Hooboy!! That’s a tough one these days.

I’d say the first thing to do is decide what news is most important to you and find the best sources for that. If you want to know what’s happening in the world of entomology, then a couple of journals and occasionally checking in on a discussion area for bug news would probably be sufficient. If you are less casual about your bugs, you might want to join a local club too. That way you’ll get bug gossip and bug lectures that will round out your news.

Multiple viewpoints are going to give you a more complete picture, so don’t stick to only one source. If you need more details on evaluating information sources, I have some guidelines here.

News sources are a special problem. Can you identify fake news? Legitimate news? Sure you can!!

Legitimate news sources have these traits:

  • They state a commitment to the truth and journalistic ethics
  • They have paid staff that can lose their jobs if they don’t follow the rules
  • They issue corrections and retractions, even if it’s a small error in reporting
  • They examine the powerful, particularly those misusing power
  • They do not claim to be free of bias
  • They identify their sources unless there is serious danger to the source

They also use very few if any slanted words in their headlines, even in quotes. Real news headlines don’t tell you what to think, they tell you what happened.  Consider:

Severe Earthquake Destroys Town

compared with

Shocking Earthquake Ruins Christmas

“Shocking” is not necessary, but is put there to make you feel even worse about the earthquake. Scaring you is good for their sales, especially now with ads on every page you read. Be very wary of bossy headlines that bark scary details. Details are for the small print.

After several decades of watching the changes in newspapers and magazines (those that have survived the electronic surges), I think there has been reason for worry for a very long time. It’s now reaching the consciousness of people who don’t usually pay attention to news sources.

There is a lot of garbage out there, and it’s made worse by repetition. Every time your Aunt Margie re-posts some garbage on social media, she lends her credibility to the garbage and gives it a chance to spread. Nobody is going to fire Aunt Margie for failing to do her research. She’s working for free and baking angel food cake on the side. Small newspapers have done the same thing for over a century, and when they repeated garbage, all they did was apologize and print a cake recipe.

They did apologize, and that’s not nothing, Aunt Margie.

Anyhoo, it is hard times for professional news people. I recommend paying for subscriptions for news if you care about getting the good stuff, and you should care, ya know. You can always cancel the subscription if you find them to be too slanted or too alarmist.

I pay for the New York Times because I like their approach and the way they are adapting their approach.  Their Daily podcast is excellent (and free!) these days. They are exploring many stories from a very human viewpoint and not just barking about political policies. That’s hard work and they do it well.

I check the Associate Press Top Ten Headlines website most days because they dish up a spectrum of interests. That way I won’t go through the day without knowing big developments that might interest other people that I deal with; even if I don’t personally care about a notable sports thing, I will know about it for the day.

If there’s time, I check in on some others. Often, it’s only on the weekend that I read a local news publication, an international one and a political rag or two round things out. For me, it’s the Baltimore Sun, BBC World News, and Reason (even though I’m irritated with the Libertarians right now).

Lastly, I intend to start spending some time with de Correspondent. It’s a crowd-funded project that brings journalists and experts together to dig into the societal framework behind all the “news of the day.”

It’s a lot. You probably think I’m giving you homework, and I guess I am. You don’t have to do it my way, but do it. Do tune in.

I know, there are days when all we can do is watch some puppies and then take a nap. That’s okay too. Just be sure and wake up soon. It’s going to be your world.


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