How to Engage in the News as a High School Student


“Republican? Democrat? Undecided?” by edenpictures is licensed under CC BY 2.0

Elisha Verbes

 In the ever-changing world that we live in today, it’s important to have a sense of what’s going on in, both in our local, relevant affairs, and the globe at large. Unfortunately, the revolving cycle of news headlines can make it overwhelming as busy students to read through dense articles every day. Unlike for much of the previous century when the only way to read the news was to purchase and read physical newspapers, technology has transformed how we get informed. Although we do hear about current events through word of mouth, it’s important to actually engage with it first hand to understand the full story and context. 


Instagram stories should not be your only source of news. Especially in recent months since the murder of George Floyd and the ensuing Black Lives Matter movement, educational posts such as infographics, news headlines, and political cartoons have transformed Instagram to become a place where people who may have previously been disinterested in current events can now learn, share, and use their platform and voice for good. While I do think it’s great that social media has been turned into something other than selfies, we need to be cautious to not believe everything we see, so check the sources for reliability and bias. Instagram activism should be a starting point in terms of getting informed, not the end, so do your own research and readings, especially if you’re unsure if something you’ve seen is misinformation or not.


If you’re on the Wess Side Stories website and reading this right now, then you’re already engaging in journalistic writing! Here are a some tips and a few different types of “reading” the news:


News Podcasts

Listening to a news podcast is great to give our eyes a much needed break after staring at a screen all day long for school. Podcasts are convenient and flexible too because you can listen to them while multitasking. Walking, exercising, making breakfast, tidying your room, or even while drawing is a great opportunity to listen and learn.


For a daily 10-20 min summary and analysis of the morning’s top 3 headlines, try NPR’s Up First or Vox’s Today Explained. If you want something longer and deeper, try the NYT’s The Argument or The Guardian’s Audio Long Reads. If you are really tight for time, the BBC’s One Minute World News gives you an overview of several top international headlines in 60 seconds. It’s updated hourly throughout the day, so watching in the morning and at night will keep you somewhat up to date. 


Tip: On podcast streaming apps (Spotify, Apple Podcasts, Stitcher) you can speed up podcasts to 1.5x or 2x speed if you want to listen in a fraction of the time


Free news apps

Especially when we have those small moments throughout the day when we are waiting for something such as the train, skimming through the latest headlines can make going on our phones slightly more productive than refreshing Instagram. Most mainstream news companies have free apps without any subscription costs.


Tip: turn on notifications for your news apps so that you are more likely to click on the app and read!

Video journalism

From 5 minute Youtube videos to full-blown documentaries, video can be a passive and relaxing way of learning about current events and specific issues. Every news company has a Youtube channel with live news and short clips uploaded throughout the day, but for more edited and explained content, Vox, The New York Times and the Wall Street Journal’s videos are packed with animation, creativity, and visual elements that make the 5-10 minutes very captivating.  


Email newsletters 

Because we check our email throughout the day anyways, having the news sent directly to your inbox can remove the aspect of actually remembering to check the news. Many news apps have an option where you can choose what type of news and how often you want sent directly to your email. Independent online newspapers, such as The Skimm are specifically designed as email newsletters with selected, easily digestible articles.


Whichever news medium works best for you, making it a habit is the best way to ensure you actually get round to engaging in it. Set a time every day, you can even use a phone reminder, to ensure the habit sticks. However, don’t feel like you have to know everything about every issue all the time. There is a constant stream of news happening both in the US and around the world, so keeping up to date on every issue is not only close to impossible, but can be detrimental to your mental health. Especially in uncertain times like the pandemic, constantly checking the news can arouse anxiety and distract us from getting tasks done. Just like we have our own preferences in pop culture, finding a “niche” area of the news will make engaging in it much more enjoyable and interesting. News websites have tabs for specific topics, so for example, you might be very passionate about climate change and want to read about how different countries are responding and introducing carbon emission policies. 


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