News you can trust - are you kidding?
December 15, 2016 5:27 AM   Subscribe

What is solid print / online Media in today´s viciously spinning and false News world.

For example RT is denegrated but then so was Al Jazeera.
I found this chart of "Main Stream Media"
A decent breakdown of all things real and fake news.
However when it comes to more specialist or indepth nuance who is who, because there is no such thing as no agenda.
New online news sites supposedly reputable such as Real news (Paul Jay) and TeleSur are coming more to the forefront, as is Alternet
What else is there? I would be very interested in all your input here.
posted by adamvasco to Media & Arts (24 answers total) 19 users marked this as a favorite
We learned about Propublica on the latest episode of John Oliver, and they do great work.
posted by getawaysticks at 5:49 AM on December 15, 2016 [6 favorites]

The financial times.
posted by chasles at 6:10 AM on December 15, 2016 [2 favorites]

There are plenty of sources I trust for general factual reporting, but none I totally trust in terms of the reporting agenda, not so much just due to intentional bias on behalf of the outlet or publication itself necessarily, but individual reporters and the sources they rely on can also lead stories in favored directions. I keep ALDaily up in a tab and browse its sidebar of links to different magazines and newspapers to see who is saying what and how things are being spun by different publications. I also have a subscription to the Washington Post due to their coverage of the election seeming the best, and keep Google news open in a tab for more in the moment updates, sorted by my interests so I can easily go from there to other sources if I desire.
posted by gusottertrout at 6:30 AM on December 15, 2016

Oh, and I almost forgot, one of my other favorites is the Bookforum Omnivore blog, which collects interesting articles around different themes each day. They've been an invaluable service for the best anti-Trump articles, but have a lot more to offer than that, often linking to scholarly papers and PDFs for more off the beaten path ideas.
posted by gusottertrout at 6:43 AM on December 15, 2016

Democracy Now.
posted by history is a weapon at 6:46 AM on December 15, 2016 [5 favorites]

I receive a daily e-mail from, which I see as a news version of Arts and Letters Daily. Nice to have access to organizations which filter the flood!
posted by Agave at 6:55 AM on December 15, 2016

Some might see Democracy Now as the lefty equivalent of Fox News. It gave heroic accounts of Castro on his death (without regard to his curtailing freedoms in Cuba) and spent much more time tearing down Hillary than Trump during the campaign. It definitely covers some important stories that don't get mainstream attention, but it has a point of view that gets in the way of honest reporting.
posted by rikschell at 6:58 AM on December 15, 2016 [9 favorites]

I feel like this article gives a fairly compelling summary of why "solid print / online Media" is not only vanishingly rare, but logically cannot exist (for long) given the structure of the information marketplace and the nature of human cognition.

Basically, the argument is that all news must compete with other news for your attention; humans have an inbuilt tendency to pay more attention to stories that are either especially outrageous or especially flattering to their worldview or ingroup; thus, natural selection means that news outlets must necessarily gravitate away from flatly "objective" reporting of all the facts and towards ever-more-outrageous or ever-more-flattering subsets or narrativizations of the facts. Most essentially, any conscientious news outlets (or reporters, writers, etc.) who don't progressively "punch up" their stories to suit readers' tastes will, in such a system, necessarily fail and be replaced by ones who do.

It's doubtless the case that news outlets whose particular flavor of reportage matches my existing preconceptions will be perceived by me as especially "truthful" or "high-quality" or "trustworthy"; but to make the case that the "truthfulness" of my favorite Outlet X actually matches objective reality, I think I have to first be able to explain to myself why the competition problem described above magically doesn't apply to them.
posted by Bardolph at 7:12 AM on December 15, 2016 [2 favorites]

I think the best answer to this question is to not trust particular news sources as a whole -- like, it's been shown that the NYT for instance has had some problematic stuff -- but to read with active critical thinking skills and to look for bias/agenda, in both particular articles and from the source in general. Like any skill, critical thinking can be learned and improved with practice.

