December 1, 2016


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As a college student, sometimes I feel like I am in a bubble, or have blinders on. Here at Cornell, and probably at many other schools, you can go through your daily life focusing on nothing but school, those around you and whatever is happening on campus. With this, you can find yourself being unaware of what is going on outside of the boundaries of the campus, or the community where your college is located. With the incredible amount of work that undergraduates have and the vast amount of material you are supposed to learn and retain in order to succeed in your coursework, it is easy to let watching the news or reading the paper slide.

But it can become a habit, and once it becomes habitual, it becomes a new norm. The purpose of college, in my opinion, is to become a more well-rounded individual through learning. But some form of awareness, gained through the news, is a necessity. Knowledge is power, and knowledge of current events, in particular, can help fuel a greater scope of understanding – even of course material, as you can look at it through a different lense. My days are mostly spent staring at a lecturer, a PowerPoint presentation, my notes, Netflix, etc. – a fact vastly different from what I remember my time at home in high school, and even when I’m home on breaks now, to be like.

During the academic year in high school, I would watch the news religiously. In the mornings, I ate my breakfast while watching the morning edition of the channel 7 news, and when I returned home, I listened in to the evening edition as I finished my dinner. This trend of watching the news morning, noon and night would expand over the summer. I would read the newspaper, when available, and prided myself on how “informed” I was on current events, both local and global. But once I started college, and even returned from breaks, I felt like my overall awareness of what was going on in the world was, to a certain extent, lacking.

As a freshman, and even as a sophomore, I relied on what was “trending” on Facebook or BuzzFeed links to get even a glimmer of what was happening in “the real world”. It is easy and convenient. Even then, my “what’s trending” feed lacks a certain seriousness that I like to my news. Currently, my trending feed on Facebook consists of terms and phrases such as “Penn Badgley,” the former Gossip Girl star who looks unrecognizable because of his new haircut, “Taco Bell,” which apparently launched a new Cheetos Quesadilla in the Philippines, and “Wes Anderson,” whose style is being adopted in a new H&M ad campaign. Three topics that are, in a sense, news, but don’t indicate what’s going on in the world around me. The trending feature of Facebook is a great feature to have when looking for celebrity gossip or soundbites of what politicians might have said but, where is the news? It’s superficial and only a taste of what’s really going on in the world.

In my search for “news,” I’ve found a couple quick and simple solutions. I either (A) go to a news source website, such as BBC or the Washington Post, (B) follow news organizations directly on Facebook so that articles they post pop up on my feed, or, (C) I listen to a podcast. For news about politics, there are many options. In particular, I listen to the NPR Politics Podcast, hosted by NPR political correspondent’ Tamara Keith and Sam Sanders, who are frequently joined by many other political journalists from NPR. The show generally comes in two versions: The longer version titled “Weekly Roundups” and a shorter version titled “Quick Takes.” They also have “Listener Mail” episodes on Mondays, where listeners from around the globe can leave either audio messages or email for the hosts and have their political questions answered. In addition to news that is political in nature, the hosts cover a variety of other topics, such as food and musicals and their relation to politics.

One of my favorite things about the NPR Politics Podcast is that the discussion is casual. Yes, they are talking about fairly serious news – but it’s never boring. They throw in pop culture references, like in their segments “Can’t Let it Go,” where they talk about something that they just can’t let go of from the week. In addition, the hosts are never complex in their discussion. They break down topics so that even the most novice of listeners can grasp the impact of what they are saying. They do this through their “Listener Mail” episodes and in their special episodes where they explain phenomena that many people might not know much about, like how polling works, or about gun laws. Although the podcast was developed as a result of the election, it will be interesting to see how it evolves with the inauguration of new president and no presidential races to follow.  

There is nothing wrong with scrolling through the Facebook trending for a glimpse of celebrity gossip or a hint about a major news event. I still do it. But it’s not satisfying; I never feel like I’ve learned enough. For those seeking more, or simply just to learn, the NPR Politics Podcast is the way to go.