How To Read The News With Intentionality

A white woman with shoulder-length blonde hair wears glasses and a blue jacket as she reads an issue of the Goodnewspaper.

As a young journalist, I have spent a good chunk of my professional life trying to convince people that “the news” and “the media” aren’t bad — but rather, nuanced. 

While there is a big conversation to have about the news industry in America, how information is disseminated, and how we all have a responsibility to be critical thinkers in this late-stage-capitalism zeitgeist, I hold onto the belief that news is inherently a tool for radical empathy.

I hold onto the belief that it is a human right to have equitable access to information; that what we do with that information matters; and that being a privileged participant in the sharing of that information is a major responsibility. 

However, it’s a hard, messy job being an engaged human in this day and age. 

There’s a lot of information floating around out there, and many of us are constantly connected to that information. We’re feeling burnt out, overstimulated (and somehow also understimulated?), and exhausted.

We have all become reporters in one way or another, sharing and disseminating what we find important, and we have assumed the role of influencers in our circles — no matter their size. We have the noble and human responsibility to keep up with current events, so it’s up to us to do that with intention, discretion, and insight.

Good Good Good is your hub for good news and great solutions from all around the globe, but not all the news you consume is going to be as hopeful as what we publish here (bummer, we know). 

We’ve compiled some advice from experts that can help you approach the news with a little more purpose, and hopefully, a little less panic.

So… should I stop watching the news?

First of all, we’d recommend reading your news instead of watching it. Graphic visuals of war and conflict don’t quite help to alleviate anxiety, and we find that written reporting is often more detailed and accurate.

But, no. Please don’t stop consuming news. 

When we have the privilege to not be directly involved in conflict, social issues, or climate change, we have the responsibility to show up and care. That means we need to stay up-to-date. 

However, if you’re feeling overwhelmed or anxious, you’re not at your best to show up for the causes you care about — or to show up for yourself. It is perfectly fine to take a break from the news. 

That being said, how do we manage our news consumption while adhering to the duty of staying responsibly informed? How much information should we be consuming on a daily basis? Are my five free articles really the limit?

Let’s explore how we can think critically about our news consumption and set meaningful boundaries.

How to read the news without getting depressed

One of the most universal words to come out of recent years is “doomscrolling:” a phrase that describes the act of obsessively reading the news, even when it makes you anxious. My poison of choice is reading dozens of articles to find out when exactly I might get COVID-19. It’s not great.

In a 2020 study from the American Psychological Association, 56 percent of Americans who follow the news regularly reported that it causes them stress. And we know that chronic stress can have lasting effects on the body, including threats to the musculoskeletal, respiratory, cardiovascular, endocrine, gastrointestinal, nervous, and reproductive systems. 

So, perhaps when my stomach acts up at the thought of clicking on another New York Times article, it truly is the real deal.

Let’s start with these tips:

Set boundaries with your news consumption

We’d suggest setting timers for your digital wellness using the settings on your phone. You can limit your exposure to certain apps or social media platforms that may be the source of your doom-scrolling. 

You can also practice setting boundaries IRL. Perhaps you communicate with your circle that any news about a certain topic is off-limits for a day. 

For me and my COVID-19 anxiety, I’ll remind myself and my loved ones: “I know everything I need to know to be safe at this moment. I’ll come back to learn more when I am ready, or if something urgent comes up.”

Experts also suggest a concept called “worry time,” where people can (attempt to) limit their ruminating time to a select time frame each day. 

Perhaps you set aside 45 minutes each evening to check up on the news, process it, and compartmentalize. You can set an internal boundary to keep your news consumption to a necessary minimum and contain your overwhelming thoughts to a specific time of the day.

When it’s not that time, you can say to yourself: “It’s not time to worry about that just yet. I will think about it later.” 

We know it’s not always that simple, but creating routines and processes can help us navigate overwhelming information on our terms.

Putting a cap on how much time you spend consuming news and thinking about news gives you the freedom to learn with greater intention and care.

Balance the bad news with information that makes you hopeful

Good Good Good was created for this exact reason! While we certainly cannot control the heartbreak people experience around the globe, we can celebrate those responding with creative solutions. 

Balancing big, scary headlines with stories that inspire hope, optimism, and resilience is a great way to level up your empathy, add context to the major news stories of the day, and bring a little balance to your life.

Here are our 12 favorite places to find good news

Channel your news fatigue into empathy and action

We get it. You care a lot about the world and the injustices surrounding you every day. However, we’ve found empowerment and beauty in using the scary news as a catalyst for action.

Next time a news article leaves you feeling scared, overwhelmed, or in a little personal pit of despair, we challenge you to ask yourself, “how can I help?” 

This could be in the form of a donation to a reputable nonprofit or mutual aid fund, an afternoon volunteering to help underserved members of your community, or maybe it’s finding a podcast or book that teaches you more about areas where you can use your unique talents to make a difference. 

We work on collecting resources and opportunities for folks to help in the midst of global conflict, threatening legislation, or any other sort of social challenge. Visit our Take Action page to find ways to be a helper and find hope in the heartbreak

How to read the news critically

Now that we know how to set personal boundaries to consume the news, it’s important that when we do unfold that front page, we’re doing it right.

We wish staying informed about the big topics of our time was as easy as simply waking up every day, reading a couple of headlines, and moving on. However, we know that to read the news critically, we need to put in a little work. 

“Challenging ourselves is very, very hard,” Harleen Kaur, co-founder and CEO of Ground News said in a Sounds Good podcast interview with us in 2021. “We all need to do it. In this world where we’ve gotten used to everything being reduced to a tweet, it’s the only solution. There is a whole movement of mindfulness and putting more thought into how we do things, and I think this has to translate to our news consumption, as well. Sometimes the issues are not straightforward enough to put in three lines.”

