sold ads.
I also realized that their choice to avoid the news made total sense at an individual level. But with a larger perspective, the result is that our most engaged, knowledgeable citizens are also the ones who reject the media’s presentation of current events – and as a result, most public discourse ends up in the hands of people who embrace and enjoy the fear-, anger- and click-based news cycle.
Some Hiatus readers don’t read any other news – and they’ve told me that every week, when they hear friends chatting or debating about current events, they love the feeling of being informed and knowledgeable without getting trapped in the media black hole.
Other Hiatus readers still read the news, but can finally relax about it. A reader in Colorado told me, “I used to check into the news 10+ times a day during work, now it’s just a couple times a day, and I tell myself that if I miss something, Hiatus will catch me up on Thursday.”
Here’s what some other readers – from across the age, location and political spectrums – have told me about their Hiatus experience:
“It wasn’t biased and kept to the facts, which helps avoid the echo chamber feel.”
“I love the straightforward and non-political aspects of the articles.”
“I am finally up to speed with news instead of my head being in the sand.“
“This morning I read Hiatus to my five-year-old daughter, and we got to talk about so many great learning points!”
“With Hiatus, I don’t wait when it arrives. I read it immediately, because I know I can finish it without investing a huge amount of time. I’m confident that I’m getting straight-forward news with no fluff.”
Here’s a complete sample briefing, so you can see exactly what they mean.
Subject: Your Hiatus Briefing for June 9
Hi <Your Name>,
Here’s what’s new while you’ve been on Hiatus.
The UK’s Conservative Party lost its majority in Parliament in Thursday’s election
Prime Minister Theresa May, who leads the Conservative Party, called the election two months ago with the goal of increasing the party’s existing majority at a time when it was popular in opinion polls. However, the party lost significant support during the campaign, and rather than picking up seats, it lost 12 seats, while the liberal Labour party picked up 30 seats.
The result is that the Conservative Party will no longer hold a majority in Parliament, even though they still hold the most seats of any party. This will require the Conservative Party to work in concert with members of other parties to form a majority coalition. That coalition will also determine whether May stays on as the prime minister.
In two weeks, the UK will begin negotiations with the European Union about the terms of its exit from the union. Prime Minister May took office in July 2016, after the Brexit vote, and formally initiated the process of leaving the EU in March.
Three men killed 8 people and injured 48 in an attack that started on the London Bridge
The three men crashed a van into pedestrians walking on the bridge, then exited the vehicle and began stabbing people in a nearby market. Police killed the three men on the scene and later identified them as a 27-year-old British citizen, a 22-year-old dual Italian-Moroccan citizen, and a 30-year-old Libyan-Moroccan citizen, all of whom lived in London.
The Italian man had previously been detained by Italian police at an airport with a one-way ticket to Istanbul. Police there said he had Islamic State propaganda on his phone and intercepted him because they said his flight route raised flags that he might be traveling to connect with the Islamic State in Syria. The British man had been previously identified by police as an extremist, and appeared in a documentary called “The Jihadis Next Door,” which showed him displaying the black flag of Islam (a symbol used by the Islamic State) at a prayer session in a park. The Islamic State claimed responsibility for the attack, but police have not confirmed whether the men had direct contact with or assistance from the organization.
This week in Manchester, Ariana Grande held a benefit concert for the victims of the suicide bombing that took place outside her concert on May 22. The family of the suspected bomber told authorities they believed he sympathized with the Islamic State. Police have not publicly released evidence of direct contact with the group and said he acted largely alone in creating the bomb.
Former FBI Director James Comey testified before Congress
Comey testified under oath in a public hearing before the Senate Intelligence Committee. He described a series of private conversations he had with President Trump in which he says the president asked him to end the investigation into whether advisors to the Trump campaign colluded with Russians to affect the outcome of the 2016 election.
Comey testified that President Trump said, “I hope you can see your way clear to letting this go,” in reference to the investigation, which at the time centered around the actions of National Security Advisor Michael Flynn. Trump fired Flynn after it was revealed he had failed to disclose financial connections to a Russian government-run media agency and a business in Turkey. (Because Flynn is a retired army officer, he is required to formally disclose income from foreign entities.)