Ways to evaluate sources include:

1. Are there links to other sources (that also pass the sniff test) that back up their claims or help add context? (yes good, no bad)
2. Are there exclamation points or sensationally-written (aka clickbaity) headlines? Generally well-balanced reporting will not use these.
3. Are there sensationalist links at the bottom or on the side of the page?
4. Is there evidence on the site of various viewpoints or does everything seem to be pushing one side of the political agenda?
5. Can you find other sources which also seem to be unbiased which are reporting similar stories?

I also am a fan of Twitter for following particular journalists and activists (Daniel Dale, Sopan Deb, David Fahrenthold, Deray McKesson, Rev William Barber, etc.) who have been doing good work.

MetaFilter is also a good way to find reliable news, of course, since generally if you post something that's problematic someone will kindly point it out.
posted by rabbitrabbit at 7:16 AM on December 15, 2016 [9 favorites]

posted by monologish at 7:51 AM on December 15, 2016 [2 favorites]

The best media consumption strategy is the same as the best investment strategy: diversify. If you only get your news from two or three sources, you're necessarily going to have a blind spot. Read a bunch of different news sources across the ideological spectrum, and, ideally, geographically different, too. For American news, it's helpful to read the Guardian, the BBC, The Times, maybe the Telegraph for balance, the Globe and Mail if you want to go deeper, and maybe the FAZ and Der Spiegel if you really want to go deep. Those will all give you a nice complement to your American sources. Keep in mind that even the most reputable sources are prone to error: as august as the New York Times is, Judith Miller was the one leading the reporting that Iraq had WMDs back in 2002, and the Jayson Blair scandal happened around the same time. There's no news source that's immune to being duped, so no news source is absolutely 100% trustworthy. So read around. Don't just watch MSNBC; flip to CNN and Fox News periodically (pro tip: Fox News's "news" shows, like Special Report and whatever the Shepard Smith show is called, are generally less grating than the opinion shows like Sean Hannity - avoid the latter).
posted by kevinbelt at 7:58 AM on December 15, 2016 [4 favorites]

One note:

For example RT is denegrated but then so was Al Jazeera.

Not really a fair comparison. Al Jazeera was denigrated for no better reason than that it had a funny name and was associated with the Middle East; there was no there there. RT is demonstrably a propaganda arm of the Russian government - it was founded as an arm of RIA Novosti, a government-owned news outfit in Russia, and there are numerous well-documented links between its top people and Putin's government, to the point where RT reporters have quit over being made to spread blatant misinformation in the service of the government.
posted by Itaxpica at 8:05 AM on December 15, 2016 [15 favorites]

I don't accept the idea that mainstream media in the US is inherently biased. It's putting the Washington Post in the same bucket as "news" reports about Hillary Clinton participating in a child sex ring. I think the more important question is: which sources are making an effort to be unbiased, versus sources with an obvious agenda, versus sources that are completely fabricated? I read the Washington Post, the New York Times, NPR and Google News for aggregation. I'll also read The Guardian and various other places for long form articles. I'm not opposed to the WSJ or Fox News, if they do good work. Right now, what matters is investigative journalism, and I don't care where it comes from.

I read Twitter, but the folks I follow are chosen carefully. I quit Facebook a couple of years ago, and that service seems to have only gotten worse since. I understand that many people would have a big laugh at the idea that my news sources aren't actively biased, and I would argue that those people are being duped by a false equivalence argument whose intent (and success) is to undermine traditional media in favor of something worse.
posted by cnc at 8:53 AM on December 15, 2016 [6 favorites]

The only source in which I put all my trust is
posted by nicebookrack at 11:33 AM on December 15, 2016 [1 favorite]

Rikschell wrote that Democracy Now covered the death of Castro "without regard to his curtailing freedoms in Cuba"? In the introduction to the segment on Castro's death, the host said "Many Cubans who fled the regime consider Castro a tyrant who demanded absolute obedience from the Cuban people through censorship of the media and by imprisoning people he deemed antisocial, including dissidents, artists and members of the LGBT community." Respectfully, I think calling it the left Fox News is insulting and laughable.
posted by history is a weapon at 1:25 PM on December 15, 2016

I think the more important question is: which sources are making an effort to be unbiased, versus sources with an obvious agenda, versus sources that are completely fabricated?

