A common modern complaint is that people “don’t know where to go to get the news.” This is fascinating because there a nearly unfathomable number of news sources available to everyone. Of course, what they mean is that they either “don’t know where to go to get clear, neutral facts,” or conversely, “don’t know where to go find news that lines up with their ideology.” We’ll look at the most popular news sources, and how likely they are to be objective, or agenda driven.
Local and Network Newscasts
The good news is that for the majority of liberals, conservatives, and moderates unbiased news is still the gold standard. To that end, the “big three” national network news programs, ABC News, CBS News, and NBC News, have a good track record of delivering the facts. In addition, most television markets also have local affiliates of these networks that broadcast local newscasts. Local newscasts generally shoot straight, as they are directly accountable to the viewers in their markets and focus heavily on issues and stories of local interest.
Cable news is a different story. You may hear about the “24-hour news cycle.” In the rush to program news throughout the day, the major cable news networks (CNN, FOX News, and MSNBC) have either consciously or subconsciously allowed a political slant to creep into a certain extent. This doesn’t mean that you can’t believe anything you see on these channels, but it’s unfortunately, necessary to corroborate their stories from other sources to ensure they’re accurate.
Another popular but problematic news source is social media. People love to share everything from pet photos to news articles on Facebook and Twitter. Unfortunately, people can post whatever they want, with very few limitations. This means that a completely fabricated story can spread extremely quickly. The major platforms have recently started efforts to fact-check some posts, but it’s best to be skeptical of stories you only see on social.
Internet aggregates like the Drudge Report, Huffington Post, TMZ, and MSN Wonderwall are in many ways the best and worst of both worlds. They essentially cultivate links to articles from various sources throughout the country and world. This in and of itself isn’t inherently bad, but some of the sources are more reputable than others, and the aggregate is able to wash their hands of any misrepresentation or false reporting.
In the digital age, news has grown in different directions, some for the better, some not so much. Use this guide to know how to approach different sources.