Getting Informed In an Anti-Information World
There are three kinds of vices for news sources: selective reporting of facts, heavily biased opinions and “spin,” and outright lies. So how can a responsible citizen find good information by which they can form reasonable conclusions? The answers are simple, but most people won’t like them.
- Ditch cable news. All of it.
It’s a safe assumption that anything playing to you on network television is meant to entertain. This is true for Fox News, CNN, MSNBC, OAN, and any other network you can think of. The reporters and commentators may have good intentions, but at the end of the day their goal is to keep people coming back for more.
To keep people coming back, networks will avoid being offensive or boring to their audience. Unfortunately the world itself is not that kind, and reality is full of complex things we do not want to hear. If we want to be responsible citizens, we need to hear them. So avoid cable news at all costs.
Summary: Cable news suffers from the most bias in selecting facts, they tend to give the most one-sided opinions, and they are sometimes guilty of outright lying.
- Read everything you can get your hands on from major, well-established news outlets. All of them.
As if by magic, major news corporations instantly become less biased and more thorough when they print rather than broadcast their news. But they’re still a far cry from perfect.
For this reason, read from a variety of sources –– including ones you do not like. When asked whether you read the New York Times or the Wall Street Journal, your answer should be, “Yes.”
Summary: News from major sources in print (online or on paper) tends to be marginally less biased in its selection of facts which it reports, marginally less biased in its selection of opinions, and generally less likely to tell outright lies.
- Read for facts rather than opinions.
There is a place for a good editorial, but if you want to be informed before you are opinionated, learn to look past op-eds while searching for information. In the course of reading news stories, learn to recognize when the author is giving their evaluation as opposed to giving a report.
If an author is giving a statistic (which still needs to be critically analyzed) or a quotation (make sure to look up the full context), then you can rest assured you are getting a report. If the author tells you a statistic is a reason for action of some sort or that a certain quotation is an example of something negative, then the author is giving an evaluation and you should take this much more lightly until you know the arguments and interpretations on all sides.
When most people say a news source representing an opposing political interest does nothing but lies, they often mean the opposing side has very different opinions. It’s somewhat rare for a major news outlet to knowingly print a story that is outright false.
Summary: Learn how to spot and avoid opinions to avoid biased editorializing, get your facts from multiple news sources to avoid selective reporting, and you will likely be in a safe position to believe the reports you have read then carefully evaluate competing opinions about those reports to form an opinion of your own.
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K. William Huitt
K. William Huitt is currently an M.A. student in Western Michigan University’s philosophy program. He graduated from Hillsdale College in 2019 with a B.A. in philosophy and a minor in history. He has spoken at various Christian apologetics events and writes regularly about religious and political issues.