How can I become more interested in the news, or at least force myself to stay informed on a daily basis?
February 9, 2010 7:00 PM   Subscribe

How can I become more interested in the news, or at least force myself to stay informed on a daily basis?

I rarely watch the news or read a newspaper. I'm simply not interested. I'm an adult and I understand that current events, laws, politics, etc all affect my life and the lives of those around me, and yet I can't bring myself to get interested enough to read/watch the news daily, or even often. Other people I know don't seem to be this way. My family members are all interested in and informed about what's going on, so I don't know what happened to me. I'm really embarrassed that I'm like this, and it's uncomfortable for me when I'm out with people who are discussing news and I don't know what's going on. And yet I can't seem to stay motivated enough to read the news for more than a couple of days after one of these situations.

If anyone used to feel this way, how did you get yourself to be more interested in the news, and how do you keep up with it (read a hard copy of a paper, read online, watch on tv, etc)? Please don't criticize, as I'm already painfully aware that this is a shortcoming.

posted by sunflower16 to Society & Culture (29 answers total) 26 users marked this as a favorite
NPR has a 5 minute long news summary that gets updated every hour. When you have a few spare moments, just give it a listen.
posted by aheckler at 7:07 PM on February 9, 2010 [2 favorites]

Don't beat yourself up too much about this. I don't follow sports at all, and it seems like everywhere I go people are taking about whatever game was on last night. I usually just listen politely until the conversation turns to a topic I'm interested in.

The way I keep up with the news is by listening to NPR during my commute. I don't read any news or watch TV news. You can even just listen to the headlines at the top of the hour (takes about 5 minutes) once a day and get a good gist of what is going on. You can also listen online ( while you do other things online.

I think they also do a good job of producing interesting, insightful stories about the news. Their reporting is (IMHO) much better than most news outlets (and much, much, much better than cable news). Admittedly, I'm an NPR junkie. I don't like driving unless somebody is chattering away on the radio about health policy or the Orange Revolution.

On preview, what aheckler said in 1/6 the words.
posted by jeoc at 7:11 PM on February 9, 2010 [1 favorite]

I'm a certified news junkie, but I know people who weren't much interested in news until they started watching the kind of intelligent comedy shows which satirise and comment on it. These shows are much funnier when you follow current events, because their jokes often rely on prior knowledge about the people and situations they cover. John Stewart's Daily Show is a good example, but there are others. Don't actually get your news from these shows, though - use the jokes as motivation to learn more about the issues from credible news sources.
posted by embrangled at 7:12 PM on February 9, 2010 [1 favorite]

90 percent of my news literacy is and always has been NPR. I listen to Morning Edition most, but often All Things Considered in the evenings too. My public radio station is my default radio station in the car, and it wakes me up in the morning, so I listen as I'm getting ready.
posted by purpleclover at 7:12 PM on February 9, 2010 [1 favorite]

If you have access to it (either through your local NPR station, online or via satellite radio), Diane Rehm's Friday news roundup is quite good. The first hour is national news; the second hour is international (or the other way around). You really don't need to succumb to the 24/7 news cycle - once a week of good, in depth coverage should be enough to keep you in the loop. If something really BIG happens, you'll know about it.
posted by webhund at 7:13 PM on February 9, 2010 [3 favorites]

Well, I'm the same way, but I'm not at all sure it's a shortcoming. I'm pretty sure it's a rational response to two facts: One, most of what gets reported as news is the same old shit, day in and day out, re-sensationalized to grab eyeballs. Two, you can't do much about the rest of it.

If you want to do something constructive, pick an issue you care about, follow it, and actually do something about it. Getting all angsty about stuff that you'll never do a damn thing about is a waste of time and energy.
posted by bricoleur at 7:17 PM on February 9, 2010 [1 favorite]

I think the best way to stay informed is by finding a medium that keeps you interested. I watch The Daily Show with Jon Stewart and the Colbert Report most nights, and read sarcastic blogs that have both current event stories and gossip/entertainment/funny articles Gawker to name one. I'm not as informed as many, and I probably have a liberal bias, but it works for me, and isn't a chore at all.
posted by katypickle at 7:23 PM on February 9, 2010

Harper's Weekly Review (a weekly email) is concise and witty.

I've also found that I get more and more of my news from Twitter. It depends who you follow--I tend to avoid the "official" news outlet feeds and follow journalists/bloggers. The format forces people to write concise summaries and provide good links.
posted by mullacc at 7:25 PM on February 9, 2010

Read some thing cool that will make you want to read up on other stuff. I recommend Talking Points Memo. Just reading the Editors Blog on the left and slowly catch up.

