How to Find Reliable News

Posted by on Dec 6, 2016 in Education & Learning, The World We Parent In | 0 comments

imagesRemember 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[1] 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.[2] 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.

Internet-only outlets

  • 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.)
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“Are you going to keep telling me stuff?”

Posted by on Apr 14, 2016 in Education & Learning, Growing Up, Out of the Mouths of My Kids | 0 comments

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That’s not the actual question my fourteen-year-old son asked me recently, though it may as well have been. We were traveling in the car (so often, it’s in the car), he was sitting beside me, in the passenger seat, and I was explaining the proper and safe reaction to some other driver’s behavior we’d just encountered.

“Are you going to tell me driving rules when we’re in the car from now until I turn sixteen?” “Jack” said. His words were polite, but his inflection said, Please, God, make it stop.

“You bet I am,” I replied. “And after that, if I think it’s necessary.”

Jack didn’t argue, thus demonstrating that he’s learning a little wisdom with age. Good to know.

In New Hampshire, kids can test for their driver’s licenses (a.k.a., Youth Operator Licenses) at sixteen. At fifteen-and-a-half, they can practice driving with “a licensed supervising driver at least twenty-five years old.” Kids need to have accrued forty hours of this behind-the-wheel experience—ten of those at night—before they can obtain their licenses,

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A First-Hand Lesson in Making a Difference

Posted by on Feb 4, 2016 in Education & Learning, The World We Parent In | 0 comments

Microphone

How many adults don’t participate in politics at any level because they think, “What’s the point?” And how many kids learn powerlessness in the face of government bureaucracy before they even reach voting age?

What if kids learned how to effect change before they even made it to high school? What if they could get a real-life lesson in how this happens, and what if they could even participate?

Some kids in my town got this chance this week. In a classic budget dispute, it came to light that the town budget committee, looking to make some cuts from the schools, had floated a proposal to cut the Chinese-language program. Chinese is currently taught in grades 7-12 and is one of four foreign languages taught in the middle and high schools. As my eighth-grade son and a number of his friends are in their second year of Chinese study, this development immediately grabbed my attention.

The lesson began.

With the help of a friend and her son—the latter is my son’s friend and also in his Chinese class—we assembled a list of kids and parents connected to the Chinese program. By the end of the day, we had contacted as many people as possible connected to the program, filled them in on the situation, asked them to attend the next budget meeting and provided them with additional information. My son and his friend spent considerable time over the weekend preparing remarks to explain to the committee why they had elected to study Chinese, why they ought to be allowed to continue and why it would be unfair to discontinue the program now. They also talked to their friends about the meeting to gin up additional support.

At the budget committee meeting Monday evening, kids and parents who opposed cutting the Chinese program filled the small meeting room.

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Here Comes High School

Posted by on Jan 27, 2016 in Education & Learning, Growing Up | 1 comment

high school sign sm

Tonight I attended the high school curriculum meeting for the parents of next year’s ninth-grade class, which includes my fourteen-year-old son.

Holy hell, when did my son get old enough for high school?

This is, of course, impossible. If I dig deep enough in his room, under the underwear and soccer uniforms strewn across the furniture, the shin guards and bedding on the floor (I don’t ask why), I’m certain I’ll find a leftover dinosaur or two from that old obsession. I know he no longer sleeps with the privileged quartet of stuffed friends that he used to consider sacred, but I also know they still live in that room. They’re just tucked into a corner of a bookshelf where he can pretend he doesn’t want them anymore. So “Jack” doesn’t cuddle with me any longer or call me “Mommy.” I can still trick him into get a hug when I really want one.

Next you’ll be telling me he’s going to be driving before I know it.

Oh, wait. He will.

I’ve got a secret to reveal about parenting my son at this age—actually, both him and my ten-year-old daughter. I love this stage of parenting. I waited for this. When I envisioned being a parent prior to becoming one, this is the kind of role I imagined.

To be clear: there has never been a moment in which I did not love my children. And I am not so foolish as to believe that everything will be clear sailing from this time forward.

But patience is not even close to my most abundant virtue, and the world of babies and toddlers was not the easiest world for me to live in.

