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How to Choose a Reliable News Source

Updated on December 02, 2016

Finding a reliable news source can be tricky, especially when you consider how few companies own mainstream news sources. Short of going to out of country sources, like the BBC or Al Jazeera, we’re left in the lurch for good, local reporting. The key is learning what to watch for and getting your information from as many sources as possible. Watch for these giveaways when researching news sources.

When we read, watch or listen to the news, we expect the truth, but how can we tell what's reliable and what's not?
When we read, watch or listen to the news, we expect the truth, but how can we tell what's reliable and what's not? | Source

Language in the News

Regardless of which channel or newspaper is your favorite, their bottom lines are heavily dependant on what they put out and how they do it. Unfortunately, this inserts bias into places there shouldn’t be any.

To spot sway towards a particular viewpoint, look at what kind of wording the news casters use and the graphics chosen to portray the story. Let’s look at the difference between how CBS and ABC report the immediate aftermath of the Trayvon Martin case.

I did a search of “Trayvon Martin news”, and picked the first article from each of these news outlets that showed up.

First, let’s look at an article on CBS’s web page: George Zimmerman verdict: Trayvon Martin confronted neighborhood watch volunteer, defense attorney says. The title itself demonstrates that the article is written from a position skewed towards the viewpoint of Zimmerman acting out of self defense. The fact that they used “neighborhood watch volunteer” and stated that Martin confronted him automatically shines a negative light on Trayvon, while turning Zimmerman into someone every kid should look up to. As you read on, you’ll see the writer made the prosecution out to be overzealous and outright liars. Zimmerman was made out to be a combination of victim acting in self defense and hero on a quest to make his neighborhood a safer place.

Fox News Voicing Opinions and Framing Them As "Fact" Via Use of "Studies"

If you based your opinion of the case solely on this article and others like it, the case would seem more straightforward than it really is.

Now, let’s look at the article from ABC’s page: Trayvon Martin’s Parents ‘Devastated’ by Not Guilty Verdict. Again, just by the title, you can tell this article is steered towards the viewpoint of Trayvon Martin’s family. The article goes on to talk about what may have been going on in Trayvon’s mind over the course of events, the fact he was an unarmed teenager and the positive aspects of his personality. When Zimmerman was mentioned, an extremely negative light was shown on him.

If you relied solely on this article and others like it, the case would seem like an abhorrent failing of the justice system, and an innocent boy was murdered by a vengeful adult.

However, if you read up on both sides of the case, you’ll probably get closer to the truth of what happened. These two articles demonstrate the power of word selection and content selection. Neither tells the whole story. In fact when you put the two together, you still won’t get the full story, and this is the case in the majority of big news stories.

The writers and editors carefully choose which language to use and which angle to tackle whatever events are at hand in order to influence how their readership perceives the goings on.

Example of a VNR

VNR – Video News Release

Also known as “Fake News”, VNRs are stories which a company, political figure, the government or any number of other parties pay a news station to play it as if it were a story that was independently researched and witnessed. These are often as medical breakthroughs, campaigns against political figures or promoting a government program, amongst other things.

They do this in order to make whoever originally paid for the clip to look more credible. They play on the fact we’re less inclined to trust a commercial than we are a story investigated by a third party. However, these inserted stories are more dangerous than commercials because they’re not required to disclose side effects of medications or be honest about all of the facts behind a story.

You might be able to spot these stories by flipping between news channels and listening for similar stories, or looking them up on the internet later. If a story highlights a certain brand, person, product or program, though, there’s a good chance that it’s not news. Instead, it’s a VNR.

The majority of people don’t know about this campaign of misinformation and propaganda. It’s natural that we trust our local news channels have to tell us, isn’t it?

Who owns the news?

Company
News Channels It Owns
Time Warner
TBS, TNT, Time Inc
Walt Disney
ABC TV Network, ESPN
News Corporation
Dow Jones & Company Inc, Fox News stations, The New York Post, Fox Business Network, Fox News Channel, News Limited News, Phoenix InfoNews Channel, News Interactive, News Outdoor
CBS Corporation
CBS News, CBS Radio Inc (this one controls at least 130 channels)
NBC Universal
CNBC, NBC News, MSNBC, USA Network
The distressing truth of corporate media is that only six companies own the majority of news outlets, both local and international. This is only a partial list of outlets these companies own. All of them also own entertainment and educational outlets
The Occupy movement, which these two protesters took part in, was another story which the media used to further divide the nation in the name of private interests and their bottom line.
The Occupy movement, which these two protesters took part in, was another story which the media used to further divide the nation in the name of private interests and their bottom line. | Source

Maintaining the Status Quo

We also need to remember that whichever company owns the news channel needs to make money. They can’t do that if they offend those in power or upset their viewer base. So, they craft stories which stick with popular viewpoints of their target audience or of the people who own them.

This is why there’s so much more coverage of celebrities and sports figures in American media than actual international stories. This happens when they cover controversial things like UFOs or alternative medicine, for example. When newscasters interview witnesses, the people who sighted the UFO are often framed in the context of being unreliable. Between that and the generally condescending attitude of the anchors lead their viewers to dismiss the story as unimportant or to make fun of what happened in it.

