No News is Good News: Breaking my iPhone News Addiction

Member of the AppleVis Blog Team

The sun was warm and bright that Friday morning in Southern California. From our fourth grade classroom, my friends and I were already anticipating lunch and recess. An adult walked in, whispered to our teacher, and we immediately lined up and were on our way out the door. As we walked, we saw children pouring out of every classroom, all heading in the same direction. Something was odd. Everyone squeezed into the school auditorium and quickly found seats. I took my place on the right side, in one of the first rows. Up front, on a heavy institutional wooden chair, sat an old Philco radio. The principal turned it on. The news was from Dallas. Our innocence was lost. It was November 22, 1963.

The death of President Kennedy changed everything. I wanted to know what happened, what had gone wrong. Two days later, I saw Lee Harvey Oswald shot on live television. On Monday, I stared transfixed at Black Jack, the skittish riderless horse in the Kennedy funeral procession. And, I sadly remember the deep and troubling heartache as Taps was played at Arlington National Cemetery. John F. Kennedy had been my childhood hero. After those terrible four days, I had grown up too fast. And, I had developed a hunger for knowledge outside my own backyard.

My awareness of the world expanded. I listened to Walter Cronkite. I scoured the Los Angeles Times. I absorbed Time magazine from cover to cover. I followed Mercury, Gemini and Apollo. I watched Vietnam polarize a nation. I became ever more aware of racial inequities in our own country. I craved the hard truths.

After my parents moved us to Northern California, I actually made money while feeding my news addiction. I got a job as a paperboy for the San Francisco Examiner. Every day, a truck would throw a couple large bundles of papers on our driveway and I would drag them to the front porch where I would read and fold, read and fold. I am still haunted by the two 1968 front page photos when Martin Luther King, Jr. and Robert F. Kennedy were assassinated. I saw those pictures many dozens of times as I folded my newspapers.

As the years passed and my vision failed, I had to find other ways to track the news. I learned Braille and read both the weekly New York Times digest and the Braille Mirror. I waited every week for my flexible disk copy of U.S. News and World Report. When I worked for the University of Texas, I went to the Student Publications Board and proposed the move to an online newspaper. It was great for everyone, and particularly nice for me.

After I purchased my first iPhone in 2010, I started looking for ways to turn this wonderful pocket computer into my virtual newspaper. I downloaded anything and everything that looked like a news aggregator and gave those apps a try. I would slog my way through their disparate and confounding interfaces, always trying to optimize the experience. Often, it was a pain in the neck. Other times, the pain was lower.

Fortunately, access to news on the iPhone has gotten much easier. Nowadays, I have my favorite subset of apps. In the top left corner of my home screen is a folder named "Morning." It is where I start my day. Opening the folder, I find the first icon is for Hourly News. I have it configured to play news summaries from NPR, BBC, ABC, and ESPN. The second icon is relatively new, the Reuters TV app. Although it is a video news source, the app is very configurable and presents stories with excellent narration. I also have the KVUE News app where I can get a quick recap of important news here in Austin. I must confess that I also have Trivia Crack in the "Morning" folder as it goes very well with my first cups of coffee.

In iOS 9, Apple introduced a very promising tool. Apple News allowed me to capture multiple news sources in one place where I found it easy to get my daily fix. I have multiple primary news sources that I depend on, and Apple News has been an excellent start to a unified interface. I assumed that by the time we adopted iOS 10, Apple News would be spectacular.

With the recent operating system upgrade to iOS 10, I have found that VoiceOver and Apple News are not as chummy as they once were. These days, VoiceOver often loses focus and jumps back to the top of the page, necessitating a search for my place in a story or locating where I was in a list of articles. There are also times when clicking on an article link will take me to the wrong one. These glitches are a bit frustrating before I have had enough coffee. I ask only that I be treated gently when I first wake up.

Lately, I have been using the Voice Dream Reader app to help improve the Apple News experience. Because VoiceOver focus had recently become a challenge in Apple News, I was hoping that I could move articles of interest into Voice Dream Reader and then enjoy them without hiccups. For the most part, this solution has worked very well. Whenever I select an interesting article in the Apple News listing, I flick down through the Action items to the Share button. I click on Share and then move over to the Open In Voice Dream and double tap. With most of my news sources, I will find myself on a page where I can select a button titled Article and then I can hit the Save button. I am then magically transported back to the Apple News app where I can follow the same steps to add another article to Voice Dream Reader. When I am ready to relax and catch up on the news, I simply switch to Voice Dream Reader and listen. Delightful!

