The truth is busy people don’t have time to filter through commentary, advertising, gossip, non-news, and bias to get the few headlines that matter. The evening TV news is a poor option for many families because the content is too unpredictable for kids (and we’re too tired to stay up for the late broadcast).
I had a vague awareness it would be harder to keep up with current events when I became a mother. My best friend (H; then a stay-at-home-mom of three) often joked about how oblivious she felt about the state of the nation and world. She knew it was important to be an informed citizen but is just too darned busy. I only really started to empathize when my son became a toddler trying to climb through, jump on, stick fingers in, or swallow everything in sight.
Hopefully this list of ideas helps you find a way to get the news you want with time left to focus on your real priorities. I am a spreadsheet geek so for those of you who want comparisons of specific resources check out our Current Events Sources. I will continue to update it regularly as I find new sources. Any of these solutions should keep you informed almost as well as before your time and brain were monopolized by your children, hobby, or job. Or if you’re really desperate, you can check out our short-list of what our Recent News Highlights (aka the “keep me from looking like a deer in headlights at a social event with semi-informed adults” list).
Independent News Sites
I admit, there’s no such thing as zero bias. The best you can hope for in a news site is one you can tailor or that already matches your interests. Because after all, what good is news if it’s not relevant? Look for front pages that have detailed headlines rather than long articles, are easy to read, and display well on your mobile device(s). The goal is to find something you can check at a glance and get the major headlines in about a minute.
RSS (Really Simple Syndication)
Many folks use a specific RSS viewer, but your desktop e-mail software or internet browser may already have the function. It’s a convenient option because you can subscribe to as many as you like, filter and sort to your heart’s content, and read them all in one place. Be careful not to over-subscribe or you will inevitably have overlap. Many sites that charge for their regular newsletter or print subscriptions offer this for free. I like those I can customize both by content and frequency, have short articles, few pictures, and are relatively unbiased.
Add it to Your Home Page
When you open your internet browser, the home page is what automatically opens. Typically it’s a search engine or your e-mail client but you can make it whatever you choose. If you find an independent news site that fits your needs, try setting it as your home page. Another option is to use one of the customizable front pages popular web-mail providers have. You can load this up with news (by topic), stock quotes, and more. I have found this to be the most convenient and effective ways to stay informed without getting bombarded with information I don’t care about.
There’s an App for That…
There are tons of smartphone and tablet applications that provide news feeds. As with the previous suggestions, the ability to customize is key. One I really like right now is “Flipbook”. This application creates a personalized digital magazine for you, the articles are short, and you see only the topics you select. The application is simple, visually pleasing, and great for quick scrolling through the top headlines. I also really like the BBC app because I like the focus on bigger world issues rather than primarily US & politics.
Follow Something…or Someone
This is a great option but might take a little more research on your part. Most sites have a feed pushed to a social network whose alerts you already get Twitter is great because it’s concise by nature. A drawback is it’s difficult to customize so you have to be selective in who (or what) you follow. I recommend starting with an independent news site or the nightly news program you liked when you had time to watch television. A good one to follow is the Associated Press (AP) as this not-for-profit is one of the most trusted sources of independent news worldwide (if you look, you’ll notice a LOT of other news sites source their info here… just get it from the horse’s mouth). You can also follow on YouTube which is a great way to get your visual fix in short snippets.
I was sorely disappointed with what I found for print solutions until I found “The Week” magazine. That said, I still love the idea of a monthly or weekly newsletter with descriptive, relevant headlines I can read in less than 5-minutes after I sort it out of my mail. Unfortunately, it seems I’ll have to settle for e-mail until I create it myself. Most news sites have an option to subscribe to a newsletter with links to their stories. The upside is they come to you. The downside is almost all come daily. I recommend you hold off until you find a news site you trust with a weekly or monthly option or you will eventually just unsubscribe.
Listen vs. Watch
Radio is not dead! I think you will be pleasantly surprised at how crisp hourly radio news updates are. Another listening option is that many media agencies make their reporting available in podcast format. If you have a Bluetooth headset you can listen through a compatible device while tackling your ever-present piles of laundry, dishes, or paperwork.
One of the simplest ways to find out what’s going on is to ask someone who keeps up with current events. Don’t avoid the topic for fear of public embarrassment! Confide in them that you feel out-of-the-loop then let them talk. For stay-at-home parents, you may enlist a close friend or family member to call, text, message, or e-mail you when they hear a relevant report. H told me once she begun discussing current events with her retired neighbors (who have time to watch the news) and it became a great way of reaching out and getting the updates while keeping an eye on her kids.
But I really like the TV News!
You may have noticed, I’m a bit biased against TV news. My opinion is that they distort the relevance and leverage emotion (often anger) to drive ratings and increase viewership and that it limits their credibility. IF you really love it, though, there are a few good ways you can still get the full audio visual stimulation of watching the news on the tube without scarring your kids. Try watching just videos online to get a shorter version of each story. You can always record it then watch somewhere your kids won’t see or hear. For example, use the TV in your room while you get ready or watch it in the kitchen using a wall-mounted holder for your tablet or smartphone.
One last personal thought. I truly value the need to be informed citizens, but believe that 99% of what is reported outside of LOCAL sources is completely irrelevant, gossip, and a waste of time. Consider subscribing to sources like your local news radio station and local paper’s feed first. What’s going on in the country is important, but the path to affecting it is primarily through local representatives. I strongly believe that if we all would shift our focus locally, and make improvements there, the quality of our government and legislation will be reflected. Call it “trickle-up”, if you will.
Hopefully this has given you a few new ideas to try to get back in-the-loop with national and world events. If so, be sure to share what worked for you with us and the other busy people in your life!
Download this article as a .pdf here
Check back later for other articles we’re considering:
- News Resources Matrix
- Keeping up with Local & Regional News
- Why Most News is Really Just Gossip
- The True Test of Value in Media is Relevance