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1st May 2024

Keeping on top of the news cycle: How to stay up to date as a student

Being a student can mean an incredibly busy schedule, so how can you make time to find out what’s happening in the world?
Keeping on top of the news cycle: How to stay up to date as a student
Credit: cottonbro studio @ Pexels.

As someone involved in student journalism, it’s always a bit shameful to say that whilst at university my main source of news is my Twitter feed. Yes, as someone who aspires to a career in the media, where, what, and who you know is your greatest asset, and so the way I consume news is probably one of my greatest embarrassments. I promise – I’m trying to work on it.

But admittedly we’ve got a lot going on, and it’s easy enough to fall into the trap of saying you’ll “find time” to keep up to date with current affairs. Yet, as students, we definitely have an unwritten responsibility to know what’s going on in the world, particularly as it can be incredibly beneficial when talking to future employers and in your actual degree too.

It can be difficult to find ways to consume the news meaningfully. It’s easy enough for me to say, “I’m going to read three stories on the BBC front page every day when I wake up,” because, realistically, that’s never happening. I’d love to be the sort of person who can easily integrate reading or meditation into their morning routine, but frankly, I just dawdle and even when I give myself enough time, I always seem to be running behind.

So how can you sustainably and, more importantly, realistically improve your news consumption?

During the 2020 lockdown, I made the decision to remove any news apps from my phone and unfollow media organisations on social media, except Twitter. This might seem like an odd thing to mention when I’m actively trying to promote engagement with current affairs. But a key reminder is that, whilst it is crucial to understand current affairs – especially considering the current global political landscape – overconsuming the news can make it overwhelming.

However, social media can be a great tool for understanding the news. Consider tailoring your current feed to include news organisations. It’s all about figuring out your “news diet” and understanding what you want to be informed on. Keeping this to only a few accounts allows their content to reach your feed and for you to gain a better picture of what’s going on in the UK and the wider world.

TikTok is undeniably an easy way to procrastinate, so why not turn that procrastination into bite-sized news consumption? Mainstream news publications are ever-increasing their output of short-form content, and The Washington PostThe News Movement, and i-D Magazine are three of my personal recommendations of those doing it the best.

News apps can be good too, but some outlets require paid subscriptions to access their full range of stories. However, these subscriptions are often incredibly good value for money, and the recurring cost can act as an obligation to make use of it! For example, The Times’ student subscription is only £9.99 a year.

Don’t forget that culture journalism is news too. Whilst Edward Enniful’s last issue of Vogue as Editor-in-Chief is sat on my bedside table more as a means of decoration than having been read, buying the physical copy of a magazine or publication can make keeping up to date more of an “experience” and feel like a special treat. UNITOM in the Northern Quarter is well worth a visit if you’re after something specific, otherwise lots of the mainstream culture publications are available in most supermarkets.

Long reads are particularly common in the world of culture writing, but it can be hard to find what interests you. Bloomscroll and Postcards by Elle are two Substack newsletters which send either weekly or bi-weekly recommendations of their top picks. Culture news can be easy to keep up with on social media, with accounts like @diet_prada and @stylenotcom offering regular updates from the fashion industry.

Everyone and their best friend’s dog has a podcast these days, but news organisations are old-timers in the game. Your 20-minute Instagram scroll on the 142 into uni could become an opportunity to find something new about what’s happening in the world. For a daily news podcast, The New York Times’ ‘The Daily’ and The Times’ ‘Times news briefing’ are two brief ones to gain a quick understanding of the top stories that day. The Financial Times’ ‘FT News Briefing’ is another daily one for surprisingly accessible business and finance news if you’re interested in that sort of thing.

For the bigger picture, try ‘Sensemaker’ from Tortoise, ‘Today, Explained’ from Vox, or ‘Today in Focus’ from The Guardian. And it wouldn’t be an article from a student journalist about journalism without mentioning ‘The News Agents’, hosted by industry royalty Emily Maitlis, Jon Sopel, and Lewis Goodall. Live radio is still alive and well too, and whilst at home from university, news bulletins are my favourite way of knowing what’s going on.

And don’t forget about student journalism! Manchester is a pretty big city, but there’s much more happening in the larger student landscape. When at university, remember that other people are doing the same course as you, perhaps just 100 miles in the other direction. There are lots of great student papers up and down the country – the most comprehensive list is on the Student Publication Association’s website.

Jacob Robinson

Jacob Robinson

Head Investigations Editor & MMG News Producer 2023-24 | Former Head of Talk Shows and Deputy Head of Podcasting at Fuse FM 2022-23

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