I’m about as digitally native as it gets.
I never used Google Reader — or any RSS reader. I picked through newspapers and devoured magazines as a kid, but when I got older and started caring about the news (and stopped having time to read actual books), where I turned was Twitter.
But, native or not, I still struggle with the seminal problem of getting your news online (for free): Separating the signal from the noise, sifting through the sea of content and finding something worthwhile.
Here are a few strategies that have helped me find gems in the pile of pixels:
1. Twitter, of course. Obviously, Twitter is full of noise and fury and requires plenty of its own separating. I do that (as many other people do) by using the “favorite” button as a bookmark. One click when I see something interesting leads to a constantly-replenishing, self-selected list of things to read. I try to make it through everything I favorite the same day. Sometimes that happens, usually through a few gluttonous, procrastinating chunks of reading, but usually it doesn’t.
2. r/foodforthought. This is my absolute favorite place for long reads on things I never would’ve selected myself. My Twitter stream tends to become an echo chamber, just circles of new information on the same things I’m already interested in (media, technology, North Carolina, breaking news). I trust the people who contribute to this subreddit to supply me with the hardest-to-find internet commodity: articles on topics I’m not interested in that are written so well I become interested. Yesterday, that was this New Yorker piece on Sim City and its obscure counterpart, Dwarf Fortress. Today, who knows.
3. Fuego. As much as there is to be said for news on things you aren’t already interested in, I’ve zeroed in on the topics that crowd my Twitter feed for a reason. Perhaps no other news deserves the “…you can use” addendum like the shop-talk variety; the value of narrowing in on your profession and knowing all its shifts and curves from day to day is huge. The best place for my particular brand of shop talk (media, media, & more media) is the Nieman Journalism Lab’s Fuego bot. If I’ve missed something on Twitter, guaranteed it’ll show up there.
4. The other news-y subreddits. I don’t love r/news and r/inthenews as much as I do Food for Thought, but these two are good places to find simpler, shorter pieces I wouldn’t have otherwise read. My favorite finds here are often from large news sites I don’t tend to check often, like BBC News and CNN. (Nothing wrong with those outlets, but sites with so much content are the epitome of noise for me.)
5. The Newseum.
I try to scan through all of the Newseum’s North Carolina front pages each morning. Reading all those headlines is a fun, print-y way to get story ideas, see who’s covering what and how, and get a broad idea of what’s going on across the state. (Plus, North Carolina’s really a design state when it comes to newspapers. In addition to being informative, this whole exercise is just really pretty.)
So…what about you? What are your tricks for finding the signal in the noise?