This week I tried listening to a different news podcast each morning

As a journalism student, I’m ashamed to say that I do not seek out news on a daily basis.

I do scan headlines as I scroll through my New York Times app on my way to the mini crossword. But, besides the occasional purchase of a National Geographic, Time or Rolling Stone magazine, this is the extent of my exposure to “the news.”

I suffer from a crisis of indecision. With so much out there, I find it overwhelming to choose what to listen to, who to listen to and what I can trust as a source.  Plop on top of that an amazingly busy schedule (which I’m sure my fellow readers will relate to), and the question becomes: Is it worth my time?  

In my estimation, the world keeps turning whether or not I am aware of it, and reading the news simply to fling my own opinion about because I “read an article” doesn’t seem justified.

But lately, I’ve become aware that maybe it’s a problem to go through life with my head down — and honestly, it feels like I’m missing the the punchline of a lot of New Yorker cartoons.

So in the spirit of this column, I devoted my week to listening to a different news podcast each morning.  

The podcasts I listened to varied each day because I wanted to test the waters for what kinds of podcasts would be more beneficial, useful or, at the core of my experiment, worth my time. I started off with “The Daily,” the New York Times podcast, which focuses on one long form story; the Wall Street Journal’s podcast, which follows a similar form; NPR’s “Up Next,” which gives a quick synopsis of the day’s three biggest news stories; The BBC minute, which gives exactly one minute of “the world’s most shareable news;” and a few more.

After a week of doing this, I noticed several things. The long form stories interested me more than a typical news podcast because the news presented as stories appeals to me more. I also found it was really easy to put on while I made breakfast, did laundry or even got ready in the morning. It was actually an incredibly time efficient way to consume news.

But now, for the big question: Is the content worth consuming?

In my opinion, yes. 

If nothing else, the stories were intriguing. I listened to stories on sketchy surveillance technology, the controversy over the Nike Vaporflys shoe, Ta-Nehisi Coates’ thoughts on cancel culture and how the Chinese government was involved in the spread of the coronavirus. 

Not only were they compelling, but I actually learned something valuable. I understand the situation in China on more than just a surface level, I now look at the Nike company a little differently, and I heard the perspective of an author I admire outside of just his writing.

It’s a good feeling to learn something new. I think this feeling can get lost as students are constantly bombarded with information. Because of this, we associate learning with work, and our free time revolves around outlets that allow us to shut off our brains, like sports or Netflix. 

I’m not saying these things aren’t positive, or that you can’t learn valuable things from sports or Netflix. But listening to these podcasts did something I didn’t quite expect. It brought out a curiosity inside of me that was lying dormant. As I listened, my curiosity grew, and I wanted to listen to more stories to hear more of what was going on around the world.

Despite my past reluctance to keep up with the news, I do think it’s important to be aware of the world, and understanding enough about politics to be an informed voter is also important.

But, listening to news doesn’t have to be just a duty. If I were to give any advice based on my experience, it would be to seek out the types of stories that interest you. If you like long-form feature stories, listen to those. If you’re interested in politics, science or economics, listen to the podcasts that talk about news in those areas. 

It’s unrealistic to keep up-to-date with everything happening in the world. I think the important thing is that we seek out the publications that feed our curiosity and allow us not only to be aware of the world, but also to engage with it. The important thing is that we try to keep our heads up in a world with so much knowledge at our fingertips.

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