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The Lecture Years

Posted by on Jan 14, 2016 in Education & Learning, Growing Up, Parenting on a Daily Basis | 0 comments

Susi and Mom

 

“I want to talk to you about heroin. Our state is in the middle of a terrible epidemic.”

“Did you see that story about the kid killed in that horrible crash on the highway? You know they were drinking before they got in the car, right?”

“I want to talk to you about consent, and what it really means.”

“Your body has changed a lot in the past year. I suspect you’ve got a lot more changes in front of you this year. Let’s have a quick chat.”

“The only disease they mentioned in your health class was AIDS? We need to have a talk.”

“Another unarmed, young black man was killed by a police officer. Why? Well, let me explain what’s been going on.”

“So here’s the thing about the recent burglaries on our street. The way they’ve occurred—it was probably people looking for cash or things they could easily sell to get cash to buy drugs. Because this is what happens when people get addicted to drugs.”

“All of those people are fleeing terrible violence in the Middle East—mostly Syria—and Europe doesn’t know what to do with them. No one does, including us. Many of them have died. There is a history…”

“Do you have any questions about _____?”

Silence.

If you have a teenager living in your house who loves to discuss topics ranging from difficult to embarrassing with you, then you aren’t cringing right now. Also, please call me and tell me what that’s like. Because I haven’t got a clue.

My own teenager, fourteen-year-old “Jack,” is of the eye-rolling, oh-God-not-another-Talk-please variety. When he hears anything in my words or inflection begin to veer in the direction of a Talk, I can see his upper body subconsciously settle into place. He’s learned he will receive Talks whether he wants them or not, so he tries to prepare himself and hopes the imminent one will be quick and that he won’t have to answer too many questions.

I deliver my brief lecture, punctuated with “uh-huh” and “no” from Jack whenever required. If I ask him for more, it’s like I’ve asked him to solve the problem of time travel. (Actually, he’d probably prefer I ask him that.) Occasionally I can lighten the atmosphere with a joke—presidential politics comes to mind—but that’s not always the case. When I’m satisfied I’ve been understood, I ask if he has questions, he says no, and one of us leaves the room.

Obviously, this is not the way I’d like for these things to go. But I can’t ignore these topics. Jack is not a little kid anymore.

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Paying Attention to the Presidential Race for the Sake of Your Future Voter(s)

Posted by on Oct 28, 2015 in Education & Learning, The World We Parent In | 0 comments

Soon, your kid may be eligible for one of these. Will he or she be ready?

Soon, your kid may be eligible for one of these. Will he or she be ready?

I know: it’s painful this time around. I used to do this political and policy stuff for a living and even I’ve become cynical. Congress has become a national joke, each side thinks the other is the devil’s spawn, “compromise” is the new f-bomb and we have people who’ve been elected to serve in our government with the express purpose of obstructing that government. And I won’t even mention You-Know-Who, leading or running second in the GOP polls. (Why, people? Why? You know this isn’t just a reality TV show, right? It’s not, “the last uber-narcissist standing on the island—or in front of the camera—wins the country.”)

This is not my usual, biennial exhortation to participate in the civic life of the community in which you live by voting—although that will be important when your state’s primary or caucus day rolls around, as well as in November 2016. Rather, I’d like to highlight an aspect of civic engagement that may not have meant quite as much a few years ago as it does now.

It’s common in political life to refer, fondly and perhaps with a bit of levity, to all of our children as “future voters.” But it struck me recently as I considered nearly fourteen-year-old “Jack” and ten-year-old “Emmie” that the future is no longer very far away. Neither of my kids will be old enough to vote in November 2016, but Jack will vote in the following presidential election, and Emmie will vote in the one after that. When they do vote, I want them to be educated enough about this country, their government and the electoral process to take their votes seriously.

I’ve brought my kids into the voting booth with me since they were small because I wanted them to see that voting matters. I knew they didn’t fully understand what I was doing, but that was okay, because they were little and I could explain everything in simple terms. But now they’re listening to me and my husband discuss the candidates and the parties, watching me turn red as I yell at the television (okay, that’s perhaps not always the best model of behavior), and noticing that we read articles, discuss policies when the candidates do and make a point of watching at least some of the debates.

And they’re beginning to take an interest.

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