Since I was old enough to vote, I’ve always made an effort to stay politically informed. Admittedly, some years I’ve been more informed than others (something big must have been happening on HBO at the time…). But there are so many think pieces to choose from, that I’m learning it’s hard to ever be wholly in the know. When I go to my browser’s home page (a Canadian news publication) I’ll scroll through the ‘Politics’ section, pick and choose the headings that speak to my interests, seem intriguing, or boast names and subjects I recognize. Or sometimes I’ll turn to my politically savvy pals to take their temperature on our country/province/city’s current political atmosphere. But in this way, I’m only receiving a small portion of the story –
– a story that’s filtered through a left-wing publication, through the personal opinions of those around me, and through my less than prolific consumption of politically-framed articles. While I made a point to pay attention during the time leading up to our recent Federal election, I’m noticing that it’s now, after the results have come in and the political climate of our country has changed, that I’m being especially vigilant.
Personally, I like knowing what other people, smarter folk than I, are talking about, and I like to be able to, if not have my own opinion on the matter, at the very least possess a basic understanding of what’s being discussed (if only to avoid a vacant, mouth-agape, confused facial expression in social settings). I’m no longer in school, where educators reminded me to stay informed, and did their best to keep their students aware of the world around them, nor do I live with my parents anymore to benefit from their discussions of current affairs – I am – as many of you surely are, left to my own devices (yes this includes those of the mobile variety). And now there are way more obstacles on the path to political acumen than just the newest episode of The O.C., a kegger at so-and-so’s, or perhaps just purposely digging your heels in to piss your parents off. Now there’s Netflix. Now there’s wine. Now there’s dating without supervision. And now every night is a non-school night. Distractions are plentiful, and it’s all too easy to adopt a #IDGAF attitude about such matters. But, if you fear apathy, like I do, then it is worth paying attention. And it’s never too late to start.
Here are some tips to help you along if you too desire becoming an *in the know*, news-soaking sponge:
- Be mindful of where your news is coming from. Most publications have a specific political stance, and thus may be presenting a certain perspective to you. That’s all fine – reading about different topics from a variety of perspectives may help to inform your own unique outlook – but just be sure to keep this in the back of your mind. In this same vein, be sure the source is reputable – you don’t want to be spouting bad info (c/o Fox News) around town.
- Put some thought into what matters – national, provincial, and local – actually matter to you. This may help to make a news page less daunting when you visit, since you’ll know what you’re looking for.
- Keep an eye on the big stories that have evolving discussions and information surrounding them. While they may not necessarily speak directly to your personal interests, it’s important to know about large-scale issues with lots of moving cogs, as they will surely effect other realms of the political landscape at one point or another.
- Read opinion editorials written by respected journalists on topics that interest you. Whether the opinion presented is parallel to yours or not, perhaps it can offer you a deeper understanding or shed a new light on something you’ve been thinking about, and help you to develop a more nuanced opinion. However, again, be aware of the background of these authors, so you know what motives may advise their viewpoint.
- I’m finding the most important thing is to follow-up with and keep track of any stories that particularly peak my interest. The facts presented at the publication of a news item could drastically change and develop over a short amount of time. Day 1 may have only scraped the surface of the topic – Day 3, 7, and 21 are where the fuller picture comes into view.