Remember the old days—you know, October—when you didn’t need to care about the news if you didn’t want to? Those days are over. Even if you preferred to stay away from current events before, we all need to stay informed about what’s happening in our country right now.
But what if you’re not a news geek by nature? In this age of fake news sources, biased media outlets and “everyone’s an expert so long as they’ve got a Facebook account,” how do you know what to believe? I’ve fielded a few inquiries about reliable news sources over the past few weeks. In response, I’ve cobbled together something of a New User’s Guide to Reliable News Sources in an Unreliable Atmosphere here.
Please note what the list below is NOT. It’s not comprehensive. It’s not foolproof. It’s not assembled by an inhuman, bias-free robot.
I’ve selected a few resources to serve as starting points for people who haven’t previously been regular consumers of news and who want to begin to equip themselves with actual facts on a regular basis. With that goal in mind, here we go.
First, a couple of guidelines
- Is it true? Before accepting something as fact, look to see if you can find a second reliable source for it. This is not as hard as it sounds. Google the “fact” you’ve just read that made your jaw drop. If it’s something that just happened five minutes ago, this might be difficult. But other reliable sources should have it within an hour at the most. Usually it takes only minutes for other outlets to pick up something real.
- Look for media outlets with a solid reputation for investigative journalism. Sometimes that means they will run negative stories about people you like. Sometimes they will mess up. Always, the questions you want to ask are, how often does a media outlet do the hard work of digging deep and getting the story right? Do they seek out and report the facts?
Reliable media outlets
Print and/or digital editions of print publications
- It’s 2016, but the old standby print journalists are still, for the most part, doing the best job of getting the story and getting it right. This includes, of course, their digital editions. So a great way to get real, factual news is to subscribe to the print and/or digital editions of one of the major city newspapers, e.g, The New York Times, The Boston Globe, The Washington Post, The L.A. Times, etc. The digital editions of these papers update throughout the day, so you can stay informed as things happen if you choose. (A note about the “bias” that some people will warn you about in these newspapers: most newspapers with sizeable circulation separate their reporting pages from their opinion pages. There are usually different editors for these sections, and the above listed papers follow this practice. The opinion pages may in fact lean in one direction or another politically. The reporting pages focus on investigation and reporting of the facts.)
- Your local newspaper. Subscribe to your paper, either in print or online, and read it. Know what’s going on in your community. The quality of these newspapers runs the gamut, so again, it’s always good to check what you read with a search to confirm something that catches your interest. Did your representative really say that? Find out for sure before you get angry.
- Are you really obsessed with what’s going on in Washington? Subscribe to Roll Call and/or The Hill.
- Online editions of some foreign media outlets can be reliable. Try The Guardian or com, both from the U.K.
- Wire services, like AP or Reuters. You can download their news apps onto your phone and customize to your interests. Reuters also has a user-friendly site and an RSS option if that’s how you prefer to get your news. (You will also see wire services’ articles in newspapers.)
- Snopes.com. You heard something and you don’t know if you should believe it? Go to Snopes. They may not always have the fastest check on the latest political appointment, but they may, and it will be accurate. Did the President-elect really say those words during that interview in 2014? Is that urban legend about the call coming from inside the house really true? Ask Snopes. (Note: I taught my kids to use Snopes for rumors and urban legends years ago. Don’t ask me if Bigfoot was spotted downtown. Ask Snopes.)