Still, it is easy to overdose on the news. The latest election cycle certainly did that to me. In a desperate act of self-preservation, there were many days when I went straight to my 1970s soft rock on Apple Music or my mellow collection of environmental sounds in the Nature Space app. A soft summer rain is always more soothing than the slap of serious mud slinging.

The last two weeks before U.S. voting were the most stressful. My iPhone started to feel like an albatross around my neck. Did just carrying this device mandate that I listen to the news? My personal politics were not likely to change at the last minute and I simply required a sanity break. Yes, I loved knowing what was going on in the world. But, enough was enough.

My saving grace came in an email from Audible, just days before ballots were cast. I opened my Daily Deal message from the audio book vendor and I found my answer. It offered me hope. A book. A really good book. A thoughtful, educational, interesting book. On sale! Cheap! Audible presented "Profiles in Courage," the Pulitzer Prize winning history written by John F. Kennedy. The Foreword was read by Caroline Kennedy. The book text had been read many years ago by John F. Kennedy, Jr. I cut back on my news intake and decided to catch my breath. I made the purchase. It was relaxing. It was an escape. Good books are always good for the soul. I sat in my comfy chair and thoroughly enjoyed reading the work by my childhood hero. This is why I am hooked on my iPhone. It delivers what I need. The news can wait.

*** G. Morgan Watkins spent thirty years at the University of Texas at Austin, most of it in information technology leadership. He also enjoyed thirteen years on the Board of Directors at Guide Dogs for the Blind. After retiring from the University , Morgan served as the Guide Dogs for the Blind Acting President and CEO.

Morgan is now happily retired again, taking more time to read good books and dream of India. Morgan has created fourteen other blogs for AppleVis, including "Lost In Space: Canes, dogs and my iPhone GPS apps", "Sleeping With The Stars: Old Time Radio and my iPhone" and "Small Talk: Speaking up on VoiceOver and the iPhone".

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12 Comments

News and more news

I have braking and selected 4 newspapers and I use the news app that comes from iOS. I have 12 news sources that I use but none are in notification. I only have braking in notification. For me to much news is no longer good. specially since he who should not be name was elected president.

Howdy, Holger

Member of the AppleVis Blog Team

Dear Holger,

Thanks for writing.

I am so glad that I love to read books and not just the news

As always, it is great to hear from you!

Best wishes,

Morgan

News Apps

I've got twenty-four news apps in my News folder on my iPhone. They range from local news apps to apps from outlets like Democracy Now, Radio Free Asia, Voice of America and science and technology outlets. I have not bothered to use the stock Apple News app. By the way, how is the Voice Over accessibility with Audible?

Still no news

Hello!

I'm not going to get pobitic on here. But let me tell you what I do when every I feel like I overdosed on news or when there's something like the election or the horrible attacks that happened in Dallas this past summer. Don't get me wrong. I really love reading the news & staying up-to-dat on current events. I firmly believe in being educated about what's going on in the world around us.

But at times, I (and probably most people) feel like they've overdosed on news or maybe they're just sick & tired of it all. I've been there & have felt overloaded. So, when these feelings start to happen, I do a `news detox` where I look aj as little news as possible & for the moit part, look at _ZERO news at all. When I'm doing this, I include Facebook too! I do other things to occupy my time oh to pamper myself. I go to bed earlier, if I missed any reading, I catch up on it or I just read in general. But mostly, I just breathe & come up for air. I had to do that a lot in this election too.

The important thing, ii to find that balance between being educated & in the know about the world we live in &getting too much.

On another topic, when it comes to news, I just use theNews app from Apple & Facebook. But 99% of my news comes from the News app from Apple. I have found it to be extremely accessible. The only time I run into problems is with certain channels. Granted, each channel is different in jerms of UI., but this app is very accessible. I tried using my local news channel's app & it was horrible. It was accessible, but non enough to make it usable! In general, I bove the app on my ipad. I especially love the fact that with ios10, it gives me the weather every time I open it up! Thanks for a great article. I think we could all use some sane perspective especially after a... shall we say chaotic election cycle.

A bit about Audible

Member of the AppleVis Blog Team

Dear Apple Khmer,

Great to hear from you. I really enjoyed learning about how you access news. And, your list of news sources gives me something new to discover. Thanks for sharing.

Regarding your question about Audible...

I use Audible quite a bit and I use VoiceOver with the app all the time. At present, it is stable on my iPhone 6S Plus. Although I am very used to the interface and I find it pretty dependable, I often ponder how the Audible app might be made even better for folks who use VoiceOver. I often find the Audible app a bit clunky in terms of how I and VoiceOver must interact with it, but I absolutely appreciate the fact that the app does give me access to so much audio material. I have often shared feedback with the Audible support team and have seen the app improved. I have been a member of Audible for a long time and enjoy the service.

