People are inundated with a copious amount of news and information. How do we know which of it is reliable? And how should we connect the dots?
You can develop a sense for ‘real news’ by listening with a critical ear:
- Ask questions.
- Escape the information loop.
- Seek under-reported stories and expert views.
An accurate ‘big picture’ will take form. You’ll then connect the dots with a high degree of veracity.
There are certain questions we should consider, when hearing news or receiving information. Ask yourself:
- Is this source reliable?
- Is the information up-to-date?
- Is the information accurate?
- Is it the whole story?
- Is it factual news, an editorial opinion, or satire?
- Why are they telling me this?
- What are the opposing views? (For a quick take on opposing views, swing through Improve the News.)
Escape the Information Loop
Whichever news and information sources you rely upon, try adding a new source or two.
Escape Corporate Bias
If the news you usually hear is owned and sponsored by huge corporations, tune into Democracy Now to escape corporate bias. It’s a noncorporate, viewer-funded, award-winning news outlet that reports domestic & international news, Monday through Friday. Without Big Business on the editorial board, Democracy Now is free to provide in-depth coverage of the day’s news from a societal perspective and to highlight relevant people-powered activism.
Escape the All-American News Diet
Break away from the all-American news diet to broaden your perspective. Read English-language BBC and CBC news reports, taking note of their U.S. news coverage. Our cousin sovereign states, the United Kingdom and Canada, offer a mild dose of U.S. news objectivity. Those fluent in more languages can, of course, further expand their geographical news consumption.
Vet your international news sources, and aim for something that is mainstream. In this case, we’re less concerned with corporate bias. We want to avoid stumbling into news and commentary that, as foreign news consumers, we may not recognize as underground or extremist. You can hunt for reputable international news sources by checking the Top 200 Newspapers in the World.
Escape Social Media Feed Loops
When you follow news feeds on social media outlets, like Twitter and Facebook, you must realize you’re being ‘fed’ news stories that are designed to captivate your attention–and the news feed selection is entirely based on your previous social media activity! This creates a tightening inward spiral, instead of an outward unfolding. While it may feel comfortable to digest news that confirms everything you already know and think, you must break out of the social media loop in order to discover more varied news reports, unknown topics of interest, and other valid perspectives. Be an independent explorer of news and information. For example, go directly to the website of any trustworthy news outlet for your general daily news update. Be the hunter, not the captive prey.
Seek Under-Reported News
Many extremely important, well-documented news stories are under-reported. Keep tabs on Project Censored “for the news that didn’t make the news.” You are guaranteed to be amazed at, and concerned about, the news that cable TV neglects.
You can also follow websites that are dedicated to a particular field (art, science, finance, technology) or topic (cultural events, climate change, cryptocurrency, artificial intelligence). You’ll learn valuable news and information long before it appears in the mainstream media (MSM), if ever.
Follow the experts. People who specialize in a particular field–like professors, scientists, issue advocates, and investigative reporters–dedicate their careers to decades of research and practice in a specific discipline. They are accustomed to debating the finer points of their subject with equally dedicated peers, and are skilled at identifying weak arguments and contradictions. They write books. Experts clear away the misunderstandings that laypeople may mistakenly hold.
No Time for News?
What if you don’t have time to be a critical news consumer? Then listen to the professionals who do it for you–while you’re driving to work, or doing household chores.
Check out my “Independent Progressive News and Commentary Directory” for left-wing programming. For the moderate liberal view, NPR and PBS cover a broad field of news and noteworthy topics. The so-called ‘public’ stations are partly member-supported, but also accept major contributions from big corporations and wealthy philanthropists… so keep that in mind.
Most other news outlets possess a heavy corporate bias. It doesn’t matter whether they’re conservative or liberal. Big Money rules the mainstream media. If that sounds depressing, remember how Gil Scott-Heron put it: “the revolution will not be televised.” (You have to appreciate how well he put truth and wit to music!)
Stay Ahead of the Game
A rewarding aspect of following independent news is staying ahead of the game. While other people mope around, saying “nothing will ever change,” you know of a horde of individuals and organizations who are fighting the Good Fight for real people (not the corporations). That is uplifting, alone. But advance notice also gives you the chance to understand what is likely to come next. Perhaps you will also advocate, or even become an activist, for the viewpoints you support–in time to make a difference.
People follow the news in search of both progress and preservation. But we must not let our emotions lead. Take care to activate your analytical left-brain, in order to see the big picture and accurately connect the dots. President John F. Kennedy once said that he had “complete confidence in the response and dedication of our citizens whenever they are fully informed.” Consuming the news with a critical mind is something we owe ourselves, one another, and future generations.
2 thoughts on “How to Listen to News and Info With a Critical Ear”
Informative and well-written. Thank you for sharing these important tips!