How We Get the News
We all have our ways of getting “the news” regularly. Some people start with a particular newspaper each morning and read it over a cup of coffee. Some check their favorite news sites on a mobile device. Some use Twitter, others use Facebook, some watch a morning talk show on TV, some listen to the radio. The sources we tap to feed our news intake strongly influence and/or reflect what we are likely to believe.
Acknowledging bias and protecting against its effects requires each of us to resist the entertainment aspect of how news is presented by much of the media, and instead focus on assessing the facts behind a story. This is a more demanding way to consume information. I would argue, though, that each of us must feel compelled to make the effort.
For what it may be worth to anyone, this is how I get my news. I start at the Google News site each morning. I compare headlines, typically reading about a story from no fewer than two different sources. If a story is particularly popular, I will check it on some known partisan sites and compare it to other sources. When I find discrepancies and if I have time, I will try to fact-check things.
I believe that reading what different media organizations are reporting and following up when there are differences in coverage is the only way to target the truth behind a story. Without sounding high-minded, I feel this is part of acting responsibly as a citizen.
Today, there was a good example of discrepancies in coverage of a popular story, Trump’s tweet yesterday that the U.S. should expand its nuclear capability. It showed up in the second spot on Google News this morning, just under the Berlin terrorist attack headlines. I decided to see how the major news sites were reporting this. All of them had it covered pretty prominently, except for one: Fox News.
The first source I read was Politico, whose article included a quote, and commentary similar to other sites about how Trump’s comments contradict decades of U.S. policy:
“Let it be an arms race… we will outmatch them at every pass and outlast them all,” Trump told MSNBC’s “Morning Joe” during an off-air conversation on Friday.
The attempt at a clarification came after Trump alarmed some with a vague tweet on Thursday that said, “The United States must greatly strengthen and expand its nuclear capability until such time as the world comes to its senses regarding nukes.”
The tweet, which threatened to upend longstanding U.S. nonproliferation policy, followed comments from Russian President Vladimir Putin, who called on his country to “strengthen” its nuclear forces.
The Politico piece also mentioned these comments from Trump’s spokesman, Jason Miller:
“President-elect Trump was referring to the threat of nuclear proliferation and the critical need to prevent it — particularly to and among terrorist organizations and unstable and rogue regimes,” Miller said in a statement. “He has also emphasized the need to improve and modernize our deterrent capability as a vital way to pursue peace through strength.”
The only things I can find on the Fox News site about Trump’s nuclear weapons comments are some videos, a short four-paragraph bit featuring Charles Krauthammer’s thoughts on this that were broadcast on Thursday’s Special Report with Bret Baier, and this article, which completely ignores the controversy, and does not cover the story in much detail. It does not even mention Miller’s tortured attempt at clarification. And strangely, the article instead goes on to elaborate on another topic: Trump’s proposed Muslim ban, and how it might be affected by the terrorist attack on the Berlin Christmas market.
Even weirder is that while sites such as NBC, ABC, CBS, the Wall Street Journal, the New York Times, U.S. News and World Report, Politico, USA Today, The Atlantic, the Washington Post, and even conservative sites like The Drudge Report, WND, and Newsmax, feature links on their home pages today to articles about Trump’s nuclear weapons comments, the Fox News home page does not have a single mention of the word “nuclear,” or any links to the videos or articles it did publish about Trump’s nuclear expansion tweet. (Incidentally, CNN is one of the few that also does not mention this story on its home page now, but that is another site I find problematic, which is a topic for another day.)
Fox does have room for headlines on its home page about some real pertinent stories, though… like an 89 year-old Pennsylvania man getting lost and ending up in Alabama, and how the city of Paris, France, has declared war on rats.
The Internet has sparked the creation of so many news sites, and it has stoked the fake news phenomenon (this NPR piece is interesting) in a way that makes it easier than ever to willingly feed on whatever type of stories you find appealing. But the Internet also makes it possible for the first time in history to easily scan a variety of news sources and track down what is true. Unfortunately, most people don’t want to put in the effort when they think there is something that appears exaggerated or false. Most don’t even want to entertain the idea that the sources they choose to read might be inaccurate. But it pays to be skeptical, and it is the way to act responsibly.
If you’re not regularly questioning the sources you’re reading, or taking the time to follow-up on things that seem hyperbolic, outrageous, or emotionally charged, you should make an effort. The world is better off when people are educated rather than misled.