When I was a kid and sat down for breakfast each morning, I had a routine with my hometown newspaper. I would breeze past the main and local sections and dive straight into my two favorites: sports scores and comics.
How many home runs did Ken Griffey, Jr. slug the night before and what’s Calvin up to with his buddy Hobbes? For a wide-eyed ten-year-old, what else mattered?
Now, at 28, I see the news in a different light. True, I’m a media consultant who works with various news outlets, but a daily read of the nation’s top stories makes anyone—in any industry—better at what they do.
At the most basic level, reading the news keeps you informed. The Daily Show—where lots of GenY professionals get their news—probably covers 1-2 stories a night, which means 5-10 per week. It’s terrific comedy but a poor substitute for a nightly news program.
With a steady diet of the latest headlines (national, local, business and opinion), you will become a sharper, more competent young professional. Here’s the secret: our superiors think we only get our news from Stewart and Colbert. They assume we don’t know much more than the latest viral video or buzz-worthy sound bite.
What a shock when we engage older co-workers on weightier topics (i.e. the Supreme Court’s twin rulings on immigration and health care, the student loan debt crisis or the latest in Syria).
Even feature stories and business profiles can add so much to a networking conversation. Ten minutes before, you didn’t know you would be talking to someone in the home construction business, but you did just read an interesting article on the high cost of supplies and its effect on area builders.
The home builder is impressed. You look good. And maybe that person thinks of you the next time a position opens up. Who knows?
Reading the news every day may not have an immediate payoff, but that’s the point. By taking time to understand the world, you prep your brain for the unforeseen.
Need more convincing? Actually reading the words—not skimming the first paragraph—improves comprehension, focus and vocabulary. Even reciting articles aloud (alone in your bedroom, of course) could improve your public speaking and handling of tough words.
Let’s face it: we are a me-first generation. So go ahead. Read the news selfishly. Think to yourself with each article: this is going to give me a leg-up on the competition. And just by reading, you become a more capable working professional.
And there’s a bonus: by following the news consistently, we become a well-informed generation and stronger, more valuable citizens.
So develop a routine that helps you actually read the news, whether on your daily commute or during the first 30 minutes at your desk. Visit different news sites and challenge your assumptions by reading liberal and conservative columnists. There’s no way to read everything, so just do what you can.
Oh, and make sure to leave time for sports scores and comics.
Why let 10-year-olds have all the fun?
Danny Rubin is a national news consultant for media research firm Frank N. Magid Associates. He is a former television news reporter, lives in Washington, D.C. and tweets as @dannyhrubin. For more tips, visit Brazen’s blog.