First, let me give you a reason to read this article:
($100/$500 so far)
Staying informed on current events is something I consider to be a duty as an adult. Maintaining a practice for doing that seems to be getting more difficult over time– Everything feels urgent, there’s more and more to keep up on each day, and without doing the same homework as others it’s hard to have a conversation about it. You’ve probably felt some of these things too.
A few years ago I began in earnest reviewing the different sources of US news available. Where could I get reliable information? Is it efficient with my time? Could I discuss it easily with my friends? What should a healthy “information diet” look like for me?
Here are some problems with a lot of the news sources I looked into:
- The 24 hour news cycle is incentivized to eat all your time. In its worst forms it’s better for them to make you angry and confused so you’ll spend more time consuming.
- Oftentimes I feel like the presenter or writer is trying to convince rather than strictly inform. Opinion can be important but it contributes too much to the bubbles we all live in and I’d like to decide my own.
- A lot of the good stuff is locked behind paywalls. No good for discussion if only one side has read it.
- Podcasts are a little hard to focus on. I’ve had some success here, but nothing I feel strongly about.
- Television news is convenient, but it has its own unique issues:
- It’s tough to find a good source if you’ve cut the cable cord. YouTube and broadcasters’ sites are options, but:
- Online video tends to be chopped up into lots of segments. I want to get caught up quickly on a variety of subjects.
- Overarching all Internet-sourced news: Who is giving you this information and why? Are you seeing something mostly because it supports your current biases?
I’ve got a personal list of sources I feel good about, but one show stands FAR above all of them in my opinion: PBS NewsHour.
Here’s the rundown of why I trust the NewsHour as a pillar in my news sources:
- It’s accessible. You can find it on YouTube livestreamed daily as well as in full episode format or in segments, on many smart TVs, and on public television.
- It’s free and publicly supported for everyone. There are sponsors, but no ad breaks.
- It’s PBS. I know who paid for it because I’m putting my money into their fundraiser.
- It’s respectful of my time. An hour seems like a lot for a daily news show, but in a couple years of fairly serious viewing I have never felt like I wasted my time watching it. You’re in, you’re out.
- It’s been around forever. We watched it as a family when I was growing up, my parents called it the SnoozeHour. People know the show.
I learned while reading the Wikipedia page that the NewsHour has published editorial guidelines. Give those a gander. It’s hard to find editorial guidelines for a lot of news outlets, and they’re not all so approachable as that bulleted list. I can feel the effect of those guidelines in their reporting.
A lot of those guidelines deal with empathy. They treat all their guests extremely seriously and fairly, letting them fully answer questions and not interrupting. As a result the guests treat each other seriously and fairly even when they have opposing viewpoints. They take the viewer seriously too, making things clear and labeled, getting the best sources possible, and giving you context to make your own decisions.
When you think about other news clips you’ve seen recently, doesn’t that sound kind of refreshing? The time and respect to really consider things? No wonder the top experts whose time must be in huge demand seem happy to be on and give very thoughtful interviews.
This all gets you a pretty well rounded view of the current events. I come away surprised or conflicted about segments as often as I come away reassured. Sometimes an argument is so good I’ll feel a little ashamed about my previous convictions.
Their final editorial guideline hits those conflicting feelings home: “And finally, I am not in the entertainment business.” This is the same news for everyone, not tailored to make you feel a certain way or consume more of it. What it decides not to be is as important as what it is, and it’s not junk food.
Lastly, the show is anchored (on weekdays) and substantially reported on by women. This is sort of a bonus for me because I feel like I get something from that diversity. They’re all top-notch professionals.
Sometimes I feel so snarled up and crazy about what’s going on in the world that I can’t take it anymore. It’s an onslaught out there. Relentless and exhausting.
I am hopeful that being familiar with this resource will give you an escape hatch from that cycle.
Sometimes what’s going on in the world is too big and complex to really process. Everything is in short form, nobody’s seen anything like this before, the sky is falling and there are no handrails.
I hope this may help center you so you can make sense of what’s important.
Sometimes it’s hard to have an objective conversation, to have shared understanding of what’s a good way to have discourse. To have a common ground where we can agree things are pretty reasonable.
I hope this will help us both discuss and accept the reality of the challenging topics in front of us.