When it comes to dietary health, it’s important not only to develop a healthy eating schedule, but also to stay on top of what you’re eating and where it came from. While many go out of their way to improve their physical bodies, the same often can’t be said for their information consumption.
Though it’s been building for decades, distrust of the media (combined with the rise of both internal and external propaganda) has really come to a head in the past two years. The result has been that a fair portion of otherwise-well-meaning Americans have developed a “trust no one” attitude, and in some cases have begun to actively discredit legitimate journalists.
As a former journalism student that’s observed the situation for a while now, I’ve noticed a couple major contributing factors:
- FOX News: Their devastating impact on our culture really can’t be overstated, especially among the older population (their average viewer is about 70). Much ink has been spilled about Roger Ailes’ effect on America, but for many seniors not using the Internet, FOX News is handing out the daily marching orders, making sure to “clarify” that they’re the only ones speaking the truth in a corrupt media landscape. If you really want to depress yourself, check out this indie doc.
- Cord-Cutting/Smartphones: The meteoric rise of cord-cutting and mobile news consumption has conditioned people (many of them young adults) to place all incoming news sources on a level playing field, and therefore all equally untrustworthy. It’s understandable. If you didn’t grow up in a world of legitimate print and television journalism, how are you supposed to know the difference between The Washington Post and Infowars? It’s all just content, and after all, anyone can publish. Why trust the “mainstream media” when a compelling blogger raises some great points as well? Sure that blogger might be intentionally spreading disinformation for personal or governmental purposes, but yolo, right?
So where do we go from here? Is it all Facebook comment sniping and cries of “fake news” while the world burns? I sincerely hope not. To me, as always, education is the answer. Many large social platforms are already rolling out their own “fake news” detection systems (a good, albeit rocky start), but it’s far more important that people of all ages take the time to learn about:
- The history of journalism, journalistic methods and integrity
- How to properly source an article and understand if a publication has a specific political bias
- The importance of reading/watching a variety of sources and viewpoints
- The importance of paying for quality content and reporting
The news business may not be as exciting as Mario Lopez hosting “Candy Crush,” but I have faith that a new generation has been inspired by what’s happened, and we’ll see journalism get a healthy second wind. After all, it’s already looking slightly promising for newspaper subscriptions.
In this spirit of optimism, I thought I’d share my current work-in-progress personal source list. It’s by no means perfect, but it’s been a great help to me in navigating this point in our country’s history. I hope it’s helpful:
- The New York Times (If you pick nothing else from the list, make it this…)
- The Washington Post (…or this)
- The Los Angeles Times (Great to subscribe to a local paper, obviously match where you live)
- Twitter (I’d be missing a limb without Twitter. My follow list is here if you’re interested. My wife is also fantastic at sharing tweets from all across the political spectrum.)
- RSS (I’m basically the cryptkeeper at this point, so I still use/love following RSS feeds for a variety of sources. Reeder is my favorite client, running on top of Feed Wrangler.)
- Apple News (Apple’s built-in news aggregator has gotten much better since its initial launch, and I follow a decent number of sources. It even provides me with healthy exposure to FOX News pieces from time to time…shudder.)
- Instapaper (Absolutely essential for “save and read later” functionality. It’s my DVR for articles.)
- NextDraft (Dave Pell’s outstanding daily roundup)
- Reddit (More for entertainment than news, as it can get real questionable real fast in various subreddits)
- Politico (Great politics-specific content)
- Slate (Definitely left-leaning, but a lot of great pieces)
- BuzzFeed News (I know, BuzzFeed?!? They’re putting out some great news content these days.)
- CNN (Primarily for watching video highlights after events)
- Medium (Consistent stream of interesting pieces/viewpoints)
- The New Yorker (as well as the great The New Yorker Today standalone app)
- Vanity Fair
- Fast Company