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The news, short and sweet

One in depth, one in brief

Opinion articles about the media are often critical, pointing out everything that is wrong with all or certain media outlets. Here is a corrective.

There are countless professional news and information outlets available via the Internet. Some are good, a few are great, and many are bad or incompetent. Here are two very different websites that take divergent approaches, and each succeeds in increasing the reach of news and ideas.

Newser (www.newser.com) is arguably the best place to find the headline news right now. Some would argue that Twitter is better at that, but Newser is not a random collection of comments that might or might not have any relation to reality. Nor is it all auto-generated links. Newser is curated content, with live human editors selecting stories from long-form news sources and boiling them down to a couple descriptive paragraphs (with links to the full article, of course).

Newser’s motto is “Read Less, Know More,” which would normally drive an editor like me crazy. I feel strongly that people today are suffering from doing too little reading and thinking, and they are subsequently making bad decisions – in business, politics, even socially – because they don’t consider and digest details and the implications of an issue at hand.

But Newser not only doesn’t bother me in that sense, it actually fits right in. It’s a great place to find the latest developments in the news, whether serious or silly. It also includes links to the original sources, so anyone wanting to delve more deeply into the subject can do so.

CNN’s Headline News used to provide that look at the latest news. It was the channel from which you could get a quick wrap-up of the current headlines. It was not intended to be PBS NewsHour or even the network evening news. It was what it said it was: headline news. But the channel made an unfortunate switch right around the time of 9/11 when it decided headline news was a boring business to be in, and it replaced its on-air staff with a group of young anchors who had the journalistic gravitas of Justin Bieber. Then the channel began to fill its schedule with talking-head shows starring people like Nancy Grace and Glenn Beck. It succeeded in becoming more quotable, but it did so by ditching what it did so well. Into that void stepped Newser.

Arts & Letters Daily (www.aldaily.com) is produced by the folks who bring you The Chronicle of Higher Education. It isn’t education-wonky, however; ALDaily is nothing more complicated than a regularly updated page of links to English-language articles from around the world featuring intellectual, artistic or philosophical stories.

ALDaily is in some ways the opposite of Newser. Instead of news briefs about Romney and Santorum, or studies linking pot use and auto accidents, ALDaily links to articles about the latest research into Attila the Hun, the trade in counterfeit art in the Weimar Republic, and the changing world of censorship faced by today’s editors.

The links have short descriptions of the articles to which they connect; there are only a couple of ads on the entire page, and there are no exhortations to take part in social media or face being ostracized by people you don’t care about anyway.

No one can live on highbrow articles alone, and no one will fully understand the world from reading Newser’s news digest. But taken together, these two relatively simple online news sources will give you a good foundation for getting through the day.

John Zipperer has been a writer and editor, online and in print, for two decades. E-mail: john@marinatimes.com
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