How do you get your news?
Callie Schweitzer recently posted an awesome piece entitled “How We Internet: Finding the right news among too many options”—a detailed…
It’s no secret that the Internet has forever altered the way in which news is broken. As Callie put it, gone are “the days of waiting for the newspaper thud outside the front door.” In some cases, gone are the days of the newspaper altogether. With publications like The Times-Picayune cutting back to three print editions a week, and outlets like Newsweek stopping print publication entirely, the digital landscape is undoubtedly changing the way we receive and process news.
In an age accustomed to instant gratification, all it takes is a quick Google search or the monitoring of a Twitter feed to get the news in real-time. But this need for constant updates can be dangerous, as proven by the whole Twitter and Reddit debacle during their coverage of the Boston Marathon bombing. Twitter’s like a game of telephone: one false fact can trigger a rumor-mill that spirals out of control in no time. Social media’s response to the Boston attacks illustrates the importance of responsible citizen journalism, not to mention responsible media reporting. (In a rush to be the first to report breaking news, for example, CNN managed to botch the facts and report false information. As The New York Times put it, CNN’s John King was a “good reporter with a set of bad facts”, but that doesn’t make their errors any less egregious.)
Responsible citizen journalism aside, I think Callie raises a key point in her article: The process of getting news involves more choice than ever. As she writes:
“We have access to unlimited options and sources to fill what seems like ever more limited time. This paradox of choice can be incredibly overwhelming if it’s not streamlined or ritualized in some way — hence why we form news reading habits.”
Callie goes on to explore the difference between the news you find and the news that finds you, but what I’d really love to learn more about is how to weed out the good from the bad, the quality from the junk. We’re constantly bombarded by online noise: status updates and tweets and articles and likes and shares. How do you know where to draw the line? How are you supposed to know which media outlets to actually believe, especially when top outlets publish conflicting accounts or when normally trustworthy sources like The Associated Press have their Twitter accounts hacked?
And yet the part of Callie’s piece that I found most fascinating was her look at her own habits as they pertain to news consumption. All I could think as I read about her eight-step process was, “Wow. I’m definitely not reading enough.”
The Sparknotes version of Callie’s daily routine (you’re a rock star, lady!):
- Reads The New York Times in print before work every morning;
- Opens Pocket (the “read it later” app) on the subway and reads as much as she can during her commute;
- At work, opens seven tabs: Gmail, Facebook, Twitter, NYTimes.com, and her company’s three sites;
- Scans email newsletters (she subscribes to more than 20!), though she notes that she does only a quick skim of some and then spends the weekends catching up;
- Checks her Facebook newsfeed for stories shared by people she’s not close with, since studies show that your weakest ties have the potential to point you to news that you wouldn’t have discovered yourself;
- Uses TweetDeck to filter incoming news from Twitter;
- Subscribes to several (i.e. at least nine) magazines in print;
- Checks her company’s websites to see what’s happening in the worlds of tech, culture, gaming, and sports.
In comparison, here’s the re-cap of my daily news reading routine:
- Scan the recent headlines on my walk to the subway. (I’m a big fan of The Associated Press app; there’s a helpful “10 Things to Know for Today” article posted every morning).
- Think about taking a free copy of Metro or am New York to read on the subway… and decide not to. Truthfully, my morning commute is usually dedicated to reading a few articles on my phone, catching up on emails that I received overnight, or—my personal favorite—sneaking in the next chapter of whatever book I’m reading. I know that I should probably be more consistent about reading up on world news, but sometimes I’d really just rather read my book. And so I do.
- Upon arriving at work, do a quick scan of my Twitter feed for any breaking headlines or interesting articles. Do my best not to click on articles unrelated to work for fear of getting sidetracked and wasting too much time.
- Delete the newsletters I’ve signed up for, usually without reading most of the articles. One thing I’ve learned about my news reading habits is that, with the exception of PR Daily and sometimes The New Yorker, I rarely click on the links sent out in newsletters. In fact, my pattern is pretty consistent: subscribe to receive updates from a site I like, become annoyed with the daily newsletters, unsubscribe, and then regret my decision, confident that I’d actually read more news if it were coming to me instead of having to seek it out. Wash, rinse, repeat.
- Check my Facebook newsfeed for interesting articles… and/or recent engagements and/or decisions about where people are going to grad school. I know, I know, I shouldn’t. But I do.
- Catch up on what’s going on in the publishing, education, and PR industries. Thanks to TweetDeck, I can easily view my Twitter lists side-by-side. I’ve also set up my Google alerts so they go directly to my Google Reader and Feedly account; I’ll comb through those to make sure I haven’t missed anything major. Then I skim the work-related blogs I’m subscribed to, and pull out anything I want to read more thoroughly in a separate tab. If I don’t get to said articles by the end of the day, I usually save them to Pocket and vow to read them later.
- Contemplate subscribing to print editions of magazines. Realize that it would likely result in one more item on my To Do List. Decide not to subscribe/waste paper/spend money. Second-guess my decision. Tell myself I’ll just stick to reading magazines at the gym and buy my favorites (New York Magazine, Women’s Health, Real Simple) for long flights.
- Check Twitter periodically throughout the day for news updates. Twitter really is the fastest way for me to get my information. When I have the time, I love browsing news apps that curate interesting content, namely Zite, Pulse, and Flipboard. I’ve also signed up to receive New York Times updates via email, though these days they tend to arrive at least 15 minutes after the news has broken on Twitter.
Of course, there’s no right or wrong way to get your news. I have so much respect for people like Callie who can practically absorb it through osmosis. But much as I’d love to be like that, I’ve come to the realization that it stresses me out more than it makes me feel informed. I’m curious—am I the only one who feels like she doesn’t have time to thoroughly read the news each day? Does anyone else bury his or her head in the sand like I do and opt to read novels instead of headlines during the daily commute?