When & Where to Read the News

The following is a chapter from my book Bruh, Read the News: A Teen Guide for Fighting Disinformation, One Critical Thinker at a Time.

As the saying goes, “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.” Just like anything else in life, when it comes to reading the news, find what works for you and stick with it. If you’ve got the time to read the news in the morning, go for it. Maybe you prefer the evenings after school or your part-time job. Just keep this in mind: research suggests you should not watch the news for more than an hour a day as it’ll leave you depressed and deflated, and that’s the last thing I want this book to encourage.

Where to Read the News

Figure out where you’re going to read the news. It’s best to find a quiet place to concentrate, just like anytime you read. Maybe you prefer to read in bed, on the couch in your living room, or at the kitchen table when the dishwasher isn’t running. As long as you’ve got a fairly sanitary process and routine, bathrooms work also.

Can you guess which one’s the best seat in the house?

Not only should you pick a spot, but you also need to determine how you’ll read the news. I’m going to assume you prefer digital media. Will you read it on your laptop or desktop? In either case, create a bookmark folder in your browser for news sources. Compile around 10 trusted sources, with a good mix of the impartial or least biased, like Reuters, and the “highly factual” or at least “mostly factual” (according to MBFC), but with an obvious ideological stance, like CommonDreams.org for progressive news, and NationalReview.com for conservative commentary. The reason I suggest that you read from sources with an ideological stance is because by doing so, you’ll learn about the history, principles and values at the root of the movements on both sides of the political spectrum, as well as discover a lot of the double-speak, corruption and hypocrisy that straight news sources don’t always confront for fear of being labeled “biased” or partial to one side or another.

A Digital Alternative

Another great option is to buy an eReader. I use mine multiple times a day. Even in the evening when I’m sitting on the love-seat in the living room watching basketball and spending time with my wife, I’ve got the eReader beside me for catching up on an array of books and news articles. I recommend a Kobo eReader over Amazon Kindle for a few reasons that aren’t the concern of this book, but one worth mentioning is the fact that Kindle uses a proprietary file type, which means the eBooks from the Amazon store can only be loaded onto an Amazon device. That’s no good for me and a lot of consumers, which is why Kobo is a great alternative as it uses a universal eBook file type known as EPUB.

Rakuten Kobo US
Besides the great convenience of reading all kinds of books on my Kobo eReader, it also is integrated with the Pocket app. The way it works is this: if I come across an interesting article on my work laptop or personal desktop, I’ll save it to my Pocket account, and then when I open my Kobo later on, the article will sync to the device and be formatted just like an eBook, making the reading experience far more enjoyable and convenient than if I were to read from my computer’s browser.

You can use this to your advantage when it comes to the news especially, and it’ll help you establish a workable habit in terms of becoming informed and remaining so on a regular basis. I suggest that you go to a few of the sites you added to your News bookmark folder and start small: save 3-4 articles to your Pocket account and read them when you’ve got free time later on in the day. There are even articles in major newspapers like the NY Times that’ll compile the most important news of the day for you in one article. Even just reading 10 minutes a day this way will improve your awareness of public policy and the world around you.

You’ll likely miss a day here and there in this hectic world we live in, but don’t worry. The key is to build the habit, and make those “miss days” more and more unlikely. There are Americans walking around right now who, astoundingly, can’t name the vice president, who can’t name the number of justices on the Supreme Court and haven’t read a serious article in a newspaper or magazine in years. Should we really scratch our heads wondering why it feels like the world is collapsing all around us as we scroll through our timelines on social media?

Rakuten Kobo US

Full disclosure: if you purchase an eReader or related accessories through the link above, I earn a small commission.

What’s Your Favorite Music to Listen to While Studying?

https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/7/79/Minor_pentatonic_blues_scale_on_A.pngAlthough my full-time gig is in education, I’m also a musician and music lover who appreciates a wide array of genres: hip hop, blues, new age, rock, jazz & classical, in no particular order. And while I have some bad habits (namely, listening to C-Span in the background while writing and preparing lessons), I know that there’s only a few types of music that I can let play in the background while doing things that are academic in nature. So let me take a second to turn off Brian Lamb (while you turn off Black Sabbath) and I’ll share with you a list of my favorite types of music to play when it’s time to work. Count-off a 1, a 2, a 1, 2, 3, 4!

  1. New Age on Calm Radio

This is a big, expansive genre that ranges from traditional piano music and single instrument showcases to atmospheric & outer space synthesizer sounds. The idea is simplicity; calm and relaxing sounds that just ask that you hear them while focusing on your academic task at hand.  Recommendation: in my humble opinion, George Winston is the greatest living piano player on Earth and can a play a little something for everyone, whether its the Doors, Vince Guaraldi, religious classics or his own originals that attempt to express seasonal themes. Check George Winston out delivering this incredible live performance below.

  1. Classical music on my music library

Go to any public library or Half Priced Books store and you can borrow or buy all the classical music you’ll ever need on a collection of CDs for anywhere between free to a couple bucks a piece. Vinyl collectors can find a slew of great selections for cheap also. Recommendation: While I’d stay away from Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov for the purposes of academics (often very loud and anxious horn orchestrations), Felix Mendelssohn comes to mind as a go-to. I’m also a fan of Franz List, whose piano tracks can be utterly upbeat and motivating.

  1. Blues on TuneIn

You might have noticed at this point that I tend to avoid vocals and lyrics when studying or preparing. Well, this is my exception to the rule. TuneIn provides a lot of great radio stations across the U.S. and the globe, whether terrestrial or internet stations, and blues is one of my favorite offerings. I turn to shows like “Confessing the Blues”, “Blues After Hours” & the “Blues Connection”, especially when I’m working under the moon. The reason I can listen to the genre, as opposed to others with singing and lyrics, is the call and response nature of the music, and because the whole experience of blues cuts deep to my soul, and complements the efforts I’m putting into my work for the benefit of my students. Recommendation: Albert Collins…pure genius!

  1. Gregorian Chant on Calm Radio

I came across this gem of the meditative music world a few years ago while living in the Northern Neck of Virginia. It was also around the time that I had discovered Calm Radio. Its origins trace back to the 9th and 10th centuries in western and central Europe where choirs of men and boys sang sacred songs as part of the ceremonies of the Roman Catholic Church. I find that the songs help me relax, read and write. Take a listen.

Honorable Mention:

Jazz music, with one caveat: like other genres, some of it tends to be distracting, so tread lightly or know the band or musician well. I like the Crusaders, the incredible Bob James and for those looking for a more recent contemporary, check out Brian Blade & the Fellowship Band.

I hope you enjoyed this list. That said, I’d love to add to my repertoire, so please add your suggestions and comments below. Keep reading, and keep listening. Merry Christmas!

Happy New Year, 2017

If there is one quote that could sum up 2016, it would come from the one and only, Abraham Lincoln: “You can fool all the people some of the time, and some of the people all the time, but you cannot fool all the people all the time.” Despite a lot of pessimism about the future, I also remain very positive and hopeful. I know that education is still the only path forward for everyone. I know that reading daily is a habit with numerous benefits, and I know something important about myself that I didn’t last January. If I’m not blessed, I’m extremely fortunate. I could have been born in a country with less than half of the liberties, securities and wealth than my own, and to a family that didn’t value its benefits. We’re not a perfect country, and 2016 was a less than perfect year, but I’m still looking forward to 2017. Happy New Year!