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I spent a very satisfying 20 minutes in bed this morning with Charlie.
I know, sounds saucy doesn’t it? I haven’t taken a fast but efficient lover though, I was actually discovering some NEWS. I say it in capitals because really THE NEWS is not my thing. For a while a few years ago I thought I would try to take an interest and so I set my alarm to wake me up to Radio 4, but after a few weeks I was just so depressed. The awful news seeping into my subconscious from around the world was just too much.
Over the last couple of years it’s become even harder to take anything positive away from the news – it’s been a literal daily death count – and as a form of self-preservation I’ve had to step away completely. I have too much to manage in my own life, I don’t feel able to soak up everything else around me, especially when it’s stuff I can’t do anything about. I’m sure I’m not the only one who finds the news overwhelming?
The downside of filtering out all news of course is that you can feel like a bit of an idiot when people are talking about something big, that clearly everyone in the world knows about but you. ‘Ukraine?’ you say, ‘something going on with them is it?’
Okay, so it’s not quite that bad, but it definitely leaves you feeling ignorant, in all senses of the word when it’s a humanitarian issue.
How do you filter the news though? How can you make sure you have an awareness of what’s going on but still preserve your sanity? How do you pick out the stories that interest you without getting swamped in bad news?
Charlie is an AI bot who helps you sift through the news in a neutral, healthy way, giving you a selection of headlines and letting you find out more about any that take your interest. It’s a bit like having a partner sat in bed next to you, scrolling the news sites so that you don’t have to. They pick out things that might interest you and read out highlights, sparing you all of the anxiety inducing doom and gloom clickbait that news sites use to increase traffic and revenue.
Charlie is so simple and easy to use that you’d be forgiven for not appreciating everything that’s going on behind the scenes. Charlie makes it look easy, but it’s actually working very hard to get to know you and bring you the news it thinks you’ll find interesting.
As well as the better known online news outlets, Charlie looks at smaller, independent publishers too, so you’re hearing the story from angles you might not normally see. If you want to deep dive a story you can ask Charlie to send you to specific articles, and Charlie will always offer to show you the sources for any story it’s telling you about.
One feature I particularly like is that if you see a headline including the name of someone who is clearly important but you don’t know who they are, Charlie will give you a summary of them, catching you up quickly and helping you understand the story.
Charlie will also keep you updated on any developments, so if you read about a story two weeks ago and anything new has happened, you’ll get the latest. Of course Charlie does need some data about you to build up a profile of your reading habits, but accounts are set up as ‘burner’ accounts first, meaning you don’t even need an email address to sign up, you can just dive straight in.
Charlie has been created by a small team of three at OneSub – Laura, Jim and Jason. They’ve combined their expertise in journalism and technology to bring you a free app that’s all about giving you access to the news without the negative impact on your mental health. Charlie is about cutting through the fake news and the clickbait and getting to the facts, presented in a clear, accessible and balanced way.
I personally think Charlie is a brilliant idea and a simple way for me to keep up with what’s important without wanting to cry myself to sleep every night. It’s free to download and use and with no need to even set up an account you’ve got nothing to lose, just give it a go and see if it helps you.