Concerns about the media:
When’s the last time you read a new media source? Or a source that doesn’t promote your world view? I ask because a theme I have heard in the last week or two is that it’s hard to trust the news these days, that people are turning it off. Jon, from South Bend, said, “I never know what to trust. The inaccuracies and political bias on both sides are absurd. I’m not smart enough to know what’s true or what’s not.” Rick said that he now turns off the news. This problem wasn’t unique to Indiana. Maxwell, a student at Bowling Green State, said that he feels like the media distorts our opinions of one another.
Despite people’s concerns about the media, many interviewees, especially Matthew from University of Chicago, mention the importance of “being informed.” I agree them that knowing what’s happening in our communities and country is really important to being a good citizen. We can’t take political action if we don’t know what’s happening. Serving people is harder if we don’t the problems. It’s difficult to be respectful if we don’t know what’s happening in our neighborhood.
Strategies for doing so:
So, then, the question is: how do people remain informed if media is so hard to sort through? I have three suggestions on this front. The first is to read primary sources. Jon talked about doing just this, and I think it’s an awesome idea. As a history major, I know that reading primary documents can be really hard and boring. But I’ve often found that I develop a better, more confident opinion on things if I read them myself, rather than just read someone else’s analysis. For this strategy, it’s useful to be targeted based on interests, since it’s impossible to read everything out there. Since I love education and political speeches, I’m going to try read or watch the President’s speeches and try to track down educationally minded bills and proposals from now on.
Obviously, this strategy has limits – nobody can read every piece of legislation or every speech. So, we’ll all turn to the news, whether it’s the radio, the newspaper, or the TV. I think it’s important that when people do that, they try to get as much variety in the perspectives we read as possible. Since the election, I’ve done two things to help myself make sense of media.
First, I don’t watch the TV anymore. I find it so much easier to get caught up in narratives and emotions when I am watching pundits, rather than reading slowly and thinking as I go.
Second, I’ve made a point of at least twice a week reading a publication that’s, or writer whose, ideas directly conflict with my own. It’s not always enjoyable. That being said, it does often help me know the “facts” – the commonalities in stories on sites from both sides – and doing so helps me understand a variety of perspectives. To potentially help people in this sometimes uncomfortable endeavor, I’ve included a list of liberal and conservative writers who consistently cover things thoughtfully and critically.
Of course, there are other ways to stay informed. Watch the non-cable news, or BBC. Read the local newspaper, even! But for me, I’ve found these strategies provide the best balance for developing my own opinion and knowing other perspectives that exist.
Wildcards (critical of everyone!):