I’ve had a number of conversations with friends recently about how I find and read news since I have no social media accounts (I don’t really count LinkedIn since I only use it to help former students who are trying to get jobs or promotions). I read lots of long form articles and essays from a variety of sources. From time to time, I plan to recommend these outlets here on What Work Is. But this is how I have approached news since I stopped getting it in my “news feed” on Facebook:
- Attempt to only look at news sites twice a day, in the morning and evening. *Once in a while I hear that there is some kind of breaking news and I’ll jump on to read.
- Avoid news agencies prone to sensationalism (clickbait titles, overlarge font for titles, overblown rhetoric, and so on).
- Find news sources that organize their articles, at least in part, based on categories of knowledge (National and International, Religious, Scientific, Cultural, Political, Entertainment, etc.).
I want to be an informed citizen and a thoughtful, caring member of my community. Reading the news twice a day seems to allow me to be informed and give me the head space to consider what I’ve read or seen. I’ve come to view the inhuman pace of social media news feeds as harmful.
Sensationalism has been prevalent in U.S. news since the beginning. I want a news agency that will address me (as much as possible) in good faith. I don’t mind if the source has a particular bent. After all, we’re getting news from humans, not robots (or we should be, one more reason I don’t get my news from social media). I’m happy to decipher rhetoric as I read, I just don’t want a news source that obviously resorts to crazy headlines, bombastic rhetoric, and overt manipulation to keep me clicking. This is especially true if the information that they are giving me is something I want to be true. The temptation to check my mind at the door and be carried away by the tides of my wants is too great for me to fool around with.
Finally, the breakdown in categories of knowledge is deeply concerning to me. See my post on Content Collapse. The idea that everything is of equal weight and importance (Explosions in Lebanon, cat pictures, Black Lives Matter, and The Rock buying the XFL) is confusing and damaging to our communities. I once opened CNN.com and saw a headline proclaiming that John Mayer broke up with Jennifer Aniston by text message. Now I know that. It has somehow stuck in my head (I’m hoping that it mostly stays there because I use it as an object lesson but I’m afraid it is because the headline infected me). Why did I see it? Because it was one of the top headlines for that day, I assume. (Update: I had written “pure sensationalism” here, but I think it is banality instead)
My guidelines certainly wont work for everyone, but maybe this post will be helpful for some of you who are struggling with how to engage without being overwhelmed in the rising tide. Good luck to you.