Modern News Consumption

I get my news from Twitter.

I know that sounds silly. Social media is infested with bots and trolls and people who retweet conspiracy theories and outrageous claims without checking them out.

Let me assure you that I am not getting my news from that part of Twitter. I am very careful about who I follow; in fact, I curate my Twitter feed with an eye to getting information from reliable sources.

For me, this started with local news. It is a sad truth of the San Francisco Bay Area that the only use for most of the local print publications is lining the compost bin and their digital sides are no improvement.

When I first moved out here, I read the venerable free weekly East Bay Express, but I gave up on it a couple of years ago when it was endorsing pro-developer candidates against progressives for state assembly. It fell apart pretty spectacularly after that and the good reporters found other jobs. I don’t even know if it’s still publishing during the pandemic.

So when I wanted to know what was happening in Oakland, I searched on topics on Twitter. Somewhere along the way I stumbled onto Jaime Omar Yassin, known on Twitter as @hyphy_republic.

Omar covers the Oakland City Council in a way that my mother would have loved. He sits through every meeting, tweets out what’s happening, and then writes a thorough story for his Patreon  (I subscribe to that, too). For our city council election, he has plowed through all the campaign finance reports and told us who is backing who.

I also follow Darwin BondGraham (@DarwinBondGraha), whose reporting I admired in the East Bay Express and who now writes for The Oaklandside (@oaklandside). (I subscribe to it, too.)

I catch what’s happening with their tweets, and then follow up in their news reports.

Following them has introduced me to other civic-minded people (not all of them reporters) in Oakland. And I also follow a lot of local politicians.

These days, I feel like I know what’s happening in my city. Every city needs reporters who cover local government this way. Very few have them.

But I also use Twitter for national news.

For example, I follow Elie Mystal (@ElieNYC), who covers legal matters for The Nation. There’s no way I could make myself watch, say, the Senate Judiciary Committee hearings on Amy Barrett, but following Mystal’s tweets lets me know what’s going on. And then, of course, I read his report in full. (Yeah, I subscribe to The Nation, too.)

I follow a couple of other Nation reporters, Joan Walsh (@joanwalsh) and Katha Pollitt (@KathaPollitt).

Not everyone I follow for news-related stuff is a reporter. For example, I follow the writer and lawyer Teri Kanefield (@Teri_Kanefield), who has been doing thorough analysis of election matters. She’s often reassuring about the way the electoral process will work, despite the attacks on it.

Then for pandemic coverage, I read the regular tweets of Andy Slavitt (@ASlavitt), who was acting administrator for the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services under President Obama.

Of course, reading his work makes me wish he were in charge of addressing this disaster.

I also follow science writer Laurie Garrett (@Laurie_Garrett), who has been writing about viruses and pandemics for a long time.

Ed Yong (@edyong209) is one of my favorites. I started following him years ago because I loved his book on microbes I Contain Multitudes. Now I do it to make sure I see all his pandemic articles in The Atlantic. It’s the most thorough reporting anywhere, partly because he talks to a diverse group of scientists for every article.

Then there’s Professor Ibram X. Kendi (@DrIbram), whose books Stamped From the Beginning and How to Be an Antiracist moved me deeply. His tweets always provide thoughtful commentary on the deep racism we need to address (and he also links to his longer articles).

I rely on Twitter to provide me with links to Laurie Penny’s (@PennyRed) essays on feminism and politics in both the UK and the US. She writes so prolifically for so many outlets I’d never remember to check them all otherwise.

That’s just a sample. There are many others. So many smart people with something to say using social media in a constructive way.

I doomscroll, of course. We all do some of that these days. But the people I’ve mentioned here make at least some of the time I spend on Twitter valuable.

I get my news on Twitter because I follow smart people. I recommend it.

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