Getting better news: my daily routine

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.

Google News

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.

Hacker News

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.

Some of my Digg Reader menu

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.)

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22 Responses to Getting better news: my daily routine

  1. skjandrews says:

    I am just shocked – SHOCKED – that you filter the celebrity gossip from Google News. How you you are able to navigate your daily interactions with your fellow humans without this essential information is beyond me. But otherwise, I confess I’ve learned much over the years from your curation instructions. Hacker news is a new one – thanks. My own consumption usually begins and ends with scanning my social media and inbox. But I aspire to your grandiose (and disciplined) ability to consume material.

  2. lindaleea says:

    My best friend just stated that she “watches” more news than I do. I have to agree. I rarely watch news on local TV. I read my news…much like you. I find out more interesting things from twitter than anyone, but it takes time to find the right people to follow or unflollow.

  3. VanessaVaile says:

    that’s quite similar to my routine ~ Hacker News excepted, although I have techie feeds on my readers. Both of them…sigh. I was trying out two because I couldn’t couldn’t decide which, kept both: Ino for tools, bundling feeds and other features (multiple aggregation projects), Feedly for sharing (mostly to FB pages) directly from reader. Now that I have more bandwidth, I’m becoming increasing attached to podcasts too.

    Good tip about setting for right and left on topics too. It’s next to impossible to avoid social media as a source but I try to push down the queue because of built in bubbles. I still pick up a lot from email too. Not all the good sources (fie on them) are on rss. Also, an extra reminder helps with ones I use a lot and don’t want to miss.

  4. VanessaVaile says:

    Reblogged this on Vanessa's Blogueria and commented:
    Fed up with deeply flawed mainstream media news? Here’s a good recipe for developing your own personal newstream.

  5. Nice outline – I’m so glad I could inspire a piece I find so useful! Evernoting this.

  6. Bryan, this is very interesting and probably more exhaustive that most individuals. I am curious about the economics of your practice. It seems that you do not pay an access fee for any of the sources that you use – is that right? Do you encourage/allow these sites to track your activity and serve up advertising to you or do you discourage that in any way?

    For journalism on professional topics, especially in the academic library and scholarly publishing arenas, I’m very much feeling the limitations of advertising-based models. In areas where I have a personal interest, such as foreign affairs and international relations, I find that paying for a private news source can unlock much more powerful information and insight. I’m not sure these two observations are connected with one another, but they have me thinking.

    • Roger, I do not pay for licenses or subscriptions to the sites described, correct. For example, while I poke at Slate’s podcasts, I have not joined Slate+.
      Some sources tempt me, like STRATFOR, the NYT, the Economist and WSJ, but I have resisted so far.

      Obviously there’s gold locked away behind those paywalls, but I find there are still so many riches in the open source intelligence world, to pick one phrase.

  7. bboessen says:

    Thanks Bryan – you’re making my cyber-stalking of you much easier on me. 😉

    Believe it or not, I’ve never really looked at Google News except when something is breaking, though I’m not really sure why. I suppose I felt good about my RSS feeds (let’s just say I follow more than 43) had me covered, though that was probably naive in retrospect.

    By the way, about how much time do you spend on this news intake process, on average? How does it compare to the time you give over to email management? (I just did a lunch talk here a couple of weeks ago on this.)

    • I can spend 30 minutes to 2 hours, depending on my schedule and the stories. Some news developments shade into my work – i.e., economics, policy, demographics. That’s before I dig into my research feeds.

      Email: much longer. Maybe 1/2 my day goes to that war.

      Got any notes to share from your talk?

      • bboessen says:

        Well, faculty have as much anxiety about email inundation as any other person, which I suppose mildly surprised me, but shouldn’t have.

        I use my inbox like a to do list, so I try to keep it empty but always have those emails with a slow fuse that linger. In researching the talk I learned about Boomerang, and since I’m a Gmail user (my campus mail redirects to my Gmail) I’ve been trying it out, letting it keep hold of those lingerers until closer til their deadline if it’s going to be in there more than a week. I like it so far.

        I’m similar with my news consumption time, though for me it comes in uneven chunks, a little at the very beginning of the day and then often a catchup on weekends of longer periods.

      • Yes, email is really the biggie, the hub of the digital world for so many of us.

        Is Boomerang still working out? I might give it a try.

        • bboessen says:

          In the last couple of weeks it works as advertised. If having emails with long due-dates sitting in your inbox is mentally taxing (as it sometimes is for me), then Boomerang should help with that problem.

          I do wonder if it’s just one more thing dragging down my load times in Chrome though; apparently Firefox is currently winning the browser speed wars right now? I *have* noticed sometimes Chrome just decides to take an extra moment before actually retrieving the web page I requested…maybe Chrome just needs a little quiet time. 😉

      • Thanks. That might be useful.

        Chrome, Firefox: I hate all browsers now. They’re all too big, ungainly. Whatever happened to blazingly fast Chrome, eh?

  8. Hi Bryan,

    I was going to post a comment about your news routine, but instead I started a new blog to post it to:

  9. I read what people post in Facebook, and follow many faces of Anonymous in Twitter. They often have stories about conflict, protest, and disparity before (and often instead) the typical news sources do.

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