Read the full article

The best way to put in that work? It sounds obvious, but it needs to be said: fully read the news article at your fingertips. 

We’re all guilty of reading a headline and taking it at face value, but even the best headlines cannot fully encompass the details or conflicting viewpoints of a current event. It is vital to fully read a news article, especially before sharing it or establishing an opinion.

Seek an opposing viewpoint

Sometimes a full article can’t even fully encompass the details and nuances of world events — so we urge you to also look at an opposing viewpoint to what you’re consuming.

Now, when people hear that, they often think that they need to flip on a channel with pundits they would never agree with, or get into a heated argument with the aforementioned Facebook-savvy relative. 

We’re not asking you to subscribe to a partisan news outlet, or risk your peace by reading the comment section, but rather, to thoughtfully examine a different perspective.

If you’re consuming international news about a big issue, consider zooming into a local outlet. If you’re confused about why a certain demographic is supporting a political candidate, find a cultural publication or writer who could speak to a lived experience. Looking at an opposing viewpoint may even be as simple as following two different reporters from the same news outlet and considering how they approach stories from different angles. 

Think twice before sharing

Lastly, be careful about what you’re consuming and sharing. Fake news does exist, and disinformation thrives off of our quick-tapping thumbs and hurried news consumption. 

Before you share an article, take some time, ask meaningful questions, and follow the steps below to most effectively use your critical thinking skills when it comes to the news.

Questions to ask when reading the news:

Spotting fake news can be easy — like when publications or social media platforms post things that are overtly sensationalized, or when a website doesn’t look official or well-vetted. 

However, sometimes false information hides in plain sight, and sometimes we just need to check our bias before sharing something. Common Sense Media has a great guide to help children develop their media literacy, but we think it’s great for all ages! Our questions are inspired by this guide to help you identify misinformation or think more critically about the information you just read:

  • Who made this? Is this publication reputable? What have they published in the past?
  • Who might benefit from or be harmed by this message?
  • What is left out of this article that I think could be important?
  • Who makes money when I read this article? 
  • What questions am I left with? Is more information available outside of this source?
  • What am I missing?

How to spot fake news:

As much as the term “fake news” is thrown around by politicians, real and scary disinformation campaigns exist in the world, and they put real journalism in danger. It’s so important to be thoughtful when you find new information. Here are a few ways to spot fake news and vet the source of your information:

  • Look for unusual URLs or site names. Is this website secure? Is it trying to look like a legitimate news site?
  • Look for signs of low quality, like bad grammar, bold claims with no source, words in all caps, or tabloid-like images.
  • Read a website’s “About Us” section to learn more about the publication, its funding, and leadership. This section can usually be found at the very bottom of a webpage, but if this section doesn’t exist, your source is likely not the best place to get important information.
  • Check Snopes — a great fact-checking resource — and do your own research on Google before sharing news. 
  • Check to see if other credible, mainstream outlets are reporting the same news. Dig a little deeper before taking this new information as fact.
  • Turn inward. What emotions are stirring as you read this piece of information? Fake news is meant to elicit a reaction. Is this too good (or too bad) to be true?

How to decrease bias when reading the news:

We all have internal biases that impact our view of the world. Many of us like to consume news based on these biases, finding publications that prove us right, or fuel our fire just a little more. 

Can we challenge ourselves to step outside of our echo chambers and approach the world a little more mindfully and authentically? 

“There are people from a variety of backgrounds, from a variety of political beliefs, religious beliefs, who are interested in seeking the truth, who are interested in having conversations based on facts,” Sharon McMahon, host of Government for Grownups, said in a Sounds Good podcast interview with us in 2021.

Here are a few ways to be mindful about bias and continue to seek truth when breaking news hits the headlines:

Detecting our own bias

Lots of folks like to pick a favorite news outlet and stick with it, so they have one consistent narrative to rely on. However, this can further our confirmation bias and make it hard to truly learn new things. It is so important to hear from different sources, viewpoints, and perspectives, to get the full picture of a piece of news.

We’re not asking you to ditch your NPR subscription or sell your New Yorker totes at your next garage sale, but we do urge you to continue to check your trust in your favorite publication by consuming something new — something that enables you to ask questions and check your blind spots. 

Another great tool is Ground News, a website and free browser extension that assesses news and empowers consumers to think freely and critically about the issues of our world. Ground News has a rating system that shows readers percentages of political bias on each article, allowing you to consider the source of your news every time.

Holding media outlets accountable

Just like us, reporters and publications operate with bias, as well. This is unavoidable — we are all human beings! Bias is to be expected in a world where we all exist with intersectional identities and have personal stakes in day-to-day events, but that doesn’t mean bias needs to infiltrate all of the media we consume.

Many media companies — especially social media companies — make money from various corporations, investors, and stakeholders, which can impact the kind of reporting they do. Perhaps they hide certain topics behind a paywall or don’t publish as many articles about climate change or racial equity. That is an issue.

Here’s the good news: we are not passive consumers of information, and we get to be involved. If you are disappointed in the coverage of a certain issue by a publication or writer, you have every right to let them know (in a kind, productive way — no bullying reporters allowed!). 

Send a letter to the editor, an email to a reporter, or give your local news station a call. Hot tip: if a news outlet has transparent contact information on their website, this is often a sign of a reputable publication!

We have a great guide to get you started in contacting a media outlet in a respectful and constructive way.

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March 7, 2022 5:30 PM
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