Whether you take in the latest national/local news via television, printed newspaper, or a series of RSS news feeds (my personal preference), there’s no question that the headlines have been plenty bleak as of late.  For every article discussing a company that’s received new funding, or is currently achieving some level or success or growth, there seem to be 10 other articles talking about companies that are in trouble or having to resort to layoffs.

It’s gotten so bad, in fact, that many of the self-help gurus and personal development books out there are suggesting that people should not pay attention to the news at all.  They recommend embarking on a total “news fast” and replacing this time by listening to music or engaging in other more positive activities, instead.  On the surface, this makes sense.  After all, it certainly stands to reason that it can be difficult to maintain a positive attitude in a job search if all one hears is a stream of depressing developments in the business world, day after day.

After considering the matter more carefully, however, is this really the right move?  While I certainly can sympathize with the difficulty of keeping one’s spirits up in a job hunt these days, I’m not totally convinced that following an “avoidance strategy” with regard to the marketplace is necessarily the best idea.  For starters, despite the moribund tone in most business coverage these days, one will still witness some occasional bright spots that could signal an emerging opportunity or a new company to explore.  Just today, in fact, my review of the Puget Sound Business Journal news feed reveals that Microvision received a $750,000 new contract from the U.S. Army, that  Salvatore Ferragamo is opening a new store in Bellevue, and that local start-up SmartSheet.com raised $1.25 million in new funding.

Additionally, while this may be a personal preference, in my own case I know that I always like to make decisions with as many facts at my disposal as possible, however unpleasant or discouraging they might be.  Job searches, after all, are all about decisions, choices, and tradeoffs and I therefore think that it’s important for people to arm themselves with as much data as they can before making career-altering decisions.  Should one settle on a sub-par job opportunity or take a part-time gig, just to get some cash flow coming in?  Should one quit a current job they despise in order to seek their fortunes elsewhere?  Is perhaps now the right time to start a business, or embark on a major career change, given that traditional employment seems like such a spotty proposition?  Idealistic notions aside, these are the real-world questions that job seekers wrestle with every day, and it would strike me as both silly and misguided to try and make these kinds of decisions in a vacuum — with no consideration of the marketplace context at large.

So ultimately, perhaps I’m just not qualified to argue with the “Tony Robbins” set who seem to be insisting that people cut themselves off completely from the daily news cycle.  As stated above, however, I’d suggest that people think twice before taking this step.  If nothing else, think hard about your own psychology and motivational drivers.  If you’re the type of person who is prone to anxiety, or who finds it difficult to stay focused and positive in the face of adversity, then it very well might make sense to limit your exposure to the nightly newscast.  On the other hand, if you feel you can effectively harvest the occasional positive nugget from the news without letting the overall picture beat you down, then there may be no reason to quit your favorite anchorman or woman, cold turkey.

And one final consideration: while so many people are obviously having to concentrate on improving their own situation immediately on a “micro” level, can we all truly afford to go to sleep at the wheel and ignore the broader lessons, on a “macro” level, that led us into this mess in the first place?