So I flaked on doing an Information Overload last week. To make up for that, I’m doing a two-parter this week. But instead of just sharing articles, I’d like to share some of my favorite websites and apps I use to access and read the news, since I think that the outlet is often just as important as the content.
My favorite websites have three components:
- Well researched—but approachable—writing on a variety of topics.
- A nice, clean design, that offers options to share
- Regularly updated content
Pretty straightforward, right? I’m a journalist, so I’m pretty well versed in the inside secrets of publishing, but it also means that while my standards are minimal, they are set pretty high.
Without further ado, here is part I of my favorite places to read news.
This is the first site I visit every day because it tackles topics from across the board. However, I especially enjoy it for their articles on education and technology. Given that it’s my academic field, I’m usually pretty in-the-know about innovations, but Good.is is always introducing new topics that I then spend hours researching. Their staff writers are great, and this website is packed full of great content every day. If I could only read one website for the rest of my life, it’d be this one, hands down.
AT has a great assortment of articles related to technology, but I like that they don’t just report on specific gadgets or things—they critically analyze the impact that technology has on society. I think they also do a good job of being pretty technical; often, technology websites stay away from getting to the nitty gritty of it in an effort to make it more accessible by non-techies, but AT has a knowledgeable staff that is able to look at technology not just as writers who fanboy over it, but as journalists who study it.
Alternet is my go-to site for political news, and for saying that I’ll probably be called out for being a lefty, which should probably be common knowledge by now. I like Alternet because they cover different topics and also share news from other sources. This is a good site for critical arguments on hot political topics.
TP is similar to Alternet, but I like their website design a bit more. Their writers aren’t afraid to be harsh, honest and well-researched critics. This one is also accused of being a lefty site, but I find a lot of their posts to be pretty objective, and they always include video clips or references directly in their articles, which is very helpful.
Because they have so many writers, HuffPo is a hit or miss, but it’s a great one-stop-shop for breaking news across the spectrum. I like that they have people other than just trained journalists writing articles (like doctors, teachers, artists, etc). Their website design leaves a lot to be desired for me though, and I suggest reading the comments sections at your own peril.
I visit TreeHugger often because they have succinct stories on many environmental topics, including food, transportation, technology, etc. Their articles are pretty straightforward—and sometimes extremely short, which isn’t always a bad thing—and they aren’t afraid to get political (especially since environmental issues are so tied to politics). There’s also always new content every time I visit, which can be several times in one day. My biggest problem with it, though, is there is a huge site-wide bias in favor of vegetarianism/veganism, as if those lifestyles can’t be wasteful (even though they can be just as much as any other). I’d like them to at least open up discussion for those of us who are carnivorous and still eco-conscious.
I fell in love with Inhabitat the first time I visited. They are similar to TreeHugger, but their website has a better design, and their articles are usually better edited. The whole focus is on “design,” which often translates better as innovation. Cool, interesting content.
High Country News
This website (and magazine) has a good range of opinion and news stories from the west coast. They have some really beautiful essays, and they get pretty thorough about the political issues they choose to cover. I just wish more of their content was accessible without a subscription, but I’ll probably splurge and get one anyway.
Websites I frequent often but don’t necessarily recommend
So I’m an avid redditor and spend way too much time on this site, but it’s hard to always recommend it. The key to using Reddit is seeking out subreddits on topics you enjoy. I have the best experience and discussion in niche subreddits, rather than the main ones that seem to attract the most sexist, ignorant people on the planet. I don’t want to give Reddit an unfair reputation, but there are a lot of douche bags on it. It’s kind of a weird, self-inflicted subculture. Some days it’s an excellent resource and community. And on others, it’s a self-righteous mob. That being said, I use it constantly.
I have such mixed feelings about this whole market of websites. They all post interesting, approachable stories, but even though they are all on different topics (gaming, technology, sports, hacking, etc.) there seems to be a lot of crossover. That’s fine, but I don’t really understand why they aren’t just separate websites. Sometimes, their journalism is just flat out bad, outwardly biased and sensationalized. If you’re going to use any of them, use LifeHacker. That one seems to be the best, and they have some cool tips and ideas.
AT seems to have a cult following. I used to read it religiously, but it started to wear on me after a while. I love home design and lifestyle blogs and websites, and AT often has cool articles that feature neat people with neat homes. I don’t like it as much since they consolidated all of their other websites like Unpluggd and Re-nest (both of which I loved) but it’s still worth checking out. The thing I most dislike about AT is that they sometimes seem to feature the same kinds of people–young white people with a decent amount of money (enough to live in swanky lofts and whatnot in big cities) who work as freelance web designers or something. It gets kind of monotonous to see Ikea furniture and Apple computers. Also, the people who comment on the site can be extremely picky about silly things and it all seems frivolous if I spend too much time on there. But I do like a lot of their posts.
(yes, we still use Windows XP at work)
I am addicted to Feedly. I almost always have it open when I’m at work or at home. I love the design and the options to change the layout. For instance, if I have a category where a lot of the blogs/websites are heavy on art, I like to use the mosaic layout that shows tiles of different images. But for another category that’s more focused on journalistic content, I like the magazine or full content template. I also like its compatibility with my smartphone. A must-have if you like your feeds to have a bit of style.
This Android app looks really slick. Because I use Feedly so much, I don’t use Currents as much as I’d like to, but it’s a cool looking resource and easy to use. It’s a big step up from Google reader which, while it was user-friendly, was often too cluttered for my place. I subscribe to aLOTof websites, so I need something with a lot of options to catalog everything. However, I wish I knew how to change the favicons on my personal site since Currents often just pulls the first image from the website and uses it, which can be misleading for new readers.
Before I got my smartphone, I usually just used my Nook Color tablet for mobile news. I don’t use Pulse that much anymore, but I really really like it. One of the reasons I don’t use it is because they don’t have a desktop version like Feedly does, and I’m on my computer a lot more than I’m on my phone or tablet. But Pulse has some great recommendations for cool websites and also has a nice, clean interface. On the tablet, you can categorize blogs and websites by page, so if you swipe over, you can view a new category. It’s pretty cool. Now I want to use it again…
Stay tuned for Part II coming soon. What are your favorite websites?