President Trump fired Comey two months after that conversation, and in subsequent interviews, Trump said that he considered the Russia investigation when he made that decision. After his firing, Comey shared his memos from his meetings with Trump with a friend, who anonymously shared them with The New York Times. Those articles prompted the Justice Department to appoint a largely independent special counsel to continue the investigation.
The president has the power to fire the FBI director at any time and is not required to provide a reason for the firing. Today’s testimony from Comey is relevant to the question of whether President Trump attempted to compel Comey to end the investigation, which could be treated as obstruction of justice. (Obstruction of justice was one of the charges on which Bill Clinton was impeached.) Comey said he interpreted Trump’s statement as an order, but during questioning from senators, acknowledged that it had not been phrased as an order.
President Trump’s lawyer denied the quotes Comey attributed to Trump in his testimony. President Trump has previously suggested there might be tapes of the meetings, to which Comey responded in his testimony, “I’ve seen the tweet about tapes. Lordy, I hope there are tapes.”
President Trump will nominate Christopher Wray as the new FBI Director
Wray served as an assistant attorney general during the George W. Bush administration. Since 2005, he’s worked for a private law firm. He represented New Jersey Governor Chris Christie during the George Washington Bridge lane closure investigation, which resulted in three of Christie’s appointees and staff being convicted of conspiracy in 2016 for closing lanes to cause traffic jams as revenge against the mayor of the city on the New Jersey side of the bridge, who didn’t support Christie’s election.
Wray’s nomination will move to the Senate for confirmation.
Nine countries, including Saudi Arabia and Egypt, cut diplomatic ties with Qatar
The dispute centers around Qatar’s support for Iran, the Muslim Brotherhood and Hamas. The immediate effect on Qatar, a peninsula in the Persian Gulf that borders Saudi Arabia, is the removal of diplomats and the closure of travel routes and trade with the nine countries, all of which are in the Middle East and Africa. A similar dispute took place in 2014, when Saudi Arabia, Bahrain and the United Arab Emirates withdrew their ambassadors from Qatar for eight months.
Saudi Arabia says Qatar is “financing, adopting and sheltering extremists,” including groups in Yemen and Syria, both of which are currently in civil war. Saudi Arabia alleges that Qatar supports the Muslim Brotherhood, an organization that’s prominent in Egypt (and whose candidate won the 2012 presidential election) which some nations label a terrorist group, and Hamas in Palestine, which the U.S. has labeled as a terrorist group. President Trump has suggested that the U.S. should label the Muslim Brotherhood a terrorist group but has not formally done so.
Qatar is the location of a American military base that houses about 10,000 troops, is the host of 2020 Summer Olympics, and owns the Al Jazeera media network. It is slightly smaller in area than Connecticut. Its leader is a hereditary monarch, and it has the world’s highest per-capita income and the world’s third-largest oil and natural gas reserves.
On the Radar:
- Ireland’s new prime minister will take office on June 13. He is the country’s first gay prime minister and its first prime minister of Indian descent. At 38 years old, he is also the youngest prime minister in the country’s history.
- In Iran, six men killed 12 people with guns and suicide bombings outside the Parliament building and a national monument in Tehran. The Islamic State claimed responsibility for the attack.
- In Syria, the US and its allies have begun a major attack on the city of Raqqa, a headquarters of the Islamic State.
- In Afghanistan, four people died during anti-government protests after last week’s bombing in the embassy district of Kabul, which killed 150 people. The next day, three bombs exploded at a funeral for one of the people killed during the protests, killing an additional seven people and injuring more than 100.
- Uber has fired 20 employees as a result of its investigation into sexual harassment and discrimination.
- Apple revealed the HomePod, a voice-controlled speaker that competes with the Amazon Echo and Google Home. It goes on sale in December.
- In the NHL Stanley Cup Finals, the Pittsburgh Penguins lead the Nashville Predators, 3-2, in a best-of-seven series.
- In the NBA Finals, the Golden State Warriors have won the first three games in the best-of-seven series against the Cleveland Cavaliers.
Questions about today’s briefing? Just reply to this e-mail and I’ll get back to you right away.
Until next week, enjoy your Hiatus.
– Rob Howard, Author & Founder