5 Tips From a News Reporter on How to Stay Informed While Avoiding the News

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White House Covid Task Force press conference. March 17, 2020. Whitehouse.gov

Contrary to popular belief, I’m not a fear monger. I think anyone willing to spend a day at my news desk would agree that I report facts. Unfortunately, the fact is our current circumstance is as insane, deadly and non-stop as it appears on the front page of every national newspaper.

As far as fake news goes, there’s a significant portion of the population who think I have nothing better to do than make stuff up out of thin air 365 days a year. These people are grossly mistaken.

Too much consumption of news can be detrimental to our health. Headline Stress Disorder is an actual thing with scientific peer reviewed research data. Although, ignorance can damage our health as well. The GOP just proved that last week.

As a reporter, I do the legwork and it doesn’t require me to use a single news outlet as a resource, therefore limiting news consumption but staying educated on current events.

These are my 5 top tips on how to stay informed while avoiding the news:

1. Watch livestreams

When I get a tip on an event, my immediate go to is searching the internet for a livestream or livestream footage. We can no longer consider a witness account as evidence. As the United States divided, so did the truth. Lying is on the rise along with chaos.

Since the internet’s first livestream of the band “Severe Tire Damage” in 1993, livestreams have become increasingly popular with alerting the American public of every form of wrongdoing imaginable, making it possible for us to be everywhere.

Since the COVID-19 pandemic swallowed the globe, livestreams have become even more widespread now with government meetings, court proceedings, ceremonies, sporting events and everything else livestreamed to reduce in-person public attendance.

2. Press conferences

I once read a comment by a woman who complained that a news outlet required a paid subscription to read an article about Iowa Governor Reynolds’ most recent press conference.

I left a response informing her that local, state and federal press conferences air on social media and television and are 100% accessible to the public, and that she could skip the news outlet altogether and watch it herself.

Watching it ourselves provides us with the words straight out of the horse’s mouth as opposed to depending on another source to spoon feed it to us.

3. Press releases and public resources

The public has access to most of the resources a reporter does. When any government entity, public figure, corporation, organization or business releases a press statement, we can find it on their website.

For instance, instead of waiting on a news source to provide information on the upcoming Biden/ Harris administration, you can go directly to their transition website and learn about their plans. Don’t read a news article about Biden’s most recent speech. Go to the website and watch his most recent speech, the same with reading original press releases.

Another scenario would be if you’re the type of person who believes its fear mongering when a news outlet announces that hospitals are at capacity. Hospitals typically publish press releases, COVID-19 surge plans, and community updates on their websites. Again, skip right over the middlemen known as news outlets.

Why wait until after a natural disaster for the news to relay your local emergency management agency’s response plan when you can go directly to their website and read it right now before the natural disaster strikes?

4. Don’t follow news outlets on social media

There is absolutely no reason to stay connected to the news at all times. It does more harm than good, and no one needs to remain that informed. Not to mention that we’re living in a time where it’s critical to our emotional wellbeing to separate the everyday tragedies we’re experiencing from our individual lives.

However, I recommend following a single journalist who has earned your trust. The type of journalist who works for the public and responds to the public. The type of journalist who will go find answers when you ask questions and follow up with your story tips.

Social media is the best way to stay connected to whoever that journalist is for you.

5. Keep it local

If you’re going to take part in the news, keep it local. Local news outlets’ primary focus is home, but they also report on top national stories. If a national news story sparks your interest, you can do the work yourself from there. This is a great way to limit consumption but remain up to date with our long list of national crises.

Staying in the loop on conditions in your immediate location can be beneficial to staying safe during pandemic and whatever may happen between now and Inauguration Day, just to name a few examples.

Staying informed is always beneficial. Here’s why:

While we’re focused at the national level, city and state government officials are making huge decisions that determine the quality of our lives. This takes place every day while we’re not paying attention. City councils, county supervisors, school boards, any type of formal committee and state legislators hold open public meetings.

Nowadays, these meetings virtually come to you to view it in the palm of your hand on your cellphone. I refer to these meetings as ground zero. It’s where the decisions that spark all the “fear mongering” news stories come from.

Newspaper reporter in Eastern Iowa. The views expressed are mine alone.

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