This is very well put. There is a sense in which this whole thing about "which news is fake and which news is real? So hard?!?" is mystification (in the Marxist sense) designed to sow confusion and doubt - when in fact, setting aside the known and totally inevitable faults of human filtering bias and institutional lean, the most reliable news sources are the same ones they've been for a very long time - major national and international daily news organizations such as the major newspapers and wire services and public radio sources, all of whom have significant reputations and who have reporters, editors, and publishers with responsibility for quality control at each level, and which are to some degree accountable to the public, which includes the experts and scholars who read them as well as internal self-correcting processes.

I'm not saying don't read anything else. Certainly read around the core sources as much as you like. But that graphic you linked is better than it seems as first glance. The sources in the middle are yes, mainstream, but they're not made up and full of shit. They have their editorial slants- the WSJ is not the NYT - but you're not going to read totally false information very often in either one of them, and when that happens, it will mostly be a pretty clear thing.

This really isn't a hard problem. When you don't have a massive multi-tiered news operation, you probably aren't able to offer a great grip on the facts with knowledgeable, thoughtful, responsible perspective layered on. When you really dig at it, almost all content produced by organizations at the sides of that graphic is just a gloss on the work being done by the organizations at the center. Of course, we can except breaking news communications coming through Twitter and the like, but we should be clear that that is raw information and not "reporting."

Give some serious thought to rejecting the notion that it's hard to know what sources are reliable. Who is that untruth serving?
posted by Miko at 7:59 PM on December 15, 2016

Respectfully, I think calling it the left Fox News is insulting and laughable.

Well...Democracy Now is very responsible, but they have quite a distinct left lean, and that shows in their choice of guests and their questioning and discussion in this piece. I just read the full transcript, and certainly none of the guests were Cuban dissidents or expats who were critical of the Castro regime. That alone indicates the general lean. I like the show, it does important work, but it doesn't do anyone a service to argue that this is an attempt at an objective evaluation of the Castro regime from multiple perspectives.
posted by Miko at 8:04 PM on December 15, 2016

I grew up watching local news, and reading the Washington Post every day (and comparing its headlines to those of the Washington Times). by now I have no TV or print subscriptions, and my news routine (based in the US) is something like this:
daily headlines:
- look at Google News top stories headlines in the morning.
- read Democracy Now daily digest email sidebar for more headlines (aka the first 10~15 minutes of the show, if you watch online). if the main interview segments (the rest of the show) pique my interest, I'll watch them later, or read the transcripts online.
- glance at CNN on work TV while refilling coffee.
weekly podcasts:
- download PBS NewsHour in podcast format, listen to it the next day.
- browse The Guardian or listen to one of the Guardian Longreads audio. I find these really satisfying for pieces contextualizing non-US political matters, or bringing my attention to very specific investigations, profiles of world figures, or interesting on-the-ground stories.
- listen to On the Media, which I enjoy as they dig a little deeper into particular news stories specifically to highlight or poke at how these are portrayed in.... *The Media* (US mainstream).
whenever else:
- shortform/headlines -- I'll look at BBC, NHK for Japan stuff, the Economist [esp for foreign affairs, for whatever reason], Reuters homepage, NPR news when near radio. I'll look at NYMag for snark/gossip.
- Twitter for Al-Jazeera and specific journalists' updates.
- click longform stuff through Metafilter, Twitter or other links, generally being OK with WaPo, New York Times, and other mainstream sources. will read almost anything, but with grains of salt.
- specific topic podcasts like economy (NPR Planet Money), Supreme Court updates (Slate's Amicus), technology, culture, etc will add depth and maybe interesting perspectives on what I basically glean from the regular news updates.
- a couple times a year, when visiting partner's family, I'll watch Fox News for up to an hour or until I can't take it anymore. sometimes we switch to local TV news (where it's not rare for an anchor to suddenly end a crime story by proclaiming out loud that #AllLivesMatter).


