If you’re like us, the first thing you do when your alarm goes off every morning is roll over and reach for your phone (sad but totally true). And if you’re really like us, the second thing you do is read theSkimm, a daily newsletter created by Danielle Weisberg and Carly Zakin, two former NBC News producers. After noticing time and again that their well-educated, high-powered pals were too time-crunched to keep track of the headlines, the friends realized there was a demand for easy-to-read, no-fluff news coverage. Since launching in 2012, theSkimm’s breakdown of the day’s biggest stories, written in a familiar-while-still-supersmart tone, has become a morning must-read—and our favorite section is "What to Say When," which brilliantly links everyday conversation topics with the day's headlines. Here, the self-proclaimed news junkies give us their tips for staying on top of current events:
How do you decide which two or three stories are the most important to include in each newsletter?
Carly: It’s always the most instinctual and easiest part for us. We filter by, Would our friends ever talk about this? Or ever be caught off guard if they didn’t know about this subject? Our goal is that you can go to any social event and be able talk to anyone about anything.
Where do you guys get your news?
Carly: Our background is at NBC News, and we were trained to read everything. Obviously we read mainstream stuff, but we both make it our business to read niche blogs, industry papers, and trades.
Danielle: We’re looking at not only what our friends are Tweeting and posting on Facebook, but we’re [also] scouring the news directly on websites.
How did you come up with theSkimm’s “What to say when…” format?
Carly: We would go to a group dinner and [note] who dropped out of conversation, and when. For us, we need to think about what are the activities in our daily life where we can give you conversation primers or fill in awkward silence gaps. [So we came up with that format] to help you get an edge on a conversation or a moment of networking—the idea is to be very relatable.
What do you say to people who are like, “Oh I don’t read the news” or “The news is depressing?”
Danielle: I think that after college it can be really hard to carve out time in your day to follow current events. Carly and I never thought it was weird that our job was to be paid to know what’s going on all the time, but that’s not everyone’s job and real life is really busy. Reading theSkimm is making that choice for yourself—that you value what’s going on outside of your own world and that you want to have interesting conversations with people out there.
Carly: I think it’s a responsibility as a citizen in this country and this world to know what’s going on around you. It’s a hard thing to do, but my tip is to ask questions.
Who are some of your favorite news commentators?
Danielle: We both grew up with Andrea Mitchell at NBC News being a huge inspiration. She did a lot for women in the industry, but aside from that, she’s a phenomenal reporter. Lesley Stahl at 60 Minutes. Maureen Dowd is someone that’s really interesting—she always has a good take on the topics of the day.
Carly: We have the exact same list—that’s why we’re friends.
Which news story of the past few months that has been inspiring to report on and follow?
Danielle: Anything that has to do with Pope Francis really interests me. What he’s doing right now, not only for the Catholic Church but also his views with economic policies, is something to watch. I think that there are big implications for the things that he’s saying throughout the world.
Carly: I’ve been fascinated by what happened with Crimea, specifically the relationship with the U.S. and Russia. I feel very privileged that we are able to get the chance to break it down for [our readers].
Are there any stories that you guys feel like are being mishandled by the media?
Danielle: The first thing that comes to mind is what happened with [the missing plane in] Malaysia. We saw a horrific tragedy and people trying to fill airtime with not necessarily the most responsible forms of journalism. We made a very conscious decision at theSkimm to only cover the very significant updates. I think that’s an example of how our role is different than a lot of news outlets.
How does pop culture fit into what you guys do?
Carly: For us it’s whatever people are talking about—it’s just as important that you know about what’s happening in Ukraine as it is that Kim Kardashian was on the cover of Vogue. The reality is people are talking about both, and no one ever wants to be caught uninformed.
Click here to sign up for theSkimm. (It’s free!)