I don’t watch TV news very much. In this world of instant communication, updates, and alerts, I can find exactly the news I’m looking for when I want it, no talking heads, no nothing new to reports. With the exception of natural disasters and political elections, which I am generally following on Twitter at the same time I am watching them on TV, I avoid televised news programs.
I go to different places for different types of news. When I need information on what’s happening in the romance industry, I find Romance Twitter, a subset of up-to-the-minute information on book releases, copyright scandals, political events, and more. Twitter is where it happens the faster, where I checked for updates during the tornado that hit downtown Nashville in early March, where I followed news organizations when Boston was on lockdown during the bombings and we didn’t know if it was safe to go outside.
When I want long-form science news, I read the Tuesday New York Times science section or explore what National Geographic has to offer, exciting stories on space exploration, environmental issues, modern evolution, and the depths of the sea.
For politics, I look all over, at what my friends post on Facebook, the headlines of the Washington Post, my latest Twitter updates, and the articles and blogs that tend to filter in when I’m not looking. Sometimes, I check out the daily digest emails that come to my inbox. But other times, the news is just sort of there, collective and dancing in my face, like the 24-hour news cycle has come to life.
I am a journalist. I committed years of my life to learning the history and the craft of reporting, to investigating ineffective government systems and legislation, to learning how to interview people who don’t want to be interviewed and how to interpret data and evidence as it is laid before me. In that time, I learned the fundamental lesson that we cannot get our news from a single source, that we must, as readers and consumers of media, be willing to analyze the information we take in, to cross-reference it against credible sources, to do a little bit of the hard work ourselves.
When I studied in The Netherlands, my journalism professor was surprised to learn that our papers and news organizations claimed to avoid bias, that we pretended as if we didn’t have conservative and liberal media, though we all collectively acknowledge the open secret. In Europe, he explained, the newspapers were upfront about their ideology and political foundation. While it may have been a case of reading in an echo chamber, at least there was never any question of knowing so. Here, we pretend that we don’t know, that the news we consume does not come from individuals and ideologies, but is completely objective, without bias or subjectivity, the truth represented in its nudity.
There is a quote in journalism, “If someone says it’s raining & another person says it’s dry. It’s not your job to quote them both. Your job is to look out the fucking window and find out which is true.”
The same must be said for us readers and consumers of media. I am a great lover of the free press and consider it the fourth column of a democratic society, but in order for it to stay free of bias and government propaganda, in order for the truth, in whatever form it may take, to be as close to what is real as is possible, we must be questioning and discerning of the printed word.
We must ask where the information came from and, rather than take the words at face value, we must use the latest article, post, tweet, or commentary as a tool in our own arsenal to make informed, educated choices and develop sustainable opinions that are based in fact.
So where do I get my news from? I get it from what I consider to be the most responsible source of them all—as many places as possible.