It was great to get your note.

Take care,

Morgan

Yes

Yes, I try to follow the reputable, independent outlets as possible. If they don't have an app, I follow them on Twitter like The Intercept. Fortunately, outlets like The Intercept have RSS feeds. So I subscribe to their feed on third-party feed reader. So far, all of the outlets are accessible. Nice Apple opened up their ecosystem to Nuance; so I can also have my news in Thai. So I have a couple Thai news apps, along with the option to read news in Thai from the Thai service of Voice of America. I've also set the Google News app to have news in Thai. All I'm missing now is Khmer TTS. That has not yet been fully developed.

I downloaded the Audible app last night. It was stable like you said. I can use that if I can't find something on BARD, Learning Ally or BookShare. I like all their other options such as magazines like MIT Technology Review.

Howdy, Dawn

Member of the AppleVis Blog Team

Dear Dawn,

I really enjoyed your description of how you stay afloat when the flood of news gets overwhelming. Your approach is wise.

Like you, I love the Apple News app and am hopeful that the somewhat erratic VoiceOver focus problems will disappear in the next update. Now, I have absolutely no data to suggest that it will really happen in the next update, but I choose to think happy thoughts.

For now, I am still on my news diet and am back to munching on good books. So many books, so little time...

Thanks for writing. It was good to hear from you.

Best wishes,

Morgan

More time, less anxious

I sympathise having gone through the same process. I pay for an RNIB subscription on annual basis. It's good value and gives you access to all the major newspapers and many magazines. I found by the time I had worked my way through one or two papers half the day was gone. And by the time I'd finished I'd always feel strangely uptight. It almost becomes an addiction where you keep going because you are afraid of missing something and one more article won't take so long to read. I haven't downloaded a paper for some months and feel better for it and have more time. I do dip into the Apple news app and bBC News app and occasionally articles linked to by Twitter but it really is good to get a break from News gathering. And you're right, a book is so much more relaxing...

Still enjoying my books

Member of the AppleVis Blog Team

Dear John,

I would have written back a few days ago, but my son got married on the same day you sent your note. I didn't answer emails, read books, or peek at the news on Monday. Shockingly, I even skipped checking in on AppleVis.

The tension you described when reading so much news is how I began to feel when doing the same during our elections here in the States. Although I am back to reading some current events, I am really embracing my audio books. It is so wonderfully relaxing.

So, for now, I am going to spend even more time surrounding myself with good fiction, good biographies, and good courses. A bit of a break from the world is a delight.

Thanks for writing,

Morgan

news workaround

Hello all. I have found a workaround for news app when things get crazy. NBC. News is famous for this sort of thing. But you know how on some channels, it'll have a highlight of the story, & then have a button that says, read full story on & give the website? Well, 99.9% of times, it works wonders. But there are times, (I'm looking at you NBC. News!), where it'll refresh itself every 2 seconds! UGH! SO ANNOYING! But last night, I found a solution. If I click on share then go to the open in Safaari, click on it & then I can read the stories! No fuss no issues! Ijs a little hard to close the tabs out, but in my opinion, that's better than not having access at all.

On the subjecj of new detox, I'm with you. I haven't really been looking at the news much. I'll look at Facebook, but for the most part, I'm not looking at news stuff. I have started going back into my news app & tuning in a bit more, but there has not been much of anything of interest, plus the chaos is still going on from the aftermath of the election. So right now, if & when I look at the news, I'm staying as far as possible from politics! ords were kind & I thank you Morgan.

BARD Mobile

BARD Mobile is my favorite book reader from NLS on iOS.
About News, I haven't found this glitch yet, maybe it has something to do with me still being stuck on iOS 9.3.5.

News, 9 and 10

Member of the AppleVis Blog Team

Dear AudioGamerTunmi,

Thanks for your note. I also enjoy Bard, but have been slowly catchin up on all my Audible books of late.

You mentioned that you were not seeing the News hiccups, but that you were also still running iOS 9. I did not start seeing the Apple News VoiceOver focus glitch until iOS 10. Feels like there may be a connection there. I choose to be hopeful that it will be addressed soon.

Even so, I am still using the Apple News app, but am not as dependent on it. I have paid subscriptions to a couple of newspapers, and read others in Apple News that are free. Still, I have created Home screen icons to their Websites and now share articles I like with Voice Dream Reader where I can listen to lots of articles without the mildly frustrating Apple News difficulties.

Thank you so much for writing,

Morgan