re: Democracy Now, ^ I agree with history is a weapon. yes, DN is agenda journalism, but -- in Amy Goodman's words -- its agenda is to "go to where the silence is," where there's compelling voices that aren't being heard, or are actively being suppressed. with this in mind, I wouldn't expect DN to have spent the past 1.5 years equally tearing down Trump and Clinton, since nearly all the liberalish mainstream sources (at least, those mentioned above) covered Trump's antics breathlessly by the hour, and barely (if ever) criticized Clinton, except through occasional op-ed punditry with sexist lenses.

to my view, DN's not conjuring up its own conspiracy theories, nor does it necessarily provide a unified vision for how things Should Be. it's concerned mainly with shining light on injustice on the ground level, connecting the dots to sources of injustice, and amplifying voices that call out corporate/political corruption. all in one donation-run hour. people may roll their eyes at that, but it's critical stuff, and it's definitely not Fox News.
posted by cluebucket at 9:20 PM on December 15, 2016 [4 favorites]

The Centre for European Reform is an independent think-tank devoted to making the EU work better, and strengthening its role in the world. We are pro-European but not uncritical. Good for Brexit related information.
posted by guy72277 at 12:56 AM on December 16, 2016

Buzzfeed politics. Honestly. There's a really strict separation between their listicles and their reportage, and the latter is great. Like The Economist, they don't cover everything, so they only write things where they've got things to say, and they follow their own narrative.
posted by ambrosen at 3:16 AM on December 16, 2016

Some useful and considered replies here. Thank you.
As I am not based in an English speaking country and am not US centric I don't use Google news.
The Guardian has just published: How Google's search algorithm spreads false information with a rightwing bias. I am thinking that maybe that reflects in their News feed.
In the end I think it is back checking the journalists which is probably one of the best ways to filter the crap. Robert Fisk for example is highly informed but his views are not that of mainstream. This does not make him a bad purveyor of news and insight. A very major problem is that the MSM sets the story to their own agenda and calls the tune and shouts down dissent.
Often to me the fouth estate seems more the problem than the solution.
posted by adamvasco at 6:56 AM on December 16, 2016

A very major problem is that the MSM sets the story to their own agenda and calls the tune and shouts down dissent.

I think you really have to question this idea about the "MSM" (right-wing-originating term, by the way). These organizations have a journalistic philosophy, and there is some amount of inherent conflict with the advertising support they depend upon. But they are carving out a moderate, wide-scope, fact-based position. You can argue about lean or agenda, but not about generally having a very strong record of reliability. Removing them from your news diet is generally a mistake that engenders a lot of other problems.
posted by Miko at 7:32 AM on December 16, 2016 [1 favorite]

Miko thank you for being in this thread, you have always been a voice of reason.
I will just reiterate that I am not a US citizen or resident. Where I live the MSM (for want of a better term) is totally biased and actually often omits on adverse reporting and it has very very long tentacles. Globo reaches into 80% of Brazilian households.
Madonna made some incredibly valid points in her recent speech about how the media completely denigrated her and women.
Where for instance would you suggest the most honest coverage for the Ukraine crisis where both sides are heavily propagandering and similarily Syria, Palestine etc.
The Standing Rock protests were largely ignored until recently but the Bundys got prime time all the time.
The news organizations might have a journalistic philosophy but it frequently cowers to the demands of accountants because nearly all news companies are for profit organisations.
This exempts BBC, PBS Guardian and a few others.
posted by adamvasco at 8:02 AM on December 16, 2016

Where for instance would you suggest the most honest coverage for the Ukraine crisis where both sides are heavily propagandering and similarily Syria, Palestine etc.

