Voting is important, but it’s also important to be well informed about the issues and candidates when you enter the voting booth. Stay up to date with activity in Washington and in your local community.
Watching the news is a great way to get an idea of what is going on in the world. The major mainstream news channels are (in alphabetical order) ABC, CBS, CNN, FOX, and MSNBC. These can be watched on your television or streamed online at their respective websites. As with all news, the key to getting the most out of watching television news is to get multiple sources, do not just watch the same channel or show all the time.
The C-SPAN channels are a public service provided by the cable television industry that provides coverage of the federal government and related political programming. C-SPAN’s primary feature is live coverage of the House of Representatives and C-SPAN2 features live broadcasts from the Senate. Their online archives contain everything they have broadcast since 1987 and are searchable in many different ways, including by topic or speaker.
Other television news options include foreign news channels like France 24 or Al-Jazeera English. If you do not get these channels, LiveStation.com offers streaming of many international news channels.
Reading the newspaper is another great way of keeping track of current events. With newspapers, it is good to get a mix of national, international, and local. Some large national newspapers include the New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Los Angeles Times, Washington Post, Chicago Tribune, Boston Globe, Atlanta Journal-Constitution, and many more. Stores around you will carry your local newspapers, and you can also look through OnlineNewspapers.com's extensive list of newspapers to see if there are any you are not aware of.
If you do not wish to subscribe to a paper or purchase them frequently, you can read them at your local library. If you are a college student, many colleges have programs to provide newspapers to students free. You can also read articles from most newspapers online, although some require a paid subscription.
Once you have found a variety of news sources that you enjoy, all major news outlets and most local ones have websites. This is especially helpful if you have a favorite news show that conflicts with your schedule.
There are many online-only news sources as well, including newspapers that have stopped making a print edition like the Seattle Post-Intelligencer and the Christian Science Monitor. There are also websites like Google News and RealClearPolitics.com that aggregate articles from many different sources. There are some websites that focus on political news, such as The Hill, Politico, Roll Call, Political Wire, CQ Roll Call Blogs, and others.
Most news outlets have options set up to automatically send you news about topics you are interested in. Google Alerts allows you to be sent links on just about any topic you can think of. For federal budget purposes, the optimal settings are Search Query: “federal budget,” Result type: Everything, How often: Once a day or Once a week, and How many: Only the best results. One free daily email you can sign up for is CQ Roll Call, which delivers news about what is going on in Washington.
You can also follow your favorite news outlets or reporters on Facebook or Twitter. National Priorities Projects keeps curates some Twitter lists you can follow on the federal budget, government transparency, and democratic participation. The Fix blog also maintains a map of the best state-based political Twitter accounts.
The radio is a great way to get news while you are commuting or getting other things done.
If you don’t know what radio stations are in your area or are looking for online radio stations with a focus on news, you can check Radio-Locator.com.