Lately, I have noticed a common refrain: “I can’t read the news anymore. It’s too exhausting.”
Though I can certainly sympathize with that feeling, I still believe it is our civic duty to make ourselves aware of the world around us. While sitting down to watch an hour of depressing news every evening might be a lot to commit to, technology has given us many simple tools to break our news consumption down into bite-sized chunks. When the news is built into your normal everyday routine, it ceases to be an isolated activity that you have to work up the energy to do and instead becomes a familiar habit.
That being said, here are my tips for making yourself read the news — even when you don’t feel like it.
Assess news sources for truthfulness before following them.
The nonpartisan, Pulitzer Prize-winning site Politifact has a number of tools for vetting both news organizations and individuals. For example, they found that Fox News features mostly false, false, or pants-on-fire false statements 59% of the time. On the other hand, CNN has the highest cable news network rating for truthfulness, with 53% of statements rated as true or mostly true, and 20% of statements rated as half true. Politifact can assess individual politicians similarly: according to their statistics, only 16% of Trump’s statements are true or mostly true (whereas 47% of statements are false or pants-on-fire false), as compared to 49% of Obama’s statements being true or mostly true (with 12% being false, and just 2% being pants-on-fire false.) Politifact also runs a second fact-checking site called Punditfact, which evaluates how often political pundits lie or tell the truth. Snopes.com is another good fact-checking resource for any information you come across that seems suspicious.
Subscribe to a free newsletter or podcast from the New York Times.
The New York Times has some of the most reliable, time-tested national reporting available; if you can afford it, they only charge students $4/month for a digital subscription. You can also subscribe for free to either an evening newsletter or a morning newsletter (or both!) which will be delivered to your email inbox on weekdays. I usually spend just five minutes reading my morning email during my bus commute to campus. If you like having news emailed to you, they also have a free newsletter called “On Politics” that provides brief political analyses for current issues on Capitol Hill.
If you are more of a listener than a reader, I suggest trying some podcasts. The Daily is an engaging 20-minute morning podcast by the Times which frequently interviews reporters, major government officials, and political experts. I listen to The Daily each morning while I put on my makeup, or while I’m in the shower so I don’t have to set aside separate time during my day just for the news. I’ve also been enjoying their new podcast called The Argument, which features several Times opinion columnists from across the political spectrum debating contentious current events. Getting a sense of partisan viewpoints is particularly important in developing yourself as a well-rounded thinker. I also personally like The Rachel Maddow Show podcast.
Curate news and opinions from many perspectives.
For world news, it can be advantageous to consult non-US sources: the BBC and Al Jazeera are great options for a more global perspective. I also find it to be important to purposely seek out sources of news and opinions from organizations serving people of color, women, and other marginalized groups. For example, The Root has a high rating for factual information and it forefronts the perspectives of black Americans. Most major news organizations like these have apps that make it easy to check in during those short wait times throughout your day.
Integrate news into your social media.
By curating your feeds to include news you trust, you give yourself the opportunity to see the news in small doses throughout your day. On Instagram and Twitter, I follow dozens of reporters and politicians who frequently post current events, as well as news outlets like @Politico, @NYTGender and @the.root. Local accounts such as @DailyEmerald and @TheOregonian are great, too.
Individuals you trust and smaller organizations can also be a good resource here. I like to round out my news consumption with a variety of accounts from different perspectives: @GirlPowerSupply, @LatinaRebels, @NotSoIvoryTower, @Xicanisma_, @douconsideryourselfafeminist, and @Jezebel are just a few examples of pages I personally find useful. You can find similar groups, blogs, and news pages on Facebook: Showing Up for Racial Justice (SURJ), SURJ Springfield-Eugene, Anti-Racism Media, Current Affairs, HuffPost Queer Voices, HuffPost Black Voices, The Nation Magazine, Black Feminisms, and AJ+.
Cut out the middle-man.
My last tip is to abandon news distributors altogether, and go straight to the source. You can start by subscribing to ProPublica’s free IFTTT email service, which sends you the Congressional website description of any bill the president signs into law. The C-SPAN radio app can give you direct access to legislative proceedings as well.
My all-time favorite news hack is the free VoteSpotter app. This platform customizes to your representatives so that you can easily see how they are voting in live-time. You can turn notifications on to get push updates, or off if you prefer to just check in on the app once every day or two. The app gives a short legislative description of each bill on the floor, states whether or not it passed, and tells you how your representative voted. In addition, you can hit the share button to post information about that vote to your personal social media platforms.
You can also say whether you agree or disagree with your representative’s vote, which will allow you to see how many other users agreed or disagreed with the representative’s decision. Most importantly, the app gives you customized buttons to call or email your representative directly through the app in response to any vote. The app even pre-fills an email response for you based on whether you agree or disagree, if you aren’t sure what you want to say or how to say it formally.
With accessible tools like these in hand, you can become a political guru without exhausting yourself in the process. Just pick a few methods you prefer and, in the words of Childish Gambino, “stay woke.”