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Featured Blog: A reader’s guide to media sources and finding the go-to source

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Every day, the news media have new headlines. Many of these headlines are about the same issue, and although it might be easiest to click on the first story on your Google search, the following article might be more skewed than expected.

The difficult part of finding out what is really happening, international or domestic, is finding a source with accurate or unbiased news. For myself, I often feel frustrated with news sources, and I mean all of them. I am always searching for sources that don’t obscure what really happens. I study politics and the Middle East, and these two things are so distorted by media that it is hard to delve through the news to find out what is really happening.

So this week, I hope to clear the air on some popular news sources. I went through the places I often use for reading the news either in my spare time or if an event happens that I want to know more about. I put together some of the critical perspectives of news sources and of news readers. Many of these sources attack or critique each other. With every critique, we must keep in mind who is making the critique as well.

I came up with categories for an easier comparison. The “Big Three” I grouped together are the most popular American news machines, “International” includes a list of a few of popular sources or sources I thought would be helpful for readers and the “Up and Coming” section is devoted to sources popular among a younger, college-age audience. I used critical authors and research centers to analyze the sources.

There was no practical way for me to include all sources out there. This is meant to be a critique that you can use for any source.

THE BIG THREE

Fox News

The “Fair and Balanced” source that often reports in a way that is not so fair and not so balanced. Fox News has the least diverse audience ideologically out of the big three, coming in at 60 percent of its viewers identifying as conservative. It is also the most expensive news channel on television per cost out of the big three. Fox News also spends the most out of the big three on all around costs of production and output.
http://www.foxnews.com/

CNN

CNN has been criticized recently for its “sensationalist” stories. This station is home to some of the most famous reporters like Anderson Cooper and is well-known for hosting presidential debates. Back in 2014, CNN was criticized for running “Breaking News” headlines for weeks with no explanation.
http://www.cnn.com/

MSNBC

This is often called the “liberal” channel or a political machine of the left. During Obama’s campaign, MSNBC was actually tougher on the Romney campaign than Fox News was on Obama. MSNBC is the cheapest in terms of cable contracts of the big three.
http://www.msnbc.com/

INTERNATIONAL

BBC

A group named BBC Watch, under the supervision of the British Broadcasting Corporation, monitors “BBC coverage of Israel for accuracy and impartiality.” There has been some concern raised about the fairness of coverage for Israel and Palestine. For example, I noticed it specifically when there were outbreaks of violence in Palestine/Israel late last year. The BBC (and most American media) focused on the stabbings of Israelis by Palestinians while, say, Al Jazeera would cover more about the increase in police/army violence toward Palestinians.
http://www.bbc.com/

Al Jazeera

I was first introduced to this source in a class. The professor wanted to highlight the lack of media coverage during the Iraq War and give us an insight into the struggle of media in conflict. In “Control Room,” the viewers follow the development of Al Jazeera and its role during the Iraq War, which was to exploit the frustration within the media community. Al Jazeera sought to know more than the military would tell or obscure. It took its coverage to the ground. The Baltimore Sun metaphorically compares Al Jazeera as a college lecture and Fox News as a movie, a push that media at the time really needed.

But in recent times, Al Jazeera has made headlines for a different line of media. The Washington Institute, a research center for more quality coverage of the Middle East, found that the relationship of Al-Jazeera to Qatari interests are almost inseparable. Mohamed Fahmy writes that Al Jazeera “plays a central role” in the foreign policy of Qatar and the backing of extremist groups in the region, notably Al Nusra in Syria and the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt. Then in 2013, Al-Jazeera deleted an article after heavy criticism from Zionists. Similarly, in December, an article was deleted for its criticism of the Saudi Arabian government. This article outlined the human rights offenses of the Saudi Regime. Both articles are removed from the site.
http://america.aljazeera.com/?utm_source=aje&utm_medium=redirect

Electronic Intifada

In this case, the name signifies the media outlet’s intention and angle. In this context, Intifada, as defined by Merriam Webster, is “an armed uprising of Palestinians against Israeli occupation of the West Bank and Gaza Strip.” I used this example to show that the name can be significant in identifying characteristics of the source. Just glancing at its news headlines, I see “Gaza’s children grow up with trauma,” “Ban on political group leaves Gaza orphans destitute” and “You can’t report truthfully on Israel without facing its wrath.” It is not to put down or deny truth in any of these stories, but rather to see the media source as having an underlying motive. Electronic Intifada is working to expose Israel both within in Israel/Palestine and throughout the world. This is important to keep in mind as you read stories. I find this source useful in gathering another perspective.
https://electronicintifada.net/

Jadaliyya

For news surrounding the Middle East, I find this source to be the most useful and well-informed. It is written from an academic standpoint and less from a sensational journalist source. At Ohio University, the assistant professor of history and our Middle Eastern historian, Dr. Abu-Rish, is actually an editor for the online journal. It has grown in popularity in recent years among academics. The downside of this media source is the quickness of stories being released. Many of these articles are peer reviewed or based on verified research. This takes time and often puts it behind leading sources.
http://www.jadaliyya.com/

UP AND COMING

Facebook

This source may not be something that immediately comes to mind, but Facebook is actually a news giant for the younger generations. Think of all those Facebook posts and shares about the election coming up or the news headlines posted on the side of your home page. Pew Research reported that 61 percent of millennials get their news from Facebook. The biggest problem with this source is the automatic filtering the Facebook system does to posts on your feed. Facebook has an algorithm based on your interests, likes and even emotions to decide what you see in the average day.
https://www.facebook.com/

Buzzfeed

Pew Research reported that Buzzfeed has invested significantly in domestic and international political stories to post. However, it have been criticized for deleting posts that may be critical of its advertisers.
http://www.buzzfeed.com/

The Skimm

The Skimm is exactly as the name suggests, a skim of major news stories through an email newsletter. I myself subscribe to this source and have actually incorporated it into my daily routine. It condenses stories in funny ways and gives stories you maybe never read a new life. However, this source has its critics as well. A Dartmouth article titled “Skip the Skimm” entirely disregards the content as a “narrow and non-representative demographic.” I believe that narrow critique is fair, but I also believe that is the point of a “skim” style news source and recognize that things will be missed.
http://www.theskimm.com/

VICE

Vice News was launched in early 2014, and by early 2015 it had already captured 175 million YouTube views and 1.1 million subscribers. After its takeoff as an HBO documentary-based series, Vice has become known as the trendy millennial source among many news stations. By “trendy millennial source,” I mean that many of the major news sources, like the notable New York Times, have taken issue with Vice News.
http://www.vice.com/en_us


 

Many of you might be thinking, “Well, where should I look for news? Is there such a thing as an unbiased source? Is there a source without an angle or a specific audience?” I would argue that there is no such thing. When you read the news, there are two things to keep in mind:

First, as a reader you must take into account your own bias. We all have them whether it be your background, political opinion or mood that day. I find myself falling into this trap sometimes. I get deep into a story and construct my own opinion on a topic before I have read an array of sources or even the entire article.

Secondly, take into account the bias of the news source. As I have shown above, every source or author has a bias. It does not matter where you read. I am not attacking any specific resource as being intentionally bad or intentionally misleading. I just believe that to be an informed reader you must look deeper into the source to know how the story or event can be told from different perspectives.

I believe that if you take these two things into account, then you will be a well-informed reader no matter where you stand on the political spectrum. Most of the articles from our blog will focus on displaying some of the media’s competing narratives. We are undertaking the task of giving a bigger picture of what is really going on in the world.

Junior Annie Chester and sophomore Annalycia Liston-Beck also contribute to this featured blog, “Critical International Media Perspectives.”

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