This is not an article about why you should read the news. High school and college students already get enough of that from teachers, parents, and civically-minded friends. This is for those who already know they should keep up with the news but are having a tough time getting started. I know this struggle all too well; I understand that it’s important to be an informed citizen, but the news can be complicated and overwhelming. A simple way to get started is to take a look at some of the major news outlets, pick a couple that are right for you, and set aside some time to just read.
Traditional News Outlets
I like to call these forms of media “The Old Way”: broadcast journalism, newspapers, and public radio. Some of us have a natural interest in the news: it’s easy to sit down and watch CNN or read the newspaper over breakfast. However, for me and many others, it doesn’t come so easy. These traditional forms of media are a good place to become familiar with current events.
Broadcast television is arguably the most popular. We’ve all watched CNN, NBC, or FOX News at some point. These television networks do a good job of summarizing current events on a local, national, or global scale. A flaw of broadcast journalism is bias: prejudice in favor of one group or ideology. Networks like CNN and NBC tend to tell stories from a liberal point of view, while FOX News undoubtedly leans conservative. While you might already have an idea of your political stances, it’s best to stay away from biased media; the news should be about becoming engaged and forming your own opinions, not simply agreeing with the person who is on the TV screen. Broadcast news is best for quick briefers, local coverage, and maybe a more enriching form of entertainment.
Print journalism, or newspapers, is the most established form of media, as it’s been around for centuries. The United States got its start through groups of people who wrote about independence and liberty in local newspapers. Nowadays, the most popular national newspapers include The New York Times, The Los Angeles Times, The Boston Globe, and The Chicago Tribune. And of course, almost every town or city has its own newspaper system. For the most part, newspapers are great at remaining unbiased, providing in-depth coverage, and offering a broad range of topics. And what’s great about newspapers is that they will deliver straight to your house every morning, so you can start your day off right!
My personal favorite from “The Old Way” is public radio. You might have tuned your car’s radio to NPR, or National Public Radio, at some point and heard a calm voice recapping the day’s events or someone being interviewed for a story. NPR has some of the best coverage on not just the news, but also on arts, culture, and music. One of the best parts of NPR is its Hourly Newscast, which summarizes the day’s news in 5 minutes or less at the top of every hour. Along with the news, NPR also has some great podcasts to engage your mind and start some conversations. Public radio is great company on your daily commute to school or work, or on a longer drive. Click here to find your local NPR station!
New Forms of Media
This is where talk of news gets exciting. You might have heard of a term called “new media”, which is basically an umbrella term for all content or communication that goes through the internet. And when I say new, I mean new; newspapers may have been around for centuries, but the internet has only been around for a couple decades. Every form of internet communication can go here, but I’ll stick to the ones that will be helpful in keeping up with the news. (Oh and by the way, almost all of the traditional media I listed above has a website or some sort of app for iPhone/Android!)
Specialized websites and blogs are a gift of the century. The Prospect is a fine example of this: specific purpose and audience, steady stream of content, interactive. Some new websites or blogs that could help you keep up with the news could be: The Huffington Post, BuzzFeed, and a couple targeted towards youth, like Kicker and Fusion. It’s so easy to just browse around these websites and find articles on current events that seem interesting to you and are written in a way you can understand.
It’s also important to discuss how social media can help in keeping up with the news. Facebook, Twitter, and Youtube can actually be a great way to stay updated. One way to do this is to like or follow news publications like The New York Times, NPR, or The Huffington Post on all of your social media accounts. Then your timeline will include news updates as they happen, so you won’t be out of the loop anymore!
Strategies and Tips
Now that I’ve gone over all the different news outlets, I’d like to end with a couple of tips or strategies to help you all get started.
1. Start with one traditional news outlet and one new form of media.
It may seem like a lot of options, so just choose one that sounds appealing to you and follow through with that one. As you become more familiar with the news, you can start adding more.
2. Set aside a portion of your day (or maybe even just once a week) to catch up on news.
Making the news part of your morning routine is a great way to do this. If you decide you like NPR, just listen to the news on your drive to school. Skim through your feeds on your phone or a tablet while eating breakfast. Whatever works to make staying informed part of your day!
3. Find ways to talk about the news.
Doing this will help you form your own opinions and gain other perspectives. Parents, teachers, friends–anyone who’s willing. Some extracurricular activities are perfect for this, like speech and debate.
4. Start with general news headlines, like national and international, and then work your way to more specific ones.
You might find you love the politics and government section. Or you might love the arts section. Opinion, education, business, technology, science, health. Finding that one section you love could even help in choosing college majors and career paths.
5. A big caution from yours truly: Do not overload.
Nowadays, information is everywhere. When I first started getting into the news, I was overwhelmed by email newsletters, Twitter feeds, saved articles–everything. I could have saved myself a lot of time and energy if I just stuck with one or two sources of news and focused on those. News is great, but also don’t overwhelm yourself.
Now all of this might seem like a lot, but I want to emphasize starting small with just a couple news sources, and then branching out to others. And for motivation: being an informed citizen is rewarding. You are overall more educated, more worldly-minded, and more attractive to colleges/employers (and maybe even to that special someone!). Keeping up with the news is a great way to grow intellectually and spend your time wisely.