Facebook. Periscope. Email Digests. Twitter. It turns out that I get almost all of my political news from online sources. I tracked my media consumption from August 6th to 14th and discovered that only once did I learn about politics from something that wasn’t my phone or computer…and that was only because I was traveling!
So what kinds of resources do I use to learn about politics? For the most part, I take a look at news that my friends send me or post on social media. For example, I read this article about Donald Trump and the debates because a friend gchatted me the link. And I learned about a ruling about voter ID laws in Texas because another friend shared this article on Facebook. Beyond stumbling onto news this way, I also tried to read the email digests that arrived in my inbox each morning: the Daily Beast’s Cheat Sheet and theSkimm. While waiting for a flight, I took a look at online articles from the New York Times, Washington Post, and Austin American Statesman.
I also turned to a new source this week: Periscope. When I learned that the Republican debate was only going to be shown on Fox, a channel I don’t get at home, I began madly trying to find a means of streaming it only to discover the company had made it very difficult to access without a cable subscription. However, people were pointing their phones toward their tvs and streaming that video on Periscope…I felt like I was watching a bootlegged movie, but I got the information I wanted!
On the whole, I think my news diet as outlined above captures several elements of my political identity. I use these sources primarily because they’re easy and quick; the Cheat Sheet or theSkimm serve as a one-stop shop where I can learn the most important issues of the day in five minutes or less. Many years ago, Anthony Downs argued that we need the media to tell us what is important in politics because we don’t have the time to invest in learning everything ourselves–this is definitely still true for me! Beyond that, my choices reflect the news consumption patterns typical of people of my age and education–a greater trend towards internet usage. Ultimately, my use of multiple sources reduces the likelihood that I will adopt any single medium’s frame or agenda as my own, but it doesn’t prevent me from understanding the political world through the lenses prevalent to all media–an emphasis on drama, conflict and the political horse race.