From the Advocacy Committee
September 5, 2023
In a world with a 24-hour news cycle, pervasive social media, concerted disinformation efforts, and especially as we plunge toward another make-or-break presidential election season, it is a good time to scrutinize our news consumption habits.
Here is a quick review of how to be a better consumer of news:
● Be aware of factual news versus opinion news. A fact is something that can be proved or disproved by objective evidence, whereas an opinion reflects the beliefs and values of the presenter.
● Seek out differing perspectives to avoid confirmation bias. Do you only watch MSNBC and read articles from The New York Times? While those are often great sources of information, it is a good idea to broaden your news horizons and avoid what is known as “confirmation bias” – the tendency to search for information that confirms your existing beliefs. Hunt for other reputable news sources to diversify your input and improve your ability to detect the real from the fake.
● Avoid social media as a primary news source. Facebook feeds are uniquely tailored, using an algorithm based on past engagement that encourages more consumption based on the same kinds of content. In other words, a closed information loop. Remember, social media does not make money or measure their success when you are exposed to high quality information. No, these platforms are rewarded for clicks, which happen more frequently the more familiar the content is to the user.
● Look for fairness as a key indicator of quality news. One way to assess whether the news source is presenting stories fairly is that it should occasionally challenge your position and cause you to reflect upon the topic in new and constructive ways.
● Do not share news after only reading a headline. Always go the extra mile to read the full article and comprehend the nuances before sharing information. Remember, digital media makes money off clicks, not the truth.
● If you can, support journalism by subscribing to high caliber sources directly. Not only does this fund the necessary resources used to do research and produce stories and
articles based on evidence, but the fact also that you have “skin in the game” should increase the odds that you will read the whole article.
● Learn how to find trusted sources. Before relying on a new source of information, do some very basic research to determine its trustworthiness. The “about” section of a website should disclose who owns and operates it, what perspective it has, how long it has been around, etc.
Anecdotally, news seems to have become a source of dread, fatigue, depression, helplessness, and even rage. Self-preservation has driven some previously voracious consumers to eschew the news altogether, or at least to drastically reduce their in-take. The above guidance, along with some self-regulation (don’t spend three hours a day scrolling Facebook or Twitter!) might aid in reshaping news consumption habits