Most of the time I find following politics to be a complete waste of time. First of all, I’m not sure there is much difference anymore between the good guys and the bad guys inside the beltway. Second, when I consult the modern media trying to sort out fact from fiction, I often get completely different summaries of the same event. Not just different summaries, but contradictory summaries.
Seeking the truth often makes my head hurt!
I’d like to just throw up my hands up in frustration and ignore the news but during this presidential election there is too much at stake. Let’s face it, like it or not early next year either Hillary or Trump will be our next president.
From what I read, this next president will likely have the opportunity to nominate two or three supreme court justices. Given the way judicial personal opinion is being mixed with constitutional interpretation these days it is clear that the resulting Supreme Court will have incalculable impact on the fabric of our society for at least a generation or two. Therefore, it is imperative that I get as informed as possible and be prepared to vote as a Catholic American. But how do I get informed when bombarded with apparently conflicting news reports?
Well, I began to think more about the news I was consuming. I even included in my research a few articles about media bias in America. Not too surprising was the fact that even the unbiased ‘studies’ and reports of media bias were highly polarized. The studies from conservative groups concluded that left-leaning media bias was an obvious fact. The studies from the liberal groups concluded that right-leaning media bias was an obvious fact. One study even claimed that no media bias at all existed. The arguments of the existence or non-existence of bias were endless and I soon concluded that trying to resolve that was pointless. My moment of epiphany came when I faced this realization: there is no such thing as an objective point of view.
No matter how much we might prefer that journalists are simply ‘reporters’ who provide a neutral documentation of an event, it soon becomes obvious that all human communication is slanted by that particular reporter’s experiences and preferences. Once we realize this fact (it took me a while) this situation is neither bad nor good. It simply is the way the world rolls.
So instead of wasting a lot of time arguing the existence of bias, I started to accept it as fact and began using that fact to my learning advantage. Now it should be of no surprise to the readers of SCT that I am conservative on most social, economic and political issues, heavily influenced by my Catholic faith. As such I’m drawn to media outlets that align with those views. But there are two dangers in only reading material that you generally agree with.
First, it is very easy to naturally become less open minded. In other words, in my case I would have a tendency to become more and more rigid in my conservative positions, even without learning anything new or becoming more informed. Our issues today are complex and multi-dimensional and it’s important to realize that truth rarely resides at the extremes. There are conservatives that I agree with in principle that provide commentary in such an extreme way as to distract or even damage the conservative message. The same holds for the left. (more on that later)
Second, even when holding positions that are morally non-negotiable (such as abortion) hearing and understanding the arguments for these opposing position can be very beneficial. By listening to news outlets that I know to be liberal in nature, I am able to better understand and articulate my position. Also, these counter positions (unless they are also too extreme in nature) serve to keep me well informed and more balanced.
Okay, so what does this have to do with being a well-informed voter in this presidential election? Here is what I decided to do:
- I made a list of many common news sources and rated them on a 10-0-10 scale of Liberal to Conservative. I admit that this list and my rating methods were completely subjective and as such I’m not going to even try to articulate or defend them. I’ll only present the results below in graphical form.
- I tried to identify those sources, both Liberal and Conservative that I thought were too extreme in their presentation style and content. I respect the passion of these journalists but there are some (on both sides) that are just not worth my time in viewing or reading. It just takes too much effort to sort out the ‘extreme’ points from those otherwise valid points that represent a particular position and are thus helpful. In this category, I don’t read or listen to anything from Hannity, Rush, The Blaze and tread cautiously into Drudge. On the other end, I won’t take in Rachel Maddow, MSNBC, or the New Yorker. I raise my shields and go to red alert when reading from the Huffington Post and the NY and LA Times.
- I don’t watch television journalism programs. It seems to me that there is too much attention on time and the visual and as a result the news ends up being shallow and ‘sound bite’ in nature. I prefer to read the written reports, both conservative and liberal in nature, on the same topic. That way I’m not rushed and I can reread sections to allow my feeble brain to catch up.
- In my daily news search, I tend to start with a scan of Google News, Drudge and NewAdvent.org . I look for reports from Fox news, Washington Post, Wall Street Journal (opinion) and CNN and read on from there. Immediately stop reading anything that includes mockery, personal attacks and words like evil, conspiracy, never and always.
- When I find a interesting topic, I make an effort to read some of the public comments on the article. This takes a little getting used to because there are many, many opinionated bigots and haters out there with more time and internet access than brains but there are also some rational and very articulate citizens. Sometimes you really find some gems in the com boxes.
Okay, I think that is enough on this topic. Here is the ranking chart I mentioned in #1 above.
As I mentioned, this is Tom’s very subjective opinion but lets have some fun with it. If you agree or disagree leave a comment. If you want to add another source that you like, then by all means leave a comment. Please don’t get too hung up with a particular numerical rating or placement. Please don’t say that such and such should be 5.8 instead of 6.2. This is not intended to be a qualitative tool. Rather, it is meant to be a starting point in identifying useful sources of information, both left and right, from which to become informed voters.
Like it or not, we will elect Hillary or Trump in November. If truth is to prevail, we must be more discerning news consumers, otherwise, we become objects of someone else’s agenda.