Whatever you do, don't worry about knowing exactly everything about anything, just read up and let it soak in over a period of weeks. You will soon be informed, because you will look other stuff up to learn what each story is talking about.
posted by Ironmouth at 7:34 PM on February 9, 2010

If you want to do something constructive, pick an issue you care about, follow it, and actually do something about it. Getting all angsty about stuff that you'll never do a damn thing about is a waste of time and energy.

I think it's important to be well informed on a broad range of issues, even if it's just for the purposes of small talk.

Anyway, nthing NPR. Also, I have an unfortunate habit of reading the HuffingtonPost - their headlines are garbage, their breathlessness is annoying, and their devotion to political scandal is sickening - but they keep track of all sorts of media and publish it in HUGE headlines for easy consumption.

And actually, I think reading the Blue is a pretty good way to keep informed as well.
posted by Think_Long at 7:45 PM on February 9, 2010

I have a few real news feeds in my feed reader--a couple of "front page", one local section, and a bunch of science--and I just skim the headlines and blurbs unless something catches my eye. Enough of it usually sinks in, and I use my feed reader for other, fun, things which keeps me there regularly.

Btw, I personally prefer text to radio because I don't have to concentrate for five minutes all in one go (yes, it IS that hard).
posted by anaelith at 7:48 PM on February 9, 2010

If you want in-depth knowledge of a few relevant news stories, I suggest subscribing to The New Yorker. It's not so much "Oh, what did President Obama say today?" as it is that guy at the dinner party who gets everyone talking about the danger of arson evidence in Texas death penalty cases.

Plus, their articles are usually awesome. Good writing can make the driest news interesting.
posted by sallybrown at 7:57 PM on February 9, 2010 [1 favorite]

Read The Economist and The Guardian twice a week. You'll be better informed with an hour of reading those two bi-weekly than you will with the day to day noise.
posted by sien at 8:01 PM on February 9, 2010

I don't really care about the news, but I think Jon Stewart is really funny. The Daily Show is like a grown-up version of candy-flavored children's vitamins. (Or Kix cereal, for those of us from Generation X.)

I find that you don't really need to have researched events in-depth in order to participate in conversations. If all you're looking for is the ability to not look like a goober when current events crop up in idle chit-chat, The Daily Show will do you just fine.
posted by ErikaB at 8:07 PM on February 9, 2010

When I was ten, i realized that Newsweek had a page of cartoons in it. I read the cartoons, and didn't understand any of them. So, I read the rest of the issue of newsweek, and then went back to the cartoons and suddenly I did understand them. One or two of them were even funny! So maybe that's a thing that can motivate you.

The other thing is, everything in the world is connected. So things that do interest you are affected by world affairs. Let's say you're interested in sharks. What does the news have to do with sharks? Well, climate change will change ocean currents and temperatures, which will affect where sharks live, where their food lives, how much food there is, and thus how many sharks the environment can support. Plus, if the relative proportions of ocean life starts changing, governments will put into effect new regulations for shipping, fishing, dumping, shark-hunting, etc. And when laws get passed, even laws about shark hunting, legislators try to cram little bonuses for their constituents and/or donors in any bill they pass. So maybe these new fishing codes are being influenced by a congresswoman who's being paid off by the walrus lobby to put a clause in this bill that's beneficial to walruses, at the expense of sharks. This walrus-tainted congresswoman gets the other members of her committee to approve this clause in exchange for her vote on a different bill that would make it easier for insurance companies to fuck their policyholders in the ass.

So, that's what happens if you care about sharks.
posted by Jon_Evil at 8:15 PM on February 9, 2010 [1 favorite]

On a completely different tack, I use news aggregator sites like The news is mixed in with ridiculous stories, and the site tends towards the vulgar, but often the discussions will teach me more about the topic than I knew existed. For me, the original interest was the humor, and then I found out I was actually more informed than most.

Note: This site may not be to your taste, but I'm sure there are other news aggregators out there.
posted by Gneisskate at 8:26 PM on February 9, 2010

The reason you can't get interested in this stuff is because it is pretty much all outright lies, biased, or both.

When ingesting this nonsense (because you must, if just to keep up on what the global corporatocracy is up to from time to time) always ask yourself what is being left out, or what direction your viewpoint, vote, or wallet is being persuaded towards.