This is also where opinion thinly veiled as supposed fact comes in. Regardless of which polarity a news station leans towards, many stories rely more heavily on opinion rather than fact.

Even though the days of gathering around the radio, confident in the information you were given are past, you can still get more information by looking for it in multiple places and thinking critically about what you absorb.
Even though the days of gathering around the radio, confident in the information you were given are past, you can still get more information by looking for it in multiple places and thinking critically about what you absorb. | Source

Where Can I Find The News?

It’s a bad idea to collect your news from any one source. The internet has all sorts of web pages claiming to be news sources, but many of them are just as bad, if not worse, than the examples I’ve given here.

The American news industry has reached the point where you can’t just sit down and trust what the anchors and reporters have to tell you. If you’d like to be fully informed, it takes research and gathering information from multiple sources instead of just one or two.

Sadly, the era of balanced reporting is long past, save for a very few grassroots sources. We, as consumers, must be vigilant in listening with care and exercising critical thinking as we observe. Everything on the television, radio, internet and newspaper pages must be taken with a grain of salt.

Unless you have hours of free time on your hands, no one person can be fully informed of every single thing that goes on in the world. If you find a story that interests you or impacts you, do as much research about it as possible. If it’s an international story or one which takes place out of state, see if you can find sources from the area in which it happened. If it’s local, research what other local sources say about it.

Nine times out of ten, what you read between the lines is what really happened.

Big Easy to Big Empty: The Untold Story of the Drowning of New Orleans
Big Easy to Big Empty: The Untold Story of the Drowning of New Orleans

An excellent documentary which demonstrates part of what we didn't hear about on the news about Katrina.

 
Censored 2014: Fearless Speech in Fateful Times; The Top Censored Stories and Media Analysis of 2012-13
Censored 2014: Fearless Speech in Fateful Times; The Top Censored Stories and Media Analysis of 2012-13

The latest book in an excellent series detailing censorship and bias in the news.

 

© 2013 ESPeck1919

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    • Michele Travis profile image

      Michele Travis 3 years ago from U.S.A. Ohio

      This is a very good hub, but also very sad.

      The media doesn't really tell the truth anymore. It is more like entertainment.

      Voted up.

    • ESPeck1919 profile image
      Author

      ESPeck1919 3 years ago from Minneapolis, MN

      Thank you! And you're so right. It's very sad...you really have to hunt in order to find anyone will upholds the original tenets of journalism rather than falling prey to the corporate machine.

    • ChitrangadaSharan profile image

      Chitrangada Sharan 3 years ago from New Delhi, India

      Very nice and relevant hub!

      In today' s times there is a competition among News Channels to be the first and the most popular. News more or less has become dramatic representation of what is happening. Moreover they are manipulated too.

      An insightful and thought provoking hub!

      Thanks! Voted up!

    • ESPeck1919 profile image
      Author

      ESPeck1919 3 years ago from Minneapolis, MN

      Thank you so much, Chitrangada! I couldn't agree with you more. It's very sad how entertainment-centric the "news" has gotten, and even sadder to know so few people seem to realize this.

      That's why I only tend to pay attention to the local news for the weather, so I can have some sort of foggy idea of how to dress that day.

    • profile image

      Jacob 13 months ago

      So in other words, Twitter

    • ESPeck1919 profile image
      Author

      ESPeck1919 13 months ago from Minneapolis, MN

      LOL If only it were that simple. I guess it all depends on which hashtags you track and people you follow.

    • profile image

      Hannah 12 months ago

      Great article!

      One typo noted though :

      CBS News, CBS Radio Inc (this one controles at least 130 channels)

    • ESPeck1919 profile image
      Author

      ESPeck1919 12 months ago from Minneapolis, MN

      Thank you for the comment and the catch! I've corrected it. :)

    • profile image

      Jasper Whiteside 5 months ago

      It's true that you can't always trust a source as news. I have seen ridiculous stories that claim to be true and even have listed references. However, a little more research can lead to a different idea on the subject and can guide you closer to the truth. I can think of an example where a story said that they had DNA evidence that a street musician who had passed away was Elvis. A little extra digging discredited the story. http://www.kendallcountynow.com/montgomery/

    • profile image

      MJ Madrid 3 months ago

      The sad fact is that people are so ill-equipped to discern the difference between a credible news source and a biased new source. I can remember a time when people lamented the government's insistence on facts stating is was a curtailment of the freedom of speech. It is ESPECIALLY in news reports that we want only the relevant facts so that we can base our conclusions on those facts as opposed to the bias most news organizations push (I'm looking at YOU, Faux News).

    • profile image

      Linda Fuller 6 weeks ago

      This article IS disheartening. We all have our favorite channels or news people, whether its local, national or world news. I kind of thought that maybe the 3 main networks would be more honest than say......FOX or others. I wish our legislature and Senate would get stricter and enforce any fake news outlets.

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