For almost a decade before I came to Cup of Jo, the news was my job, so staying up on current events felt like second nature. But now that I’m a civilian, I don’t always have the time or instinct to read everything, even though my appetite for news has stayed strong. (I still check my phone if I wake up in the middle of the night!) Here are six ways I keep track of what’s going on…
The original news aggregator, Google News, been around in some form since 2002 (!) — pre-iPhone, pre-Twitter and pre-Huffington Post — and it’s as useful as ever. I set it as the homepage of my desktop browser, so whenever I open up my computer the top headlines are right there, sourced from thousands of different organizations around the world. My favorite thing is how it divides articles into “highly cited,” “in depth,” “real time,” “opinion,” etc., so whether I want to see the most talked about story on a particular event, the most recent one or a more comprehensive analytical take, I can find it instantly.
I listen to this free National Public Radio app when I’m cooking or walking around the city. Every time you open it up, you hear a five-minute news briefing that’s updated hourly. What I love the most is how NPR One mixes up straight-ahead news with more offbeat stories and podcast episodes, like This American Life or Code Switch. If you don’t want to listen to something in any given moment, though, you just tap a forward arrow to skip it. You’re basically your own news DJ.
An Old-Fashioned Newspaper
Print may die at some point, and I will be sad, but while it’s still around it offers one of the best parts of following the news: serendipity. As you flip through a paper, your eye lands on stories you might not have clicked into online. During my first week at The New York Times, one of my bosses told me the best way to stay informed — and break out of your personal news bubble — is to scan every page and section of a newspaper. I still do this often (we subscribe to the New York Times and the Wall Street Journal); I also like picking up a local paper when traveling.
The International Perspective
Sometimes I find the way U.S. outlets present the news to be frenetic and exhausting. (Have you noticed that 99% of the time CNN has a “Breaking News” banner?) So, I often visit BBC News, The Guardian, Al Jazeera, The Economist or other global sites. (If you speak a foreign language, many non-English outlets’ coverage offers the same tone shift.) The BBC in particular has always defined itself as independent and balanced, so if you’re craving a source for election news that feels more even-handed, check out the BBC’s coverage.
Signing up for a few good newsletters and reading them when you’re in the mood will give you a solid, quick hit of the news. Some of the best are: Economist Espresso, Next Draft, The New York Times Morning Briefing, The Pnut (pronounced “peanut”), the Quartz Daily Brief and The Skimm (though I wish its branding didn’t hint that women need an easier news experience than men).
Journalists on Facebook
Twitter’s character limit can be restrictive, but Facebook gives journalists a powerful way to speak directly to their readers. I subscribe to a handful of reporters, editors and broadcasters on Facebook who share fascinating posts in my news feed. A few favorites: Brian Stelter of CNN, Jodi Kantor of The New York Times and Dan Rather, who has been killing it on Facebook, so much so that The Atlantic and other publications have taken notice.
Which of these do you do? (I switch it up!) Do you have any other sources?
(Photo of Alfred Hitchcock by Philippe Halsman.)