Much of the news is designed to make you fearful. When we are fearful, we allow bad policies and laws to be passed (back in 80's and 90's - bank deregulation. Just recently, bank buyouts.) This is when it is good to remind yourself it is almost entirely half-truths, and often out and out lies/propaganda/disinformation designed to make you and your neighbors approve of policies, laws, and government actions that are not in our best interests.

We live in a society with a 24/7 news cycle - but not that much to cover. Often, things are sensationalized (Swine Flu) or overly harped upon (Britney, OJ, Michael Jackson) because most news organization's parent companies won't let them cover REAL issues, like the true consequences of this or that bill (like the bank buyouts referenced above.) Furthermore, there is a strong belief in the media that the public won't consume nuanced, intelligent reporting. This is kinda a non-issue, however, when most media is owned or supported by global corporate interests - including advertising dollars. In short, there is little chance that even The New Yorker or Harpers gets it entirely right, although they sometimes do better than most.

Now for the Good News!

If you get into a lot of alternative news sources, and remain discerning (don't believe all the facts, many journalists use the googles, just like you do, and we know how reliable that is sometimes) you can get a pretty good handle on things. Check with your gut and keep seeking further information.

I like checking with the headlines on the homepage just to see what crap is being floated today.

I listened to an AWESOME podcast today with Birgitta Jonsdottir, a member of Iceland's Parliament, about how/why Iceland went belly-up financially, the connection to the European Union, the IMF, and how they might now solve the problem. Towards the end of the interview, it is touched upon that Brigitta was never into politics, but once the country's gov't was convinced to sell out the public, a few non-activists got together and won the vote to get into office. Her take is fascinating. But I probably got more out of it because I read "Confessions of an Economic Hitman," a while back - which is a first-person account about how the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank forces 3rd world nation's leaders into signing for exorbitant loans/debt to enslave the populations of their countries long into the future. In other words, the interview wasn't entirely professional and the info wasn't laid out in the usual polished journalistic narrative, yet it was one of the the most informative 55 minutes I've been exposed to in the last 3 years about current global politics and economies.

Essentially, Iceland is the first autonomous and non-3rd world country that has been successfully and purposely financially tanked, only to be sold off at fire-sale prices.

That podcast is here. You have to pick and choose on this site, like any other (and you can subscribe in Itunes!) but this is where I first learned about Codex Alimentarius . Codex Alimentarius seems like a good idea on face value, until you know anything about GMO foods, and then the situation gets dicey.


Overall, I'm encouraging you to keep your eyes OPEN.

I know all of this seems really sad. I know. BUT IT"S ACTUALLY SUPER COOL.

The more people aware of how things work, the more likely that we'll tip the balance towards systems and policies that create good for all, not just good for those few who benefit at the expense of the greater population.

And PEACE. Because an educated population is impossible to lie into war.

I'll try and update tomorrow with more alternative news sources, but they too come with a bias, and I'm kinda wading through myself to pick and choose what is most factual.

I once worked at the UN. And later tabloid television news (which was marketed as "magazine format" but really, was tabloid crap. Even the "hard news" segments.)

I read daily, because at least they know they are full of shit AND they make fun of their fellow media universally - and jokes!. I used to like the Daily Show until I got so fed up w/ the "he said - she said," when in fact, there are so many more opportunities and answers to any given true political or social problem, it hurt not to hear the better perspectives.

Hope that helps. More later.
posted by jbenben at 9:11 PM on February 9, 2010 [2 favorites]

Two responses to your question.

First, a half-second glance at NewsMap (it's having some rare-for-it connectivity problems now, so try again later if it's shaky) will give you an idea of what the biggest stories are. I'm serious: half a second, that's all it takes with this site. Kinda neat, check it out.

Second, echoing part of jbenben's commentary regarding any news outlet being overwhelmingly biased towards the negative. "If it bleeds, it leads." So make a point of including sources of positive news in your "news diet." The site layout is unfortunately very off-putting, but Global Good News' Positive Trends section is the most thorough and most frequent aggregator I've found thus far. Not to self-pimp, but all the other research I conducted a while ago in finding sources of good news can be found in this FPP.
posted by WCityMike at 10:21 PM on February 9, 2010 [1 favorite]

If part of what you mean by "news" is US political coverage, then you want to add into your rotation. Keeps you informed but also cuts through the BS that you'll get from other sources. No point in hearing everything if you never find out that 1/3 of the facts were fabricated, right?
posted by tantivy at 10:24 PM on February 9, 2010

Newser ( is an aggregator that summarizes stories from various sources and lays them out in a visually appealing grid. You can adjust for the type of stories you want to see (hard vs. soft news, for instance). It's pretty 8th grade reading level so if you're just looking for something quick and easy this might work.

