If you’ve been reading my blog for a while or following me on Instagram and certainly Twitter for a while, it’s probably no surprise that I try to keep up with current events and politics, particularly in my home country of the US. While my younger sister has been visiting, we’ve had quite a few discussions about what’s going on with things like impeachment, the Democratic primary, the situation in Turkey and Syria, etc. I’ve made a number of suggestions to her on how she can keep up with things like those and other current events and I figured I’d share them with you.
These are four things that I’ve integrated into my daily or weekly routine that have helped me better understand what’s going on in the world and especially what’s going on in the country of which I’m a tax-paying citizen. If you’re looking for ways to become more knowledgeable, I would certainly recommend any or all of these things, slowly introducing them to your everyday life.
SUBSCRIBE TO A DAILY NEWSLETTER
I subscribe to two and my mom swears by a third.
For almost as long as it’s been a thing, I’ve subscribed to What a Day from Crooked Media. They send their newsletter out in the evenings on week days, so I usually read it over my first cup of tea in the mornings. The newsletter breaks down a major story from the day and includes smaller blurbs about other stories under banners like “You’ve Gotta Be Kidding Me!”, “What Else?”, “Under The Radar”, “Be Smarter”, and always ending with “Is That Hope I Feel?” and something funny and viral from the day, usually from Twitter. Crooked Media is founded by former Obama staffers who pretty much run a no holds barred media company. Some of their commentary is blunt. Some of their commentary is funny. And their opinions are definitely no secret.
Recently, I subscribed to Daily Skimm from The Skimm. Unlike Crooked Media, news from The Skimm is a lot more straight-forward and lacking opinion or “inflammatory” language. Like Crooked Media, they break down a major news story from the day before, since their newsletter is sent on week day mornings, and include a couple of shorter stories and other recommendations. If I recall correctly, the company was founded with a focus on millennial women, but I think there is something for everyone here, even if you’re not their target audience.
My mom subscribes to Daily Kos, and while I personally don’t subscribe, her recommendations are usually pretty solid.
SUBSCRIBE TO A CURRENT EVENTS/POLITICS PODCAST
Political podcasts have become my podcast bread and butter over the last few years. Well, aside from My Favorite Murder.
My favourite political podcast is the NPR Politics Podcast, which just became a week(daily) podcast last week. Expect a short episode, around 15 minutes, with a more narrow focus (one or two topics) Monday through Thursday, with a longer Weekly Roundup on Fridays.
The Skimm launched their own daily podcast, Skimm This, earlier this year. Episodes clock in around 12 minutes and the news is delivered in a real calm, even tone. (My mom said it reminds her of Sesame Street!) They cover the biggest story from the day in world news, cover another story in a smaller segment, and always end on a fun fact.
Crooked Media also has a number of podcasts, but I only subscribe to Pod Save America. Episodes can be about 90 minutes and are released on Mondays and Thursdays usually. Needless to say, it’s a bigger commitment than the other two and, like their newsletter, is more obviously left-leaning instead of being straight-forward news. Still, it’s good and I try not to miss an episode. This year they’ve also been doing long (about an hour) interviews with the Democratic candidates for president. I also recommend Pod Save the World if you’re looking for more world news and are interested in what a former National Security Council Spokesman and a former Deputy National Security Adviser have to say.
FOLLOW A VARIETY OF POLITICIANS, NEWS OUTLETS, AND MEDIA FIGURES ON TWITTER
Before the 2018 midterm elections, I realised that I had built a pretty solid echo chamber for myself on Twitter. With the algorithm showing you tweets that people you follow like, not just re-tweet, I was seeing a huge variety of voices that I quite agreed with and following them too. Just what Twitter wants! I wanted to start diversifying my experience on the app a little bit more. To be honest, I was nervous about it and I try to be careful about that especially when opening your ears to “the other side” could mean an influx of actual fake news. So I started small and simple and it’s actually made a big difference.
In Washington, I’m represented by three people: Senator Michael Bennet, Senator Cory Gardner, and Congressman Ken Buck. I’ve only ever cast a vote for Senator Bennet, though. Still, Senator Gardner and Congressman Buck are there representing me as a Coloradan registered to vote in Colorado’s 4th and I want to know how they’re working for me and my community. I gave both of them a follow, which has unlocked more Colorado news on my feed and more voices from across the aisle.
And because of the algorithm, I sometimes see tweets from people who are followed by people I follow (whether those people liked said tweet or not). If you invite even just a handful of voices from “the other side” into your online experience, you might have a better understanding of what’s going on, how your representatives work for you, and how people across the aisle might view the same issues you’re facing. Besides, I think if you use social media for any kind of news, whether that’s on Facebook, Twitter, or I guess even Instagram, you should follow the people who are representing your voice, whether their in your party or not.
I also recommend following a variety of news outlets and journalists because you’ll be more informed getting your news from a variety of sources and seeing how the same stories are being covered across the spectrum. Personally, I don’t follow any “conservative” news outlets or journalists, but I do follow a variety of moderate or liberal news outlets. And everyone should follow the BBC and NPR.
WATCH NEWS COMEDY
This one is huge! They’ll give you the news and not make you feel like the world is collapsing around you. Or if it is, at least you can laugh about it a little.
When Stephen Colbert announced The Colbert Report was ending in 2014, I felt so lost! At the time, he was essentially my only way of getting news. With The Late Show with Stephen Colbert, he’s really become the leading political voice on late night TV. Luke and I watch his monologue and sometimes other segments on YouTube the day after they air.
Of course there’s still The Daily Show with Trevor Noah. It was too hard for us to keep on top of it, so we don’t watch it anymore, but apparently you can get his entire show audio as a podcast, The Ears Edition.
Finally, there’s always Last Week Tonight with John Oliver on HBO. His show is only once a week and on hiatus more frequently than the previous two, but he and his team clearly do a ton of research into their topics. He often briefly covers the news from the week at the beginning of the show before doing a deep dive into a specific topic. I love his show and it’s absolutely brilliant and hysterical, but in the depths of my political anxiety, it was one thing I had to give up because he does such a good job and it was only adding more things for me to worry about.