The year is 1970. You have limited choices on your newspaper publications, and you mainly focus on local news. This media outlet, in appealing to people on both sides of the political divide, is moderate in their portrayal of national events. But now, in 2021, things have changed. You have ample news sources from which to choose, complicating the idea of reading the morning paper to start your day. Almost half of the publications feed you their news through applications on your smartphone. You can’t ignore the headlines popping up right in front of you and all the way across the globe. Life is confusing.
Though the expansion of news platforms and the spread of information is positive for educating more people on important issues, the vast amount of information regurgitated to the public every day can become overwhelming; ignoring the news entirely can be more appealing than sifting through the stories. Our media today is plagued with misinformation that is all too easy to spread through social media, and the term “fake news” has started to become a harsh reality.
All of this false information — propaganda, even — has deepened the dichotomy between the different political parties, and the media is now contributing to hyperpolarization in the United States. And sometimes, you just want to stay updated on current affairs without worrying that the highest political figures are moments away from being banned from Twitter for serving their own constituents misinformation.
However daunting and confusing the media is to navigate, staying updated on issues in a truthful manner is important for being not only educated students, but more well-rounded conversationalists and members of society. To effectively parse through the oversaturated media landscape, you need a strategy for reading the news.
First, take advantage of your resources. Your phone is called a smartphone for a reason. Although the Apple News app floods you with what feels like millions of notifications a day, you can use this resource to find the stories most relevant to you. Go through your iPhone’s (sorry, non-Apple users) own News app and pick both the topics and the specific publications you would like to read to narrow down the news you receive. You’ll be sent a notification for each published story so you can always stay on top of what is being written, and as you read these articles, your app will filter your feed to show you more similar articles.
Though this app will only show you free articles obtainable without any subscriptions, it is a great launching point for finding which publications you like best and allows you to stay updated as they are published. As an additional bonus, this platform makes reading similar stories from opposite sides of the political spectrum much easier, as the notifications for breaking news stories from differently leaning publications will appear on your phone next to each other simultaneously. Comparing the breaking news headlines from these various outlets about the same issue allows you to see the drastic differences in how they report and demonstrate America’s strong divide.
As a student at the University of Michigan, there are also many unique opportunities and discounts for news subscriptions. For example, The Wall Street Journal and the New York Times both offer free subscriptions for U-M students.
Second, sign up for newsletters. Newsletters are essentially the SparkNotes of reading the news — they do all the work for you in deciding what is a relevant issue, and the first step is just finding which one you like. After deciding what publication you prefer, try reading their newsletter every day just to catch up quickly on what they find important. Just knowing these summaries of longer news stories allows you to stay caught up and refreshed on what has occurred recently. Though most publications produce newsletters on top of their other content, some outlets focus exclusively on newsletters. Try checking out The Morning Brew for an unbiased, business newsletter created by University of Michigan alums!
Third, don’t be afraid to do some quick research. When you are reading a story, look up the words or background information you don’t know. The important idea to stress here is that you research right away. This doesn’t mean fully researching every topic in depth and going down the rabbit hole of hyperlinks in each news story. Just take the time to research smaller concepts in the moment so you can grasp the story better. This allows you to pick up on further ideas in everyday news-related conversations once you understand what is actually being discussed. Just knowing that the word or story idea is relevant will allow you to keep your ears open for further commentary and research on the topic. Do not allow yourself to get lost in all of the ideas you might not know when first reading; the amount of news out there is daunting and might turn you away from all of it. Start with smaller amounts of further research and build your way up to what topics that you want to further invest your time.
Fourth — I intentionally left this for last — use social media. This is not a new idea and no one is surprised. However, in an age of growing creativity, there are now many options for social media accounts that consolidate stories for you to stay informed. The best part about social media platforms sharing news stories is the up-and-coming infographic takeover. These infographics allow you to stay engaged and quickly informed with lots of information, but with less reading. When you come across one, quickly scan the relevant information in the approachable and accessible format — sharing is so easy through social media; pass along the correct information!
And, finally, be open. The best part about reading the news is being able to discuss it with others. Have uncomfortable conversations about different topics with others, and allow everyone to grow in their abilities to defend their opinions and skills as a conversationalist.
Don’t let the abundance of information at your fingertips turn you away from learning what you should, and want to, know.
Dimitra Colovos can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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