I'm a NYT reader, and an NPR listener, and I think both NPR's and PRI's shows and the NYT have done a reasonably good job on Syria. The problem at the moment in Syria is really that it is nigh on impossible for any number of international journalists to get close enough to events to make a systemic evaluation. It is a murky unfolding thing right now. As far as the Ukraine, I only know outlines of those events, so I have no suggestions other than the major international dailies and probably the BBC. Here's NPR's Ukraine tag page; here's the BBC's - I don't know if those satisfy you, because of course a lot of it has to do with what resources an org can devote to a coverage area, and US orgs may not cover international stories to an equal degree of depth across the globe. Finally, sometimes when what you want is a wider context instead of today's play-by-play, the best places to go are things like UN and US State Department reports and long-form analysis pieces.

Standing Rock was slow to be picked up by the larger media outlets, but once it was, the reporting has been fairly good. The early information from Standing Rock in the form of Twitter and Facebook was useful - it was clear something important was going on - but it was still impossible to gain a full understanding of the story, the stakeholders, the complete history without the reporting made possible by the larger outlets and their reosources. And we have to remember the Bundy story also started out small and local, a long time ago (1998). The most recent folderol about Malheur was able to garner so much coverage only because the story had been developing for years, but it started as an initially very small event that was not that much remarked nationally at the time.

The news organizations might have a journalistic philosophy but it frequently cowers to the demands of accountants because nearly all news companies are for profit organisations

I think this is true of television news, but I also think many people would be surprised to the extent that it really isn't very true at the major print-based news companies (setting aside the Murdoch empire and the like). To me, the question is not 'who's paying' but 'how good is the reporting, regardless.' What cable and network news presents is nigh on useless, but the major dailies and the public radio sources and things like the Guardian - a company, but run and funded by an independent trust - are doing good work. It is possible to influence charitably-funded sources with donations, as well. Independence is a philosophical commitment. There has certainly been a lot of compromise to the independence of media over the past three decades, but in a sense that means the big names left standing are freer to pursue a journalistic agenda.

One key idea I find myself promoting a lot lately is pushing back at the notion that you can find a source of news that you can just "trust." I see people complaining that they can't "trust" this or that source or can't trust "the media." Well, in reality, you shouldn't ever blindly trust any source. There is never a time when you should not be reading news critically. By that I don't mean 'doubt everything,' because that's what the many avid sowers of disinformation campaigns are really wanting us to do, but to read responsible sources that present facts and accept accountability for their reporting, and at the same time to remember those reporters are human, those news organizations are human organizations, resources are never adequate to the task of reporting, people intentionally mislead and manipulate the press sometimes, and we all perceive through our own filters. Always read the news with the caveat that this is the best understanding this organization is presenting at this moment, and always ask further questions and seek further answers and be in dialogue with the news. This is why a lot of really well-informed people read from a mix of sources from different points within the news matrix. And we'll always be frustrated that not every single thing each of us wants to know about in great depth will be covered in great depth by a source we consider to be responsible. I can think of a lot of things I wish were being reported on which are not, but unless I'm going to do it myself (I'm not) the best I can do is write the news outlets or independent investigators with the potential to do a good job, and ask them to cover it, or Tweet to them, or whatever. There's a sense in which we have to participate in the news ecosystem; it doesn't just provide a ready-made cafeteria plate of perfect options. But my main thing would be: always start with the major sources. I don't like the phrase "mainstream" - I'm not sure the Guardian is really "Mainstream," for instance - but it's major, it's responsible, and it's credible. Even if you read beyond that into regional and local news and bloggers and Twitter, the most professional outlets are an essential common reference.

Sorry if I'm not really being helpful. I understand there are a lot of issues that are not getting interpreted fully enough in any major media source at the moment, and I'm also not very knowledgeable about anything outside the UK/US/Canada continuum of sources. I have just grown incredily wary of this "can't trust anything" narrative, and I expect under the new administration, there will be further attempts to question and undermine the most major, most professional, best funded and most active sources of fact-based reporting. I think we need to be prepared to defend them.
posted by Miko at 7:33 PM on December 16, 2016 [1 favorite]

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