Full disclosure: I interned for the company years ago, but I have no association with them now.
posted by randomname25 at 10:43 PM on February 9, 2010

Ah, yes. "If it bleeds, it leads." I wanted to include that phrase above, but was afraid it was too "insider" to make sense.

I first learned that phrase in college, when I was a communications major. It was in relation to learning about "Yellow Journalism."

In class, Yellow Journalism was presented as a problem of the late 1800's, early 1900's. There was little discussion regarding how that influence turned into present-day media coverage. You know, because J-School (journalism school) costs thousands upon thousands - and they can't exactly tell you outright that you are paying good money to become indoctrinated and become a corporate shill - but you are.

It's so hard to speak the truth once you have school loans, the expectations of society, and your own aspirations to consider. Your descent into liar-hood happens by degrees, Or, like me, you eventually go to culinary school and get involved in local government. Until even the local concerns get old and jaded. Then you just come out of retirement once in a while to "kick ass." Skillz. You have them.
posted by jbenben at 10:46 PM on February 9, 2010 [1 favorite]

I also started with NPR, the Morning Edition show early on, Talk of the Nation, some of the other shows like On Point and Diane Rehm, you can download podcasts as well. And you could watch the evening news - your local newscast and/or national programs.. NBC Nightly News (Brian Williams, this would be my favorite on the broadcast channels), on cable CNN has Wolf Blitzer on but too many pundits IMHO, Fox Report (it's fun to watch, they run through a ton of stories, no talking heads). It is probably superficial of me but if something is well produced and delivered in an interesting way I am more likely to watch. I don't get all bent out of shape if I don't give radio or TV news 100% full attention, you can always put it on while cooking dinner or cleaning around the house. I check the New York Times on the web pretty often too.

I figure if you find one source that isn't boring, soon enough you'll probably be interested in other sources and you can pick and choose what's worth your time. There are dozens of blogs and cable shows I also check, but it would be overwhelming to list them, and too idiosyncratic, everyone finds their own preferred sources. I love Daily Show and Rachel Maddow but strongly believe it's better to start by knowing the facts and then worry about snark/opinion/media critique. I wish I read The Economist but really, if you want to have a conversation with most people in real life perhaps it's better to watch something like NBC News so you'll have the overview of big national stories.

Maybe it'll be one big story that sparks your interest, a big election, an international event, a scandal (what is that Paterson bombshell the New York Times is allegedly working on?). For me, living in Washington when 9/11 happened it was immediately a story where I felt like I had to read everything in the newspapers, and what there was on the Internet, and listen to everything on NPR and watch all the TV news that I could, just to try and process it and understand it and a lot of things that came after.
posted by citron at 10:59 PM on February 9, 2010

Oh, and if you want to get nerdy and meta about the practice of journalism I like Poynter Institute, and for following whatever hot political issue or news story du jour strikes your fancy, Memeorandum is great. (What is that Paterson bombshell the New York Times is allegedly working on? The New York Times wants to know!) You can see how multiple sources from news sites to blogs cover the same story. The caveat is, a lot of stories that take up time are kind of stupid, such as the "Gibbs writes on hand to mock Palin" thing that is currently at the top of the Memeorandum list, it's a big item there since lots of people are posting on blogs about it, but in the grand scheme of things.. who gives a rat's ass, honestly.
posted by citron at 11:07 PM on February 9, 2010

One thing I don't like about Huffington Post, but which you might, is the right hand column. Basically the left column is opinion pieces and topical blog posts, the center is mostly newsish, and the right hand side is gossip/lifestyle/dingdong/etc. So if you like the more casual kind of stuff in the right hand column, you could go to HuffPo daily or a few times per week for that, and while you're there, you'll see many of the big issues of the day right next to it in the center column. You can often get the gist from the headline so you're at least aware of big names, happenings, etc. It's liberal and mostly political, if that works for you and won't get you excommunicated from your family. The right hand column is only political in one part of it.

