Advanced Current Affairs in 10 minutes a day!
November 12, 2013 3:37 PM   Subscribe

What is your 'current affairs' routine?

I have 10-15 minutes a day and would like to spend it learning about 'what's going on about the world' but the news I stumble upon seem to present information in tiny, sometimes biased, chunks. Where do you guys get your objective overviews from? Are there 'cliff notes' to current affairs which presents the facts and a number of viewpoints, or the pros and cons of each outcome? And where can I find these cliff notes?

Also have seen this old thread but would appreciate more tips on resources for building a 'daily routine'.
posted by dinosaurprincess to Media & Arts (25 answers total) 50 users marked this as a favorite
I accomplish this by listening to NPR either while I get ready for work in the morning or in the car.

YMMV whether NPR is unbiased, but for the broad strokes of "John Kerry is facilitating talks with Iran about nuclear stuff", "A terrible storm hit The Philippines" and other important current events, it definitely gets the job done.
posted by Sara C. at 3:46 PM on November 12, 2013 [8 favorites]

I listen to the hourly news on NPR, then read the headlines on the BBC News app.
posted by Requiax at 4:00 PM on November 12, 2013

I mostly listen to NPR's "Morning Edition" and "All Things Considered" on my commute. I also follow about some major news outlets (NYT, WaPo, WSJ, Bloomberg, BBC, AP, Reuters) on Twitter and scan the headlines.
posted by elizeh at 4:04 PM on November 12, 2013 [1 favorite]

I catch up weekly by listening to the Diane Rehm Show's Weekly Roundup on podcast. An hour for domestic, and hour for foreign, presented as a roundtable with some of the best journalists around involved. Download it every Friday afternoon, and listen to it over the days that follow when I get the chance. I know it's a bit longer than what you're talking about, but the analysis on it is always fantastic.
posted by themadthinker at 4:08 PM on November 12, 2013 [3 favorites]

Evening Edition is great if you have a reading-friendly commute. Plus, the links let you go deeper on subjects that interest you.

Also, have you heard of The Week? It's pretty much exactly what you want, though weekly (I suppose you could parcel it out over a week). Very snappy and incisive.
posted by Maecenas at 4:09 PM on November 12, 2013 [1 favorite]

I get most of my fluff news off of twitter. If John Kerry is working on talks with Iran I will see it and pursue it if interested. For more in depth stuff I listen to a few podcasts. Democracy Now is an hour every weekday and arrives pretty early in the day here on the Pacific coast. Is it objective? No, and news shouldn't be. But it is well researched and presented. You will get an angle that isn't usually covered by either Fox or MSNBC. Congressional Dish comes out every week or so and talks in depth about legislation in the US House. Since that is news I value most I really appreciate it but it might be too niche if other types of news stories are your thing.
posted by munchingzombie at 4:10 PM on November 12, 2013

First thing in the morning, I usually review the BBC, Guardian, Drudge, CNN, and NYT headlines, as well as checking to see what the WSJ thinks they should and should not make free (if I have time later in the day, I note key words and check out what Google News can turn up on them.)

Drudge is slower than he used to be in his heyday, and I may stop using him - that's what happened with NPR and the other big US networks. The main reason I use the two British ones is that the BBC has people throughout the old British empire posting things at all hours, plus they're five hours ahead, so there's usually something mostly-literate there about all the things everyone else is likely to be talking about. And the Guardian and Drudge have most of the things screaming people will be screaming about, which I find handy (they both have quite a bit of blatant "opinion" pieces, and tend to go for the most scream-worthy content.) CNN, incidentally, also promotes up most stuff that anyone at a bigger CBS station thinks is important, which is nice when it comes to developing local stories that people will notice nationally in a day or two.

WSJ has quite a bit of stuff for China and India - harder to get the rest of the English-speaking world without going through to the BBC's individual portals for each region.

For political diversity, it's harder. There are some Twitter hashtags that can help (#tcot in particular - progress/liberal types don't seem to have settled on just one consistent tag), but even with Twitter giving you the "top" tweets in each one, there's a lot of noise and discussion of older stuff. And, e.g., Instapundit will give you what a sizable number of American conservatives/libertarians/lawyers are interested in - but he quite clearly queues up posts sometimes several days in advance. Ever notice how often people gripe that newsy links on the Blue are entirely things they learned about days ago? This is the problem with nearly every aggregation site, including all the interesting/influential link-fest bloggers.

For someone with time for exactly one place to go, who really wants to get the world, I'd say go to the BBC main page. If you can do two, I'd say do the BBC every day, and pick one place from each big region to do on a weekly basis, focusing on places where the news is aimed at local residents who actually speak English (Israel, Australia, Hong Kong, etc.)

