News sources: The proof, the whole proof, and nothing but the proof

news sources social media

What a world it is! Image courtesy of geralt, pixabay.

Ladies and gentlemen, that ancient curse seems to have come true. We are living in interesting times. (!)

I’m struggling with which news sources to believe these days and who is trustworthy. One source chooses inflammatory words that seem designed to provoke shares of misinformation, while someone else addresses the same issue more calmly and provides a more analytical view of the situation.

My Facebook friends have heated debates with one another about what is right and what is wrong, to the point where I seriously considered leaving Facebook. (Although I would miss the funny, cute stuff like my newest baby cousin learning how to giggle…..awwww.)

Maybe it’s a side effect of the class I took last year that I am now much more aware of a writer’s bias. Some news sources that I’m reading have writers that seem so biased, you can cut through that bias with a chain saw.

I know, I know, I know, it’s the Web and we can’t fix everything. I was very aware of a writer’s bias before, but now I’m looking far harder at who wrote something and what they have to gain by me reading their writing. “Are they backing up their statements with actual proof?” is a question I’m asking myself more often these days. In an era where someone’s reputation can be damaged by a mere tweet or Facebook post (just google “social media disasters” sometime), it boggles my mind that people aren’t more careful because the Internet doesn’t forget.

There was an excellent news article I read on BBC News, where the writer provided a point by point rebuttal of an accusation. To my mind, that earned my trust because I could see the writer clearly went to considerable effort.

In another news source I read, the writer discussed the appointment of a government official. The writer never mentioned how well that official was qualified for the role, that he had vast experience in the area he would be leading, and that he was well-known to both his allies and non-allies. Sheesh. *rolls eyes*

In the search for which news sources to believe, what are your standards? Who are the news sources you trust the most and why? Let’s get an intellectual discussion going. (Reminder: please keep it civil, my blogger friends.)


Filed under Writing

15 responses to “News sources: The proof, the whole proof, and nothing but the proof

  1. Impossible to answer. The BBC has become so biased during Tory rule that I don’t even trust them these days. II have more faith in Al Jazeera English than most of the usual suspects. What a world.

  2. Servetus

    It’s a bit hard for me to discuss this (I was actually thinking about it the last few days) because as long as I can remember I’ve identified bias in news. (Maybe because we had a lot of news in our house as a child and both parents but especially my mother was a news junkie. Don’t interrupt mom while she’s reading the paper was an important rule for getting along. So I was often confronted with news sources that disagreed about this or that.)

    I look for sources that practice according to the canon of traditional journalism, for starters. This isn’t foolproof because they also mess up. But I like to know that their reporters have been taught how to research news and have a lot of practice at it. I prefer outlets that have fact checkers, esp for long-form articles (The New Yorker, for instance, is notorious for the rigor of its fact checking). It’s important to me to see something confirmed, if I see it in a questionable outlet at first. What this means in practice is that I don’t take news from “new” news outlets as seriously and that I avoid outlets that I know regular distort the news unless I am specifically looking to see how a political position is trying to distort a story. For the outlets I use regularly I also consider at the history of their views (e.g., The Economist has always favored anything that embraces lightly regulated free markets. This doesn’t mean what they say is wrong, but that it always reflects that POV). Finally, I read a lot of foreign newspapers and news outlets — BBC, a liberal German paper, a conservative German paper, The Guardian, El País, Ha’aretz are just a few — and I try to read across the US political spectrum, e.g., if I am reading about economic news in the NYT, I want to know what the WSJ has to say about it, too.

    I do read some news that hews more openly to an outlet’s editorial line (e.g., National Review, The Nation, New Republic, Commentary, Daily Kos, etc.) but I try to keep this stuff out of the news I share with others on social media as it’s definitely POV as much as reporting. Although I enjoy commentary from places like Politico, you’ll mostly find me sharing news from BBC, NYT, WaPo, WSJ, Atlantic, that are center, center-right, center-left.

    There are a few sites I try to avoid even touching: Breitbart, InfoWars, WND, Huffington Post, and any site that has its primary distribution mechanism rooted in FB.

    And finally — I try to avoid infotainment (Colbert, Noah, Stewart, Lahren, etc.) because it seems to me that its main function is to get us to jeer at each other. I’m not interested in consuming amusing versions of news that come down to charging other people with hypocrisy.

    Bet you’re sorry you asked 🙂

    • Not in the least, Serv. I love the thoroughness of your answer.

      I also like to see news sources from outside the U.S. It’s useful to read stories from other points of view and realize how other countries see us.

      • Servetus

        You also see how much US news is never reported inside the U.S. Quite disconcerting. Let alone how much international news. This is why I love the Economist even though I disagree with some aspects of their editorial position — because there are very few mainstream serious news outlets anymore that offer detailed reporting from Africa.

  3. Fact checking and reliable sources used to be the prerequisite to any kind of news story, but it got lost somewhere in the 1990s. Now, when we need it, too many of the kids they’ve hired to “do news” don’t have a clue how to properly research and source a story. They’ll get it. It is going to take a while. They’ve never been in a news crisis before and it’s going to be playing catchup with on-the-job training. Good post!!!

    • Maybe it got lost before that in the race to be the first to break a story. Remember “Dewey Defeats Truman”? 😉

      • Servetus

        “Dewey wins” was more about the structural needs of when a paper was “put to bed” in the pre-electronic age, if I recall correctly. They needed a headline because they had to start the presses rolling. This is a bit different from the present day. Yes, there’s still the desire to scoop the competition, but the rush to be “first” has changed materially now that anyone can break news instantly.

  4. I’ve had to move toward using a variety of sources. I get the “hot take” from both Facebook & Twitter, more fact-checked reporting from The New York Times, NPR, and NextDraft (a compilation news newsletter), and YouTube shows actually provide some of the balance I’m looking for. I particularly like The Philip DeFranco Show, which is extremely thoughtful and balanced, but covers a limited amount, unfortunately.

  5. I’m not convinced there are any news sources that are trustworthy all the time. Every reporter/writer is going to have a personal bias, and any institution is also going to have a bias. And every consumer of news has one, too. I don’t think that can be avoided. It just has to be understood and navigated. I’ve always tried to be really careful about getting news from multiple sources, and that is especially important, I think, in this really contentious media/political environment we’ve got going right now. To do otherwise is to give away my own personal power to make informed decisions, something I am unwilling to do. I find that the truth can be a difficult thing to get hold of, but that it probably exists somewhere between the leanings of each biased story I hear or read, which includes both the ones that have me nodding along in agreement, and the ones that make me want to scream. Not an easy answer, but I think the only one that ultimately makes sense.


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