Speaking of headlines, if you want to just get the briefest snapshot of what the big stories of any given day are, try Newsmap. It's just headlines on colored squares, proportionally sized based on how many articles on that issue that Google News has aggregated, and color coded to separate it into things like nation, world, health, tech, sports, whatever. It's all right there on one screen. When something hits big, like, say, the Haiti quake, the headline will be huge. You'll know that's what's happening. You could just zero in on those few big ones. Click through to the top article if it interests you, and if not, you at least know that, say, "US To Press For Iran Sanctions Over Nukes" or whatever. Bam, now you're in the conversation. If you're not in the US, you can customize it to show you news from one of 14 other major nations, and you can cut out any categories (say, health) that don't interest you.

With all of that said, whatever naturally interests you is whatever naturally interests you. If news just won't stick, try to recognize that people who know you appreciate you and accept as you are. People know I'm not a sports person, for example. I wish I were, just for the conversations, but I'm not. A bit of foreign soccer once in a while, maybe, but don't ask me about anything else. People factor that into their understanding of me and we all do fine. You can compile your grocery list in your head until they change the subject. And you can listen and learn from them too.
posted by Askr at 11:37 PM on February 9, 2010

I used to not read the news, and one thing I realized after I started reading regularly was that my apprehension was due to feeling so ignorant about the backstory to so many major issues that had been going on for some time. Once I got over this (and boy does Wikipedia help a girl out!) I found that not only was the news much more interesting, but it became a source of pride to be up on it (rather than a reminder of just how much I don't know). Nowadays I subscribe to RSS feeds of many of the major news sites. I read just the headlines, then dig deeper when I want to know more. Sometimes even reading the same story from multiple places...just to see how the framing changes from source to source.

Summary: RSS feeds, supplemented by Wikipedia searches (when you don't understand what the war/crisis/politician/team/company that is being referred to is all about). Turn it into a game, the daily puzzle, fact search or whatnot. It gets easier, you just got to find a way to hop on the bus.
posted by iamkimiam at 11:46 PM on February 9, 2010

WCityMike: I'm serious: half a second, that's all it takes with this site. Kinda neat, check it out.

Oh, and I had forgotten a similarly quick link – this subpage within Wikipedia basically gives you one-sentence hits on the news events of the day.
posted by WCityMike at 1:15 AM on February 10, 2010

Some great advice here! I really agree with everyone who suggested looking for a different perspective or source than usual.

Personally, I am a fan of getting my news in podcast form. I particularly like Inside Europe from the Deutsche Welle and From Our Own Correspondent from the BBC. Neither of these will tell me everything that's going on, but they will go very in-depth about one issue at a time. I guess that's just the way my brain works - listening to a quick overview of all the news just makes me tune out, but this really engages me.

Also, if you are learning a language, you can often find news podcasts in that language geared towards people learning that language. For example, News in Slow Spanish or Langsam gesprochene Nachrichten from the Deutsche Welle. This way, you're getting the news and learning a language at the same time.
posted by beyond_pink at 6:27 AM on February 10, 2010

Most of the news is absolutely garbage these days. I would recommend reading Wonkette and Gawker.
posted by anniecat at 7:36 AM on February 10, 2010

I'm a bit late to this post so I hope you're still checking this. The news isn't all outright lies and bias if you know where to look and what to tune out. Just don't count on any cable news network to actually educate and enlighten you. If you want to watch news on TV, watch one half hour of your local network news to learn what's going on in your area, and the evening national news at 6:30 (I prefer the NBC nightly news with Brian Williams, but take your pick). Seriously, don't bother with CNN, MSNBC, or Fox News. They'll probably make you want to tear your face off. That's how they make me feel, anyway, and I used to work at a cable news channel. They are garbage.

This may be your best option if you're on the internet a lot and don't want to have to actively search for news: make your homepage. This is what I do. You are presented with a whole load of headlines every time you open up your web browser. Now, you will get some biased articles up there as they collect news stories from all sorts of places, but what I like about it is you get a pretty good cross-section of current events, covering a wide range of topics from national, international, business, entertainment, health & science, etc. Scroll down the page once or twice a day, and click on the articles you find interesting - I promise you will be interested in at least some of it. Try to click on some other national/international things too sometimes.

As for New Yorker, it is a great magazine with fascinating articles about things I never thought I'd care about, but you really need to be willing to devote time to reading it. I read it on the subway to and from work just about every day. Sometimes I'm too tired to focus on it, but when I'm awake it's a great read.
posted by wondermouse at 9:28 PM on February 10, 2010

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