If you ever forget where all those opinion writers are putting their columns, BTW, Drudge is your man. This is why I will not delete my bookmark to him even if I stop checking him on a regular basis.
posted by SMPA at 4:11 PM on November 12, 2013 [1 favorite]

Also, if you're into stuff like "The Week" and weekly roundups in other formats, you might also like Washington Week on PBS. Not sure if this is true nationwide, but last time I was in the habit of watching it, it aired Friday nights. It's a journalistic round-table that dissects the major news stories of the week. It tends to skew towards strictly American political news, but IIRC they'll discuss just about any story big enough to have an impact on the US governmental process.
posted by Sara C. at 4:17 PM on November 12, 2013

I subscribe to the Guardian Weekly, which is a round up of news from a global perspective, and includes syndicated content from Washington Post, Le Monde, etc etc. It's the most non-biased and comprehensive new source I've found, and it's absolutely not dominated by trivial shit.
posted by smoke at 4:23 PM on November 12, 2013

I check the BBC iPhone news app to scan for anything interesting. I have FIP Radio delivering some great music together with minimal news in French. If I get a chance I'll read through the Economist for weekly news. And I check here on the blue. I also have a few Google alerts for some specific phrases and I keep a pruned list of contacts on Twitter.
posted by rongorongo at 4:24 PM on November 12, 2013

I like Quartz, which is done by the same folks who publish The Atlantic. There is a daily digest available via e-mail as well.

I also check CNN, the front page of Reddit, Metafilter (natch), and the two local newspaper websites. I've also subscribed to daily updates for various cities covered by the Business Journals. NPR on the alarm clock and in the car, and when Morning Edition or All Things Considered is done, I'll switch to Bloomberg.

For industry-specific news, I have a list of people, feeds, and companies that I follow on Twitter. My RSS feed collection (on Feedly) is mostly funny stuff and lolcats these days.
posted by jquinby at 4:32 PM on November 12, 2013 [1 favorite]

For a seriously fast overview of the daily news, I've been liking Need 2 Know. I just read it online, no email newsletter and it seems great.

I also subscribe to NextDraft which has more of tech bent.

I get The Week at home in print and it covers things I would *never* hear about otherwise. Unfortunately it arrives at my house on Friday usually and then I'm always tempted to read it over Saturday morning coffee and news is such a bummer. It also presents a lot of different viewpoints--summarizing what different columnists said about an issue, which would definitely fit your "cliffs notes" description!

For local news, you might check out your local alternative weekly or similar for a daily roundup of news stories. (In Seattle for example, the Stranger does a morning news roundup.) Lots of news blogs seem to do this now and it's usually more informative than say, browsing the local TV news site where it will all be "Murder! Are these shoes killing you/making you fat? You won't believe what we found! More at 11! More murder!!!"
posted by purple_bird at 4:50 PM on November 12, 2013 [1 favorite]

I listen to Maddow's podcast (of her entire show the night before) every morning, and watch the Daily Show and Colbert in the evening. Maybe not advanced, exactly, but enjoyable.
posted by mingodingo at 5:04 PM on November 12, 2013

BBC and the Guardian, the local regional paper and for wider reading, I have the BBC From Our Own Correspondent podcasts. BBC and NPR have some good long form journalism going on, check out their podcasts.
posted by arcticseal at 5:50 PM on November 12, 2013 [1 favorite]

Metafilter? Works for me. There's very little they overlook around here.
posted by bleep at 6:38 PM on November 12, 2013

I go to Google news and check out the top stories and try to read the articles that seem like they're more backgrounder types and much less "Oooh a thing happened!" articles. I also look for articles on the topics I am interested in from the sources I trust more (Guardian, Christian Science Monitor, Economist, sometimes the LA Times or the WA post, sometimes the NY Times. Basically never CNN/NBC/Fox/ or news wires unless there's a really in-depth story.) I have a bunch of custom news alerts set up that I can read down the side including a search for my name, my town, Metafilter, etc. I deleted all the categories I don't care about and changed the layout to be mostly text and almost no images.

I also really like the Wikipedia current events portal. It's international, it's almost all text, it's biased sort of the same way I am (slightly internet low-affect nerdish, very little "human interest" angle) and I can read longer articles about topics which aren't always unbiased but they link directly to their sources in nearly all cases.
posted by jessamyn at 6:48 PM on November 12, 2013 [3 favorites]

1. I read the New York Times every morning. What it gives me is competently written accounts of everything important to the NYT editors. And that's the point exactly: There is no 'purely objective' source for news. The NYT has its own framework. The WS Journal, the Economist, the Guardian, Natl Review, etc, all have their own. Understand what they are, and proceed.
2. I use aggregators, most often Google News and Drudge. Yes, of course, Drudge has a mild right-wing cast. (E.g, he doesn't put much stock in global warming -- so if temperatures drop 1 degree anywhere on Earth, you'll see it on Drudge.) So you account for his prejudices, as you must do with all the others. Drudge breaks news faster than all the rest, if a few seconds matters to you.
3. Usually starting from the aggregators, I drop in erratically on a few other sources, depending on what's hot. The Detroit Free Press nails anything automotive or manufacturing. The San Jose Merc nails technology, the Miami Herald nails Latin America, the UMWA Journal gets the mines. Granma for Cuba, the Far East Economic Review, etc etc etc.
4. One final word: I read what interests me, and I scan the rest. For about 40 years, this approach has enabled me to at least hold my own in conversation.
posted by LonnieK at 6:50 PM on November 12, 2013

I would suggest two sites.

