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Interview: Katie Antoniou gets the headlines from Alain de Botton on his new book The News: A User's Manual

Philosopher Alain de Botton has diagnosed us with a new ailment - we've had too much news. Now we're plugged into the latest updates 24/7, Alain suggests that news has replaced religion in our society and in The News: A User's Manual, he guides us through how to make this a healthier habit.

We chatted to him about his own personal news habits, how to avoid clickbait, and the nature of those who leave comments on news websites..

KA: How and when do you personally consume the news?

AB: All the time: in bed, the bath, the car, the desk. On all media. It's the modern age...

KA: Your 'spoof' news site The Philosophers' Mail has some brilliant headlines like 'Not as much news as previously thought'. There's notably no comments section on the site- can you explain why you chose this format?

AB: It's not spoof! It's a very serious site aiming to challenge the hegemony of the Mail. We chose the Mail as a target because they are the world's most popular site in the English language. They do a lot of things right, but also a lot wrong. We didn't want to emulate The Guardian, who are collapsing from lack of readers. We want to take the battle to the door of the slickest operation around. We want big good ideas to have traction, we want to rival the Mail...

Comments often show people at their worst. It's like reading someone's journal: people rant and rave and are far nastier than they are in real life. Our feeling is that comments bring out the worst in people, but that they're basically far nicer than that. Because it's important to stay hopeful about human nature, we preferred to leave the comments out...

KA: The way news is delivered is still changing to cater to our ever decreasing attention spans- the 'clickbait' style headlines characteristic of sites like Upworthy have very recently become a phenomenon, probably since you finished your book? How do you feel about the 'this video will change your opinion about X' style of reporting? It only makes me adamant not to have my mind changed about anything!

AB: It's deeply annoying, we can't help but click. But after 20 goes, we get wise and give up. Upworthy will fade away. People want to be fed, not teased with junk food.

KA: How else do you see the delivery of the news changing in the future?

AB: The Philosophers' Mail will end up dominating the media landscape! But alongside that, I think we'll get better at finding our way to the news we really need. We're still learning how to get the information that can help, rather than distract us.

KA: You suggest that the news has replaced religion in our society- what do you think should be replacing religion instead?

AB: I'm fine with news replacing it - but it has to be well curated, wise news. It has to be news that aims to help the nation and the individual to flourish.

KA: In your book you offer tips on how people can change their relationship with the news- could you share just a couple with us here?

AB: 1. Be aware that consuming news is one of the weirdest and most complex things we do. Take on board the oddity of it, and study what it does to you.

2. Don't despise celebrity and 'low' news, but learn to use it carefully, to help you to be a better version of yourself. More on all this inside!

The News: A User's Manual is available to buy here. Hear Alain talking about his book at The Royal Society of Architecture here- you'll need to join the waiting list- or pop to Bath to hear him speak at the Independent Bath Literature Festival. The festival's artistic director Viv Groskop recommends Alain's appearances here.

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