a news diet

I hate the news. Well, I don’t hate news, but I’ve stopped tracking news because I hate the way they are. Don’t get me wrong, I want to be informed, but that’s not what has been happening. There is a lot of talk about the liberal media or the right-leaning media. News does not lean. At all. So I ignored the news and the most important things always found a way to me regardless.

I’m just tired of the news.

I’m also tired of always surprising my wife with all the things I have not heard about.

Thus I found myself once again thinking about news, rolling my eyes, and remembering the olden days.

I grew up in Germany. The news there were different. A dry recitation of facts. No raised voices to increase the drama. And absolutely no “deals on heals” or “the best eggs Benedict.” The news attempted to cover important facts from around the world. The news I grew up with aimed to inform. Entertainment was something very separate.

I know how this makes me sound.

When it comes to network news. I don’t feel like I’m getting news there. There a lot of human interest stories and trivial reports. When real news makes it on air, they quickly go from facts to opinions and editorial content. All while maintaining an air newsworthiness. Setting aside any alleged bias, I’m still sucking down a heavy sugar diet of intellectual crap. (Dear network news crews, please stop finding anyone who’s wanting to talk. It’s your job to vet people who are worth air time.)

What I’m really missing is a concise set of headlines with a little background.

There are also some interesting things that happen with algorithms in the world of Google and Facebook. Unfortunately, too much of the news there isn’t really news either.  Since I’m like most people, who click on certain things more than others, I end up training the algorithms to help build me an awesome echo chamber. At times it feels more like the philosopher’s cave. That’s great for making me feel awesome about my very well-formed and astute opinions, but it won’t leave me informed or, heaven forbid, learning something new.

I need a news diet. Less processed sugar. More farm to table.

So what do I want from my news: a limited set of headlines with a sprinkle of genuine factual background. I’m happy to take on the challenge of forming an opinion.

I spend a lot of time with software. My first inclination was to start writing some code that would scratch my news itch. I know better. The first thing to do is some searching. Odds are some other (often smarter) person already solved this issue. Lo, and behold I found some services that do pretty much what I would like. I’m sure there are more choices out there, but I was not looking for a research project. I discounted phone apps out of hand. Why? Because all the apps want to make sure I pay attention to them when they think I need distracting. I don’t need distracting.

A short email with just the facts will do nicely. I’ve long ago disabled notifications for emails and know I can get the news when I’m ready for them.

Here are the three I looked at:

  • The Daily Beast – It’s pretty nice. You get an email with some modest summary and a picture. They have an AM and PM email as well as a similar “cheat sheet”. The one thing I don’t care for is the picture. It makes the news less “dry” and that’s what I was after.
  • The Skimm – It’s well written and concise. The format was very attractive, but the overall tone was not “dry” enough for me. The creators clearly have a sense of humor and it was definitely entertaining, but then you might have caught my rant on that above 🙂
  • Need 2 Know – That’s the one I settled on. It’s quite terse and dry. There are a couple of places where puns make it in, but those are clearly separated from the news. If I had one ask of the creators, it would be to add some more international news.

I often find myself changing tools, but for now, I’m pretty happy with this approach to getting some headlines into me.


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