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How to Safely Stay in the Loop on Current Events

It is easier than ever to stay up to date on the news. Every breaking story can be reached and read with a single right swipe on your iPhone’s home screen. Opinion pieces infiltrate our social media feeds. Notably, with controversy surrounding the latest election, we are drowning in news.

Due to the digital age of media, consumers of news have evolved from reading newspaper in the morning and waiting for the five o’clock news at night to picking up snippets of headlines and stories throughout the day. The abundance of news has its downsides though. People are not taking the time to immerse themselves and learn the full story. This results in people only reading headlines, which reinforces our society’s new favorite term “fake news.”

News consumers also no longer have to rely on a single source for news because of the availability of enormous amount of news outlets. This opens up opportunities for nonfactual-based journalism to permeate our news feeds and causes consumers to group all media outlets together and ridicule media as a whole. Unfortunately, due to the lack of responsibility of many members in the journalistic field, as well as the unwillingness of readers to properly consume the news, journalism has lost its reputation of being fair, unbiased and reputable. Now it is our responsibility to teach people, once again, how to read the news.

1. Don’t Trust a Title

If your crazy, opinionated uncle shares an article titled “Obama Signs Executive Order Banning The Pledge of Allegiance In Schools Nationwide,” or “Trump’s History of Corruption is Mind-Boggling. So why is Clinton Supposedly the Corrupt One?,” you might want to click on that link before you make the same mistake he made. Leading up to the election, BuzzFeed News reported that 20 fake news stories received more traffic, shares, likes, and comments on Facebook than 20 real stories from reputable news sites. The problem is, people don’t click on the links to read for themselves. A catchy and eye-opening title is enough for a story to go viral.

If a title looks dubious to you, check the domain name and URL. Go to that website and explore other stories. If the website is slow, is booming with popups, has lots of grammar issues, or is lacking a great amount of stories and writers, it is most likely fake. One of the most efficient ways to check the validity of a source is to look at the comments section. Most likely you won’t be the first one to question the article. Often times, the first comment you read will inform you that the article is not based on facts.

2. Check your Mobile Device

A reliable and safe way to obtain reputable news is to get them directly on your smartphone. For example, iPhones come with a preinstalled news app. When you swipe all the way to the far left page on your home screen, you will find “Breaking News” stories and stories that are “Trending.” All stories displayed on your iPhone’s home screen come from established news sources, such as The New York Times, The Washington Post, Bloomberg News, Fox News, and more.  

Another method is to download news apps. In addition to curated news on your phone, you should have two to three news applications. This way you will be aware of other stories that, while still very important, might not be big enough to make the four slots on your home screen. You should download at least one source that you previously hadn’t sided with, which will take you out of your comfort zone and open you up to views that are contrary to your pre-existing belief. This in turn will make for better communication with others.

3. Careful Use of Social Media

Social media, if used properly, can be an amazingly informative tool. Follow reputable news organizations on social media. Posts coming directly from their media pages will not hold false information. This way, for those who struggle following the news, your news feed will force-feed you the information you need. Every time you are scrolling through Facebook, Instagram and Twitter, titles will catch your eye. This will make you more inclined to click on them and inform yourself. Mobile news sites are engaging and informative just like social media. So, once you leave social media to read an article, try surfing on that publication’s site. Trade mindless entertainment for informative news, and you will be so much better off.

4. Take Advantage of Your Resources

While you’re at college, take time to read your school newspaper. This helps you stay informed on campus events and those in your community, and will also give you a feel for your peers’ opinions and reactions to current events. By the way, the school newspaper is FREE. Many campuses also offer free editions of national newspapers, like The New York Times or The Washington Post, on the stands next to the school paper. If the national papers are not readily available to you, they also offer student discounts for their online editions.  

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In this information age, news is more plentiful than ever. As a result, there are both benefits and serious drawbacks. News consumption has changed. With that change comes a greater responsibility on the sides of the news organizations, the readers, and the social media sites that market our news to find the truth and block out what is false.

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Jackson Schroeder is a journalism major and political science minor working towards his Bachelor's degree at Ohio University. He is from Savannah Georgia. Jackson has covered a wide range of topics, including Sports, Culture, Travel, and Music. Jackson plays Bass and Guitar, and enjoys playing and listening to live music in his free time.