Okay, Hillary has announced. The election season has officially begun, and it’s going to be a long hard slog, so here’s a reminder about the newsworthiness of the variety of news organizations that are likely to be hitting your Facebook feed for the next several hundred months, or however long it’s going to feel. Seriously, it’s like the Earth’s orbit around the Sun takes a few loop-de-loops.
Here are the easy ones:
Fox News and Huffington Post are equal in value as far as newsworthiness, for the values that are zero and anything times zero. Doesn’t matter what side you are on. Both are excellent at the confirmation bias game. They require a very large grain of salt.
Likewise, in the same category are Salon and the Daily Mail. Now, there’s an interesting thing about the Daily Mail. I’ve noticed a lot of Americans think it’s an objective source for news about the US and the world, just because it is published in the UK. What you’re thinking of is The Guardian, or even The Times of London, and possibly The Economist. The Daily Mail is none of those things. It’s a crap newspaper that makes up stories and quotes, and gets away with it because it uses British spelling. Avoid.
Don’t trust Salon on anything other than its columns about culture, especially books (Laura Miller! I love you!) and possibly its articles about sex, but even that’s dubious.
Buzzfeed, Jezebel, Upworthy (gag!) have nothing but entertainment value. Share their political “news” in your feed, and you deserve to be mocked.
And any news organization that uses clickbait headlines such as “Shocking!” deserves to be shunned.
Slate. Slate has its good points. Slate’s political coverage leans left (as Colbert famously said, “reality has a well-known liberal bias”) but it also provides links to thoughtful coverage with a different viewpoint, and I think it can be counted as a decent source for the election season. However, it is doing the thing I hate, which is provocative headlines without context. Yeah, Slate does clickbait, but then it also has decent coverage.
For my liberal friends, here’s a surprising source: The Wall Street Journal. Their reporting is solid and objective. Their editorial page is a crazy-ass display of conservative frothing, but the actual news is good. Ignore the silverbacks in editorial, and you can amaze your friends by linking to cogent reporting (and watch them all unfriend you, but it’s that time of year anyway).
For my conservative friends: Yes, The New York Times drives you to drink. We get it. But ignore the editorials and the columnists, and just go for the news. They’re still good at what they do.
Reuters. Once upon a time Reuters sent news scoops by carrier pigeon. This is so awesome that you can’t even make that up. Reuters news is written by reporters who were cryonically frozen in the 1950s. They write their stories on 25-pound solid iron Underwood typewriters on a solid sheets of newsprint, and yell things like “Copy boy! Copy boy!” and “Stop the presses!” They may even still send their editors dispatches by carrier pigeon. The point is, Reuters doesn’t have a bias. It just has news. It’s like news ingredients. It’s like news that other organizations buy in bulk (they kinda do) and then add their own spices to.
It’s really kind of boring. But you will probably make some 1950s-era reporter’s day to find out that you’ve shared his story on Facebook.
(If he even knows what that is.)
The Atlantic and The New Yorker. You know who you are. You know what you read. Yeah, they do the confirmation bias thing, but at least it’s real.
PBS News Hour. I think the last time I watched was at least six months ago. What can I say? Virtue is boring.
So what are your sources? Where do you go for enemy intel or sneak out to find tasty tidbits of truth, fact, and unbiased reporting? In a frothy atmosphere of lies and manipulation, where we are forcefed banalities and ginned-up outrage like geese undergoing gavage, where do you go for a palate-cleansing who, what, where, when, and why?
Here’s to the next billion years of an election cycle.