For US news, try the LA Times.

The Times is one of the better US papers out there. If you want fluff, it's got plenty of it, but its reporting is pretty solid too. Unfortunately it's gone subscription-only, but it's one of those sites that will give you X number of free reads per month, and it doesn't seem to cut me off that often. The Sports section isn't nearly as fun without TJ Simers these days, but I digress.

For world news, try Al Jazeera. It's very accessible, very straightforward, very even-handed, and does a great job of digging into key world stories that you would probably miss if you went anywhere else (except maybe BBC, which is also quite good).

I'll also open my local paper's front page briefly just to scan headlines, and that's it. The local paper is really the dregs.
posted by Old Man McKay at 7:33 PM on November 12, 2013

I subscribe to the Economist. I don't agree with its general editorial line, but that's part of the point--why immerse myself in an echo chamber? Plus it covers the entire world, even those parts where the US isn't currently engaged, and because it's a weekly, it focuses on what its editors consider important, not the 24/7 news buzzosphere. Beyond that, I get the New England edition of the NYT, listen to the NPR morning news, skim the BBC news portal, skim Le Monde's daily headline email, occasionally examine the Frankfurter Allgemeine's and taz's home pages, and glance at the Volkskrant when I feel like my Dutch needs some improvement or I want to know the mainstream Dutch view on what's happening elsewhere. I keep thinking I should look at El Pais's homepage, but my Spanish isn't really up to it.
posted by brianogilvie at 7:52 PM on November 12, 2013

Al Jazeera hired a bunch of journalists from the BBC and other reputable news agencies. Their coverage is really good.
posted by arcticseal at 8:45 PM on November 12, 2013 [2 favorites]

Use Feedly and subscribe to a bunch of political blogs. I subscribe to andrew sullivan, daily kos, and talking points memo. I don't subscribe to any right wing blogs, but i'll sometimes look at national review and redstate to get an idea of what they're talking about. I also look at Huffington post a couple of times a day.

I don't think the right answer to avoid being influenced by biased reporting is to look for the mythical 'unbiased reporting', which I don't think exists. Just make sure you read multiple perspectives.
posted by empath at 8:48 PM on November 12, 2013

I subscribe to the Economist. I don't agree with its general editorial line, but that's part of the point--why immerse myself in an echo chamber?

Agreed. But I have noticed that, if I rank the comments on an online Economist article by the number of recommendations then those at the top are normally well informed and pithily phrased rebuttals. Even if the piece was apparently uncontentious. I guess Economists (and The Economist) are wrong sufficiently often to know that apparent high grounds of truth often get undermined by the tide.
posted by rongorongo at 2:17 AM on November 13, 2013

The first 15 minutes of the PBS Newshour, every evening.
posted by jbickers at 5:26 AM on November 13, 2013

I turn on the news in the morning while I'm getting ready for work to catch any major headlines. I always get the end of my local morning news and sometimes the first few minutes of GMA. This gives me a good overview of any notable mainstream news for the day. (This is about 45 minutes or so of news, but it's passive consumption)

When I get to work, I check Metafilter. I also check a few aggregators that are more industry-specific but also will link to other interesting/imprtant things. The main ones are: The Big Picture,and Abnormal Returns. These usually bring me down a rabbit hole of clicking around whatever site they send me to but if I have more time, I'll look at more general aggregators like The Morning News headlines and Longreads (this is getting more into entertainment reading rather then news reading). I might check all these sites periodically throughout the day if I have time, but I can get my initial morning scroll through two to four sites done in about 10-20 minutes.

When I get home at night, I check Twitter and Facebook. Twitter has been mentioned, but I also really like using Facebook as a news feed and probably use it more for that than I do for interacting with people. I like a bunch of media pages that I'm interested in (New Yorker, Slate, Jezebel, Gawker, Al Jazeera English, The Guardian, etc) and they all post links to articles all day long and that usually alerts me to anything I might have missed and rounds out my day of media. This can take several hours, depending on how much time I want to spend reading all the articles. If I need a quick update on what's going on in the world, a scroll through either my facebook or twitter feed will keep me up to date. On days when I'm busy, I'll take three minutes or so a couple of times to just do this and it might be the only media I get all day but at least I have a general idea of what's going on.
posted by triggerfinger at 6:08 AM on November 13, 2013

When completely swamped and only have a moment to catch up on current affairs I would say The Daily Beast's Cheat Sheet is my go-to.
posted by xicana63 at 6:12 AM on November 13, 2013

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