Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Trustworthy News

Where do you find trustworthy news?

Ideally you don't trust any of them. "Trust, but verify." is a good meme. If one site comes out with something shocking or unusual, check the other sites. They're all nominally doing the same job, but each one puts its own spin on a story, and when one site deviates from reality, others will often lag behind. The truth is, short of traveling the world and talking to people ourselves, we have to trust news at some point. The Internet gives us lots of opportunities to talk to people all over the planet from the comfort of our computer chairs.  Use this. Talk to people. Especially talk to people who are different from you. I've found it's a lot harder to be a bigot against group X (fill in your fave) when I've got online friends who are in that group.

I've been a netizen since about 1991. I like to think I have a fairly well trained bullshit filter that some who've joined the conversation more recently may not have. Here are some suggestions for finding trustworthy news.

Generally speaking, the more shrill a site's writing voice, the more I suspect it's content is probably bullshit. If they're trying to get me riled up, or their language use tells me they're clearly aimed at a 4th grade reading level, I assume that they're trying to get me to stop thinking, and that's always suspect in my book. This precludes //all// political talk shows, left and right, all of Fox News in its entirety, most of CNN, ABC, and CBS.

American broadcast news is entertainment. It's reality TV. Once upon a time they made their names for the best reporting and investigation, but in those days the broadcasters were required by law to produce news, and quality was the only thing they could compete on. Then came the Reagan deregulation, and news had to earn its way in the ratings. They do, by trying to keep you scared to death and glued to the tube. They all took notice of CNN's performance during the first gulf war, and how all of us had the tube tuned in there 24/7. The result has been a predictable, steady slide into hyperbole, fearmongering, unsubstantiated garbage news, and that's what we have today.

I also look to see if a news site tends to fawn over a given candidate or pillory them.  That's a big tip to their bias, if they have one. If you get the feeling that one or the other candidate is //the devil,// yeah, you might be dealing with a screaming political monkey site disguised as a news site.

I assume that any news on Facebook, Tumbler, any blog, YouTube, and to a lesser extent Google is probably bullshit, unless I can find it on reputable news sites, or at least well known sites on both sides of the aisle.  "I read on Facebook..." should carry the same weight as "My crazy neighbor said..." Seriously. Your crazy neighbor is on Facebook too. Here's the problem.

Once upon a time, publishing was expensive. There were barriers to entry, to producing a well made newspaper, for example, and getting a reputation for printing nonsense usually meant you didn't recoup that investment, the National Enquirer and other supermarket tabloids notwithstanding. Social media is, effectively, free. You can, I can, anyone can produce something that passes all the traditional "quality" measurements of a news source - spelled right, nice font, nice layout, etc.) so it looks official. We all learned those things to tell a prestigious news source from a bogus one, and they're useless today. I wish it was not so, but it is. Everybody can publish today, and the people most motivated to do so probably have some axe to grind. As a news consumer, keep that in mind.

So. Given my 20some-odd years experience as a netizen and my jaded, cynical attitude toward online news and news in general, you might wonder what I read at the moment. Well, here you go. These are the sites whose news I take more seriously.

I read the BBC's international website. I'm sure the venerable BBC has its own bias, but it (theoretically) will be a British-centric bias that makes little or no sense in American politics. I also read the CBC's British Columbia website. Canadian and British reporting tends to be calm and cool headed, which I appreciate, and the worldview of both nations, while politically quite different from ours, seem to be rational and calm, and that's a plus for me.

I've been reading Reuters of late. They seem to take a calm, rational view (except perhaps for their editorials, but opinion is a perk of writing editorial). I'd say they lean a little left, but as that's the side of the aisle I sit on, it's hard for me to be sure.  Likewise, seems to have a cold, rational viewpoint, albeit leaning a bit to the right. Again, my bias is slightly left of center, so they might be centrists and just look that way to me. I haven't read them much since the election. I've been trying to ignore politics until my blood pressure gets back to normal and I can sleep reliably again.  I do still look at, but it's a guilty pleasure these days, not unlike reading tabloid headlines at the grocery store.

If you know of other good, fact-based news sites, do please comment. Comments are always welcome, so long as they are polite. I do read and vet every comment before it comes up, which is why the usual ads for a larger pe*is are strangely missing from my comment feed.


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