The Way We Get News

A few minutes ago I sat down to write an entirely different post. My attention was caught by a friends’ comment on another friends Facebook post. That post asked prayers for the children of Oklahoma. Dreading news of yet another school shooting, I Googled “Oklahoma news”, trusting that the top hits would be from the Google News feed. It wasn’t a school shooting. It was a massive tornado, a mile wide, that traveled straight through Oklahoma City. This happened a few hours ago.

The news article contained a captured tweet from Oklahoma’s Governor Mary Fallin. The tweet used the hashtag #okwx. I followed the tag to a real-time stream of comments, links and backyard photos of the tornadoes path.

Much has been written about Twitter and Facebook as a source of breaking news. I’m not sure I have much to add to that conversation, except “yes”.

I am struck by how far I have come from the way I used to get my news. I stopped watching televised news several years ago when the steady tide of breaking news became too much and overtaxed my nervous system. At that time, I trusted NPR to deliver the news I needed via radio. During times of national crisis or local emergency, I knew that NPR would prime me to pay attention where attention was warranted.

Late last year, I became obsessed with  podcasts, which now occupy my entire commute to work and back again. I don’t watch TV news. I don’t habitually listen to radio news. I have stopped reading newspapers and really don’t even follow newspapers blogs or Twitter feeds. I am off the media news grid. And yet, I still keep informed.

I use news curation tools like Zite, Feedly and Flipboard to push important stories up to my attention. This keeps me relatively well-informed about day to day updates. I fill in the cracks with media podcasts like On the Media to help me make sense of larger trends and find stories I missed.

The gap here is breaking news. Today, for the first time, I realized that I trust my social networks to let me know when something big is going down, and that I am okay with that.

I don’t need to know every last detail as it becomes revealed. I don’t need to watch wreckage porn to know things are bad. I just want to know what is happening, what is being done to respond and what I can do to help.

I am really interested in how people discover, interpret and receive their news. I am especially interested in those patterns of behavior as information habits. Where do you get your news? How have your news habits changed? Comments are most welcome.

Keep the people of Oklahoma in your thoughts. They are going to need our help for many years to come.

6 thoughts on “The Way We Get News

  1. I’m doing the same thing. We turned the television off the second the last presidential campaign advertisements started, and we haven’t turned it on much since. Our new rule is to only turn the television on if we have a particular show that we watch, like Mad Men or Game of Thrones. Otherwise, it stays off or we use On Demand. The only thing I seem to be missing is the never-ending overkill of every single news event that occurs.


    • Exactly. Though I occasionally miss some big stories, I actually feel more well-informed now, I don’t feel swamped by the random crush of unrelated tragedies played out in minute detail. My network sifts the most relevant trends and keeps me aware of news that deserves my real attention.


  2. I stopped following the news when I had kids – all the worry and fear and terror made me irrational in my fear for my kids. Now, like you, I trust it will crop up on Twitter or Facebook if it’s something big. I’m constantly amazed at how informed my social network is and it also means I have a more personal connection to the news than just random angst (for example, my sister lives near Boston and I heard about the bombing and the subsequent man hunt through her family’s experience)


    • That’s really interesting. I think I stopped tracking national/world news so closely when my daughter was born. Self-protection perhaps?

      They say all news is local. That has always been my issue with the way national/world news gets reported. Lots of anxiety but no discernable connection to my daily life and no specific action I can take to affect the outcome.

      I like getting news from the local perspective, but I do worry about the tendency to become politically isolated and only hear about things that agree with my own point of view. There are different categories of news. Tornadoes, the Boston bombing, school shootings are all in a category of national breaking news that does not impact me directly and which I cannot control.

      I am thinking that political news may be a category of news where my ignorance may not be bliss.


      • I’ve never been particularly political, and I admit I do rely on my husband’s interest to keep me up to date. I don’t agree with all his views but I do hear the things discussed on Five Live (a news/ radio show). I used to read The Week, thinking I needed to be better informed, but it just made me more cynical/miserable!


  3. I still watch 11 pm news and the Tonight Show monologue. It’s important to know what politicians people are laughing at and why. I like NPR because of the longer pieces. I look over a daily newspaper because you get more detail on a wider array of topics. I am more interested in opinion columns and letters to the editor than the news items, the former because I like well written opinions and the latter as a sampling of the variety of public opinions. In selecting news items to read I use the following criteria: it’s not worth my time now if I would not be interested in it six months from now. As an example, while crime trends might be of interest, stories of individual crimes are not (except the ones where stupidity led to capture).


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