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Here Are 5 Easy Ways To Stay Informed On The Election As A Busy College Student

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When you’re busy studying for exams, writing papers, and maybe working an after-class job, it’s hard to find time to even scroll through Instagram, let alone keep up with the news. Today’s news industry moves faster than ever, with breaking updates on stories happening nearly every second. It seems that if you stop paying attention for even five minutes, you’ll miss something major.

But even as a busy college student, there are ways to keep up with everything that’s happening. From email newsletters, to podcasts and even social media accounts, you can still stay informed, even if you feel like you don’t have a second to spare.

1. Subscribe to email newsletters

For me, one of the easiest ways to get daily updates on the most important news stories is with email newsletters. Every night, I get the New York Times’ Evening Briefing sent to my inbox, which has quick recaps of the top ten stories of the day. You can either click on a link to read the full story, or just stick with the short version. It’s an easy way to quickly understand what’s going on in the world, even if you only read the headlines (like I’m often guilty of doing).

The New York Times also sends a Weekend Briefing on Sundays, so for those busy weeks when you’re completely blind to what’s happening in the world, you can catch up there as well.

Every morning, I also get theSkimm, which is basically the same thing as the Evening Briefing — except it comes in the morning, and it’s much, much funnier. It rounds up the major news stories of the day and breaks them down so they’re much easier to understand. Plus, it always has some kind of punny twist. I mean who doesn’t want their news about international political negotiations to be introduced with, “What beef is getting hotter than your BBQ grill…US-Iran”?

Sarah Lynch, Marist College ‘21, also reads theSkimm every morning when she wakes up. “I’m a huge proponent of theSkimm and how it engages millennials with current events. Some of the other morning news briefings I’ve subscribed to have not given me the perfect blend of breadth and brevity I’m looking for.”

It’s both quick and entertaining to read, especially if you don’t have time to read a newspaper cover to cover.

Related: 7 Relaxing and Productive Ways to Spend Your Commute

2. Listen to podcasts

Another one of my favorite ways to get the news is through podcasts. One of the best ones is NPR’s Up First. It’s only 12-15 minutes every morning, and the reporters always talk to experts about three different breaking stories. I usually listen to it while I’m getting ready, but you can listen on your walk to class, while you’re warming up at the gym, or even cooking dinner.

There are also a bunch of other news podcasts to try, although they’re usually a bit longer and more in-depth. For those days when you have a little extra time or are really interested in learning more about a particular story, The New York Times’ podcast The Daily is a great option. Only 20 minutes long, there’s one episode released every day, and each one covers a specific story, including interviews with experts, reporters, and witnesses. Host Michael Barbaro will always keep you captivated, whether the story is about Trump’s taxes, Roe v. Wade, or the ongoing pandemic.

3. Follow news outlets on Instagram

Although social media shouldn’t be your only source of accurate and credible news, it’s a good place to start. First, try following the major news outlets like The New York Times (@nytimes), The Washington Post (@washingtonpost), ABC (@abcnews), NBC (@nbcnews), etc. They usually share the essential details of the day’s top stories, offering links to the full story if you want to read more.

It might be a cliche, but a picture really is worth a thousand words. Sometimes I find that photos from the New York Times and TIME are much more compelling, and make me want to be more engaged with the news, than traditional news stories. It only takes a few seconds to read, and, let’s be honest, you’re already scrolling through your feed anyway. Of course, it’s always important to be aware of biases present in any publication that you read. If you have the time, try to read a mix of liberal, conservative, and centrist publications to make sure you’re always getting all the information you can.

You can also try following some non-traditional news accounts, like Jessica Yellin (@jessicayellin). She’s a former Chief White House Correspondent for CNN, started this account with the mission of “separating the news from the noise” to give her followers transparent and accurate descriptions of the news.

4. Follow journalists on Twitter

Like with Instagram, almost every major news outlet is on Twitter. To avoid overloading your feed with the same news stories, try following individual journalists instead. A lot of the time they provide more context to stories and add in their own opinions, which helps decipher what everything means.

Jessica Squires, George Washington University ‘21, says that Twitter is one of her main sources of news. “I follow several prominent politicians, journalists, and activists that I trust and have read from before.” She usually takes whatever they’re commenting on and does further research to get the full breadth of the story.

But, what if you don’t have any journalists to follow? A great way to find journalists is to pay attention to who’s covering the stories you care about. Look back at the headlines you keep clicking on in your Instagram feed. Is there a pattern in the topics? Is there one reporter whose work you end up reading a lot of, but just haven’t noticed? If the answer is yes, maybe start following them on Twitter. The more you follow, the more you’ll eventually find, as they all tend to discuss the news with one another.

5. Go online

Even if you’re really busy and only catch the headlines while walking past a newspaper sitting on the ground in the middle of the street or while sitting in a doctor’s waiting room, the News App on your phone is a great resource. The app aggregates stories from all different outlets, and send you notifications when something big happens. Even reading just the first few lines of a story is better than nothing

Staying informed is a good thing, but sometimes it’s possible to be too up-to-date. “Even as an International Affairs student, I’ve realized that there’s such a thing as too much news,” says Jessica. “It’s not essential to have a constant play-by-play of every global event happening at every second. It can be distracting.”

It’s much better to be fully aware of a few important issues rather than full of meaningless information about everything. Take the time to invest your attention in news that you really care about rather than trying to understand everything all at once. If you care about politics, seek out political news. If you’re not interested, then don’t overwhelm yourself with trying to understand every breaking story.

Even if you aren’t paying attention to the news every five minutes, there are ways to make up for it. You can find me listening to Up First every morning. What will you be doing to stay informed?

Makena is the Decor Section Editor, and former Style Section Editor and Editorial Intern at Her Campus. She is a senior at Marist College majoring in Communication with a concentration in Journalism and a minor in Graphic Design. One day she hopes to put her writing skills to work at a magazine or women's publication.  Follow her on Instagram @makenagera and Twitter @makena_gera.