Keeping up with the news is almost impossible

Sunday , March 19, 2017 - 5:30 AM

E. KENT WINWARD, special to the Standard-Examiner

When I was growing up, my father subscribed to at least three newspapers that were delivered to our home. One paper would come in the morning, one in the evening, and then there was the weekly local paper, which covered local events that came in the mail. The local paper was often the most exciting because you likely knew or recognized some of the people who wrote for it from around town, and chances were good you, or people you knew, would appear in it some day. The Weekly Reflex, as a stand-alone publication, ran from 1904 to 1978.

The speed at which we receive our news and information has increased at a prodigious rate. Twitter gives us real-time updates on the Jazz game. Facebook fully chronicles the high school football game from multiple viewpoints. Instagram turns everyone into a photographer. What we've gained in speed corresponds to an increase in the volume of information available. Just one precocious, tech-savvy teenager could easily match the output of the old Weekly Reflex in a single day.

Television has undergone a similar transition. Now you watch what you want, when you want. News at 5 and 10 has become a constant 24-hour news cycle to watch whenever you wish.

I could go on, chronicling the changes in how we get our news, but I’d sound like an old curmudgeon, bemoaning technological change — and that isn’t the case. The changes are directly responsible for my opportunity to write a column for the Standard (the paper that used to come in the morning). The changes are responsible for my ability to use original governmental source material to cover everything from President Donald Trump’s executive orders, to the Utah Legislature, to Supreme Court decisions in order to address legal issues that are timely and relevant.

The problem? There's too much. Dozens of pending lawsuits across the country are being fought over the executive order banning travel from six Muslim countries. Numerous cases are being argued and decided at the Supreme Court, almost none of which any of us know about. I’ve only been able to read about 10 of the 535 new laws passed in Utah this year. Even regular old lawsuits can be overwhelming. A narrow area of law like contract disputes has more than two dozen lawsuits already filed this year in Weber County alone.

As I struggled on what and where to focus my attention this week, I was overwhelmed with the sheer volume of relevant and important legal stories — sort of like the paralysis of trying to pick something out of all the five-star movies you’ve placed in your Netflix queue. I try to tap into my inner psychic, hoping to find a story that will captivate you, my audience. What legal story will you find interesting? I know I shouldn’t write about the Microsoft lawsuit in front of the Supreme Court to determine the procedural rules for appealing the denial of the certification of a class-action at the trial court. The inner lawyer in me geeks out about things like that, but that's usually a clue that the information would be baffling and boring to most people.

So what is the most relevant legal news? Like the old Weekly Reflex, the things that are most interesting are things that impact our own lives. In all of the complexity of the legal system, when the law injects itself into our lives, then that law, that judicial ruling, that lawsuit, becomes an important legal issue to us.

People come into my office every day, and the only legal news that's really important to them is how the law impacts them at that moment, or in the future. Nothing else matters, but by the time they come to me looking for advice, the law has been in place for decades. The legal system permeates our lives, and we live within the atmosphere it creates, but rarely does it show up in a newspaper.

You can take three newspapers, you can scour the Internet, watch Fox, CNN, and MSNBC, set Google alerts and be vigilant, but even with that kind of diligence, you won't be able to keep up with all the changes, all the cogs running in the complex clockworks of the law and its impact on the world at large. But the legal system impacts us, whether we read about it or not.

When the Legislature passes a law or a court issues a ruling, the impact reverberates throughout our lives, just as if it was delivered to our doorstep with the precision and punctuality of an expert paper boy or girl, an early morning news carrier who tosses the black and white bundle right onto our porches, the red elastic band surrounding vital information we crave — information about the world we care about the most: our own.

E. Kent Winward is an Ogden attorney. Twitter: @KentWinward.

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