Some of you know I make a habit of criticizing American tv news, because it’s generally awful. After one such mocking a Twitter friend asked, “what do you favor for news?” I decided to answer, because ultimately it’s a good thing for a critic of something to pose better alternatives.
Nearly all of my news consumption is Web-based.
I begin each morning with a run through a customized Google News page, on my laptop (if I’m at home or an office space) or phone (if on the run). If you haven’t used this, and a shockingly high number of people tell me they haven’t, know that Google News is a meta-news source. It trawls some outrageous number of news sites (newspaper, tv, radio, Web) to build immediate models of topics news people are focusing on. So in second Google News gives me the closest thing we have to a snapshot of what the world is thinking about.
And I do mean “world”, as GN scrapes news services of many nations. When I find a story I’m interested in (for example, this morning it’s the Aaron Schock debacle and the German Blockupy unrest) I can quickly find multiple links to diverse sources, yielding a variety of perspectives. All of this beats the heck out of CNN or the New York Times, in part because it includes, but is not limited to, the most useful content from those sources.
Moreover, you can customize your Google News. That means killing off topics you don’t care about (for me: sports, celebrity gossip) and adding new topics you do (my Vermont town, space exploration, energy, liberal education). GN will quietly offer new topics, which you can refuse or accept. You can even toggle how many stories you want from a given source, or for a specific topic. This makes for a more efficient news consumption experience, and a more useful one. There is a risk of too much filtering, which I’ll address below.
The second stop on my routine is Hacker News. This is where I get a sampling of technology and tech-related stories. This is vital for my work, and I find the results to be both fast and high quality.
After these two appetizers, I head into the main course, my RSS feeds. After some struggle and transitions over RSS readers I currently prefer Digg Reader, although I use Feedly when on the road and without laptop access.
I’ve curated a set of feeds over time, and broken them down into top-level categories. As you can see from the image to the left, these include general world news, focuses on Russia, economics, the environment, and information warfare, followed by sources on the left and the right.
Some of these help keep my perspective open. I noted the filtering problem above, also known as the echo chamber effect. Hitting political sources on the left and right helps me get away from that. Those bloggers also tend to be news fiends, so they can help aggregate stories. Also helpful is the Memeorandum feed, which does a good job of snarfing up many disparate stories and perspectives (not so good as Google News, but still useful). One of the most useful blogs is Naked Capitalism, which looks like an economics blog emphasizing finance, but actually ranges very far afield. They have one or two links roundups per day, which I recommend.
Total number of RSS feeds in those folders: 43.
Last stops on my morning news run are social media, mostly Twitter and Facebook. On Twitter I’ve curated several news lists through Tweetdeck, including one of interesting journalists, one for Latino politics, and sometimes one or two for short-lived topics. My two futurists lists I read for research, but they also turn up news-related stories.
On Facebook I rely on a cluster of groups, mostly organized by other people, and devoted to specific themes or geographical areas: Russia, technology, American elections, etc.
Do I get any news apart from the Web? Yes, but at a slight delay. Readers know I’m a podcast fanatic, but I usually listen to them weeks or a month after release. If I’m impatient I’ll play them the day they appear. Some of the news-related podcasts I find especially worthy include Analysis (BBC), Ideas (CBC), Radio Open Source, Slate’s Culture Gabfest, and Common Sense (Dan Carlin).
So far I’ve been describing news consumption. Not that I produce any news (not usually), but I actively share and comment on some developments. I use a variety of channels to do so, including some mentioned above (Twitter, Facebook) and others (email to individuals and lists, posting to my small town’s blog). Some news also ends up in the next issue of my Future Trends in Technology and Education report.
I’m pretty satisfied with my news diet as it now stands. I feel up to date and informed on current events. I don’t seem trapped in a filter bubble or echo chamber. I’m not just a passive consumer, but an active sharer and commentator. I think this strategy is far better than the dreck served up by American tv news.
What do you all think of this? Is it useful to you, or overkill, or missing key channels? What’s your your 2015 news diet?
(Thanks to Charlotte Pierce for the prompt. I hope you don’t regret it now.)