16 Tips on How to Follow the News

As of late, I’ve had a few people ask me “How do you find good new sources”? Here are just a few tips I find helpful for dealing with the news today:
  1. Have your representatives saved on your phone—both where you live now and where you grew up (if they are different). This is a good defense against feeling paralyzed by the news. Voice your thoughts.
  2. Don’t call it “fake news”; it’s “propaganda”.
  3. If a politician says something that is questionable or outrageous, do some research. Verify from trusted news sources.
  4. Cable news, talk radio, and Twitter are good for “feeling a pulse” for a given moment, but might be less helpful for analysis.
  5. Support public radio and television.
  6. When engaging in conversations with people about the news try and discuss issues in the form of open-ended questions, “Do you think…?”, “What have you heard about…?” Pro-tip: the best journalists also use open-ended questions.
  7. Avoid overstating what you know. It’s okay to not know everything. Talk about your own nervousness about an issue. It’s okay to be unsettled. It’s okay to not know the answers.
  8. Be wary of any news source that only presents two sides.
  9. Remember. Objectivity doesn’t exist—it’s only something people can strive toward. Give them bonus points if they acknowledge these biases.
  10. Avoid news sources that use totalizing language, for example: if they use negative adjectives when describing people or political affiliations: “elite liberals” or “backwards conservatives”.
  11. Avoid slippery slopes, idle speculation, and wild conjecture. Remember, no one has a crystal ball.
  12. Look up the writers and reporters that you follow. Do they ever talk about their own research or investigations? That’s usually a good sign as to whether or not they did their homework.
  13. Turn off the volume, turn on closed captioning, and read what is being said. People might look at you weird, but it can give you another perspective.
  14. Read trusted news sources from other countries.
  15. Want to know more about a big issue? Don’t rely only on the news. Pick up a book! Preferably one that uses citations! Maybe one written by someone who can show expertise. Look up the people who they cite.
  16. Remember, proliferation of questionable news sources is not a new phenomenon. In the late 19th century/early 20th century, as new printing technology allowed for cheaper production, people felt similarly with the rise of yellow journalism and jingoistic papers. It’s about finding quality over quantity.

Image: Uncle Sam’s dream of conquest and carnage – caused by reading the Jingo newspapers (Puck Magazine)
Artist: Keppler, Udo J., 1872-1956
Date Created/Published: N.Y.: Published by Keppler & Schwarzmann, 1895 November 13.
Source: United States Library of Congress http://www.loc.gov/pictures/item/2012648579/

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