Issue 19: How to Stay Informed


Volume 1, Issue 19

How to Stay Informed

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When Life Gets a Little Boring


It's been quiet over here at The Civilian, and that's honestly because news has been unusually boring to me. Yes, things have happened: the leader of ISIS, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, was eliminated during a U.S. raid of his Syrian compound; The House of Representatives has continued to hold closed-door hearings in their impeachment inquiry; and Kentucky and Virginia got a little shaken up in their November elections. But for someone in the middle of the country, where these goings-on have not affected my day-to-day life, it's been pretty dang boring.

It's these times that we have to actively work to stay informed, even when it's much more tempting to turn away from news headlines and finish binge-watching Succession on HBO (ask me how I know).

Besides the flat-out not knowing, there's another reason why boring news times can be dangerous. When the news isn't actively capturing your attention, it can be easy to receive news only through social media. This can be a scary prospect... we don't need our news information to go through someone else's filter. When Aunt Sandy or co-worker Joe posts a news article, you are not only subjected to their filter of click-worthy material, but it's also been through the algorithms of what Facebook and Instagram think you want to see. When I get lazy and rely on social media, the only news I pick up is what the Duke and Duchess of Sussex are up to this week...which--let's face it-- is the news I want, but not the news I need.

So let's go straight to the source, please. I have a quick, easy guide for you to use so even the most time-strapped busy parent can stay informed with minimal effort.

If you have 5 minutes...

-I like to quickly scan the wire reports (AP, Reuters) and/or my local newspaper. These sources give me the best non-biased results and their headlines tend to be the least click-baity. I then pick an article or two to read, based on what interests me the most, and give them a thorough read-through.

If you have 10 minutes...

-After you have done that 5 minute catch-up, dedicate your next 5 minutes to picking one topic and reading articles from at least two other news sources. Reading across news sources is, in my opinion, the most important thing you can do. It helps you see the issue from different angles, gets yourself out of a an echo-chamber, and helps you recognize any media bias. Some of my favorite sources to read across: NPR, BBC, Wall Street Journal, New York Times, and Washington Post. I'm referring here to reporting their pieces, not opinion....we'll get in to that next.

If you have 30 minutes...

-Pick two or more opinion pieces from opposing sides. For example, you can look to the National Review (which tends to lean right) AND Huffington Post (which tends to lean left). Or you can head to more mainstream publications like New York Times and Washington Post, which will often post differing opinions on the same issue.

If you have an hour or more...

-Talk to willing friends, family, or associates that have experience or expertise in the topic at hand. Make sure you are approaching them in a friendly and open-minded manner, asking questions, and above all, listening to what they have to say.

On a daily or weekly basis...

-I don't like to rely on email newsletters, but they can be a good way to get a quick run-down of the news headlines. I like The Week and I also like Axios for just a quick picture of what's going on. But if I want to investigate a topic further, I usually do start with AP or Reuters.

Let's make a commitment to each other to stay informed, even when the news is boring. I doubt the boring snap will last long, we do have alllll the election coverage of 2020 to look forward to, after all.

Everyone is welcome here.

Regardless of your viewpoint or your political party, if you’ve never followed politics in your life, or if you read ten news outlets a day, I thank you for joining us here. I’d love to hear your feedback on this issue and all issues yet to come. Simply reply to this email or find The Civilian on Twitter.

With respect and civility,

Sarah Bohl