Why I Stopped Reading The Skimm, Plus Four Great Alternatives

I recently unsubscribed from The Skimm.

The decision was a long time coming. I signed up for the women-geared daily newsletter when I was a sophomore in college, feeling like the epitome of sophistication for having demonstrated any interest in the news at all.

Five years later (and after some much-needed personal growth), I was at the end of my rope with their irreverent, often irresponsible use of tone-deaf headlines that presumed the only way to maintain my attention was by couching every news story in a joke about Millennial women. There is more to us than white wine and “beach reads”!

It felt particularly uncouth in a news cycle that seems dominated by events like terrorist attacks, human rights violations, and natural disasters that deserve measured, thoughtful reflection — not cringe-worthy puns or references to brunch. This article, which I came across last week, captured a lot of the reasons behind that decision. Namely, that “some stories weren’t meant to be viewed through a lens of bottomless sangria.” 

Bottom line: Knowing a little can be more dangerous than knowing nothing at all, especially when it placates you into thinking you don’t need to dig any deeper. As I’ve gotten a little older, I’ve really begun to understand the importance of seeking out places where people who are smarter than me (this is key) are regularly reflecting on these things in more than 140 characters (also key) — not just politics but also culture, current events, and how they fit into our individual, national, and global narratives. 

Here are some of the places I like to hang out:

1. Past Present Podcast

Interested in the world around you but exhausted by partisan talking points? Me too! And this is the antidote. This podcast, which I was introduced to by my friend Kathryn Beck, brings together three historians and academics to discuss what’s happening in American politics and culture today within the larger scope of history. Hosts Natalia, Neil, and Niki choose three news stories per episode and “turn hindsight into foresight” by drawing connections between the latest headline and the long legacy of historical events that led up to it. It’s a good reminder that our current cultural climate is far from “unprecedented”; it’s part of an ongoing historical narrative that can provide us with much-needed context for today. 

Recommended Episode: Comey’s Firing, Teeth & Dentistry, and the Bachelorette (Episode 84)

2. Still Processing

Hosts Wesley Morris, a Pulitzer Prize-winning critic, and Jenna Wortham, staff writer for The New York Times Magazine, talk every week about culture in the broadest sense. That means film, books, music, and Kanye’s mental health (worried about ya, bud) but also the culture of work, relationships, race, politics, technology, the internet and how those all fit together. Also, Jenna and Wesley are impossible not to love. They are incredibly charming, astute and candid in their discussions of these topics, ability to pull out the broader themes within them, and analysis of their effect on us both individually and collectively.

Recommended Episode: We Watch Trump TV with Emily Nussbaum

3. Pop Culture Happy Hour

Pop Culture Happy Hour is a roundtable conversation about books, movies, music, television, comics and their place in the zeitgeist. Hosted by “Monkey See” blogger Linda Holmes, whose writing can be found here, PCHH features a rotating cast of characters that provide diverse perspectives into whatever topic they’re discussing. Don’t let the name fool you, though: it’s more than just movie reviews. Because of their incredible bench of critics, every episode — even when they’re discussing the latest summer blockbuster — somehow becomes an in-depth analysis of what culture and art reveal about those who create and consume it. 

Recommended Episode: Get Out and The Americans

4. Code Switch

Code Switch, a linguistic term for when a speaker alternates between two or more languages, is hosted exclusively by journalists of color and it deals with the ways that race and identity intersect with (you guessed it) culture, politics, history and more. It’s unflinchingly honest, empathetic, and unafraid to make its listeners a little uncomfortable (don’t worry, that just means it’s working) all for the sake of amplifying voices and topics that don’t get a lot of airtime in mainstream media. No matter the subject matter, this podcast approaches it with curiosity and compassion in a way that I find endlessly entertaining, challenging and educational.

Recommended Episode: Can We Talk About Whiteness?

Now I’m curious to know: how do you stay informed? Is your preferred medium podcasts (like mine, clearly), print media, cable news (is that still a thing?) or something else?

…and please don’t report me to the army of #Skimmbassadors.

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