My contributor today is Madeleine Thompson (Kenyon College class of 2015). Madeleine is now working as an editorial assistant at Scholastic.
Do you know what I heard on NPR’s Marketplace this week? One of the guests was talking about all the TV shows premiering at this year’s Sundance Festival (which is technically for films) and he mentioned how Hulu’s new miniseries “11.22.63,” on the assassination of President John F. Kennedy, was made into a TV show rather than a movie because “the concern at the studio level is: ‘It’s a period drama and kids today don’t know JFK from LOL.” Kids today don’t know JFK from LOL. That’s an awesome soundbyte, but I actually gaped at my speakers.
Luckily it wasn’t the NPR hosts who said it, but the sad fact is that #millennials are often the butt of the joke in the news these days, which can make us not really want to consume news outlets’ #content. But don’t prove these people right about your lack of interest in current events — get on your phone and read something that requires critical thinking. You are an Adult™, and Adults™ know more about the news than the Jimmy Fallon-sketch version. Because it can be so easy to get tangled in a web of tabloids and fake breaking news and give up on putting together a decent news diet, here are some ways to become a more efficient and less overwhelmed informed person:
Newsletters. So hot right now. But when they’re good, they’re really good. For example, theSkimm is run by two whip-smart women who write with a casual but pointed voice on the biggest topics of the day. Their morning newsletter contains everything you need to avoid awkward silences at the water cooler (“So how about that crazy Canadian public health campaign?”), and their website has awesome resources like a 2016 election guide. I also get the Buzzfeed Books newsletter, one of a bunch of newsletters you can subscribe to. And I get a poem of the day every morning from Poetry Foundation. Who said the only news that matters is hard news? Not me.
Podcasts. I am almost 85 percent positive there is nothing you can’t learn from a podcast. Codebreaker, How Stuff Works, Another Round, Happier with Gretchen Rubin, Planet Money, The Bugle… The list goes on and on. For any mood for you’re in, for any subject that interests you, there is a podcast. It couldn’t be easier to find them, download them, and then fill your head with stories.
Twitter. No, not social media. Just Twitter. I could wax poetic for hours about how much I love Twitter. My personal Twitter account (@mad_th, holla) started as a collection of stupid quotes and “antics” from my high school years, but then I decided I wanted to be a journalist and began to follow anyone and everyone whose writing/radio-ing I liked. I currently follow 658 people, probably 97 percent of whom are journalists/writers of one form or another. My feed collects the best and most interesting (and also the worst and most horrible…) thoughts from all the other news outlets out there in one place, and I find myself reading articles from sites I’ve never heard of that I come to love. Here are your instructions: make an account, find one person you want to follow, and then comb through the people they follow for more. Repeat until you’ve curated a good lookin’ feed for yourself. Start with my account if you want!
Apps. My favorite news-gathering app of all time, Circa, got shut down (but may be back soon, so keep an eye out). But Flipboard is pretty cool, it’s like Pinterest for news, and the NYT Cooking app from the New York Times is beautiful and incredible and taught me how to poach an egg. I don’t use the apps for individual outlets as much because I prefer for someone else to do the work of curating a diverse reading list for me and individual outlets don’t usually suggest that you read news they didn’t write, but that doesn’t mean they’re not great, especially if you particularly love one site/blog/paper over the others.
It’s that easy! Now you have no excuse. You are armed and ready to be the one your friends go to when they’re unsure why, exactly, they should hate Donald Trump or when they want to know where to find the best video of Tian Tian the panda rolling in the snow. If you think the news is only ever depressing or panic-inducing or misleading, you are not paying attention. No news outlet is perfect (or even close!), but so many of them are doing incredible work bringing stories and voices to light that need readers more than anything else. Often times, they are even stories of hope and daring rescue and inspiration. I never roll my eyes harder than when people accuse “the media” of not covering a topic; chances are they’ve done the reporting, but you haven’t done the reading. The point here is to stay curious and keep learning, and not just about natural disasters or ISIS.