Civic duty goes beyond merely voting. It is our responsibility to stay informed, because our choices as voters have very real consequences.
I know that this has gotten more difficult lately, as more of us rely on the Internet for information, and fake news stories (not the same thing as unverified, btw) and memes go viral and begin dominating our timelines. Whether it’s an entire industry of paid Russian trolls1 or an American liberal jerk2, there are people out there intentionally trying to mislead and misinform.
So what to do? Read a variety of reputable sources. Double-check them against each other. Stop opening and sharing click-bait articles. Avoid the temptation to look at stories from notoriously unreliable sources. Regularly follow at least one reliable media outlet that leans the opposite direction from your personal political orientation.
Many of you have likely already seen this info-graphic floating around and shared on social media in the past several months. I had separate, in-depth conversations about this chart with two very intelligent friends who have their degrees from a top US journalism program, and they both feel that it is a solid guide to help the general public select credible sources of news. The creator of this graphic has an extremely detailed post about the reasoning and methodology behind it on her website3. Of course by nature there is a certain degree of subjectivity involved, so feel free to take with a grain of salt, but generally this squares with other attempts I’ve seen to categorize news organizations.
Dismissing all ‘main stream’ media (Fox is technically main stream, by the way) as biased and/or disingenuous, sharing viral memes as a source of information without fact-checking them, and relying solely on one media news outlet are all lazy and dangerous. And almost all of us have been guilty of it at times.
In order to ‘put my money where my mouth is,’ so to speak, I’ve stopped sharing articles from the Huffington Post. Though I still occasionally read their articles, I realize they aren’t the best source to persuade or inform those who might not already see things from my perspective. I have started regularly checking The Hill, a reputable conservative publication, to see if they are reporting on the same stories as the Washington Post, NPR, the BBC, and the New York Times and to see if their take is similar. I’ve stopped listening to music on the radio (the stations play the same 5 pop songs on a loop anyway) and started listening to NPR almost exclusively when in the car.
We should all, regardless of political party affiliations, be deeply troubled when the White House Chief Strategist declares that the media in its entirety is “the opposition party,” when a sitting Congressman encourages citizens to get their news directly from the President alone, and when an entire administration tries to undermine confidence in our free press by misusing the term ‘fake news’ and advocating for the normalization of ‘alternative facts’. Now, more than ever, it is our responsibility to stay vigilant and stay informed.
“The liberty of the press is essential to the security of the state.” – John Adams
“To announce that there must be no criticism of the President, or that we are to stand by the President, right or wrong, is not only unpatriotic and servile, but is morally treasonable to the American public.” – Theodore Roosevelt