Winning the Political Game: How Do You Stay Informed?

It’s vitally important for people holding positions in public policy to stay informed and be up-to-date on current events. 

Citizens expect their leaders to be knowledgeable about what’s happening locally and in the state, and also be aware of national and international events. Policymakers need to be reading the same things their constituents are reading.

It’s also important to be well-informed because you never know what questions you are going to be asked by a reporter or a constituent. It’s OK to answer, “I don’t know,” when the question is not relevant to what you do, but you need to be knowledgeable about local, state and national issues. 

In addition to being generally informed, reading widely helps policymakers come up with new ideas and find solutions to problems. You learn what others are doing and you can better “connect the dots” among things that are happening in various industries and at various levels of government.

So, how do you stay informed? It’s easier than ever with social media, myriad on-line news sources, and traditional media – all on your mobile device. So much information exists out there, delivered by so many different media channels, that you could spend all day just reading the news and never accomplish anything else.

I am a certified news junkie, so I read a lot, but I also am always pressed for time, so I must absorb a lot of stuff quickly. I’ve come to appreciate good email newsletters and content summaries with links to full stories.

Idaho Politics Weekly and Utah Policy Daily provide one-stop sources for public policy news and information, providing a comprehensive set of links to stories from all news sources.

But politicians need to be aware of news beyond politics, including sports, arts, business, culture, and lifestyle trends. So it’s important to scan a good local newspaper. I also like to read excellent in-depth journalism focused on national and international political and business topics, so I receive daily e-mail news summaries from the Wall Street Journal and the New York Times. I scan them and click on stories I’m interested in. I don’t like the New York Times’ editorial policies, but the paper does a great job covering a wide range of topics, including international news. The Wall Street Journal also does a terrific job (and I like its editorial page). I love The Economist and receive the weekly print magazine by mail.

I also scan on a daily basis a number of public policy-oriented e-newsletter summaries from The Hill, Governing Magazine, The Brookings Institution, The Heritage Foundation, various Pew newsletters like Stateline Daily, the Council of State Governments, and Rasmussen Reports. I also glance at Politico and a few other web sites. I listen to news radio when I drive, and click around TV news channels in the evening.

That sounds like a ridiculous amount of news consumption, and it is. But it’s a lot of quick scans, so I still have time for a full day of other work. 

I’d be interested in hearing how you stay informed, what you read on a daily and weekly basis, and what favorite web sites and e-newsletters you find valuable. If you have something you’d like to share, comment at the end of this post, or e-mail me at [email protected]