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How to Stay Informed about Policymaking in Washington, D.C.

Before you even consider getting your hands dirty playing the policymaking game in Washington, D.C., it’s important to become knowledgeable about the issues at hand. Your voice will be more respected if you have your facts straight and can marshal convincing evidence to support your arguments and recommendations.

You don’t need to sit through elementary civics class again, but reading the Washington-related stories in one (or all) of the major national papers is a prerequisite. Tuning into a 24-hour cable news channel is also a quick way to become acquainted with the media story du jour, but don’t rely on this medium for the nuances of federal policymaking.

C-SPAN is where that action really happens. When you’re up to speed on the basics, page (or click) through Washington-focused political papers, which tend to get deeper into the weeds of congressional procedure and the intricate debates playing out among Congress, the White House, and other stakeholders.

After taking these steps, you should have a better feeling for what issues you are most passionate about and know where you’d like to focus your attention. Find out what think tanks or niche media outlets are writing about your issue, and if you’re in the Washington area, consider attending some of the innumerable seminars, conferences, and other gatherings.

On a daily basis, Washington is buzzing with in-depth discussions on foreign policy, economics, healthcare, and the full range of other issues. More policy debate and clashing of ideas goes on outside of government than within it.

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