As a new campaign season gets into full swing, and with each day seeming like it contains multiple news cycles, consuming news and information is more important than ever, with more assaults on facts and truth coming from so many different corners.
Regardless of your political persuasion, part of being an effective communicator, leaders and citizen means being a better consumer of news and information in 2020.
As I talk about in Honestly Speaking, taking more control over what you consume and where you consume it — and in what you put out into the world online, is something we all can do a little better and a lot more often. Based on that, here are 10 ways to be better consumers of news in 2020:
- Be more discriminating between what’s news and what’s opinion. We all have the capacity to tell the difference, and if you don’t, learn the difference.
- Forget bias-free, seek out fairness. Rather than focus on what’s trustworthy or not, consider that we all have biases and anything you read will come with some level of bias. While agenda-driven news is dangerous, it’s impossible to find unbiased news. Instead, seek out fairness. If something doesn’t occasionally challenge you to question your thoughts and beliefs, it’s probably not fair. We all need to hear things that don’t align with what we want to hear.
- Avoid confirmation bias and read different points of view. Just like walking on the other side of the street now and then changes your perspective, different points of view make you more discriminating and able to discern fact from fiction.
- Don’t mistake posts on Facebook for news. Most likely what you’re reading are reactions or nonsense that shows up in your news feed based on algorithms tailored to you and your past engagement on the platform.
- Don’t share stories on any platform if you haven’t read them. Most people post things they haven’t even read themselves. Are you doing it to get attention or to share some knowledge or persuade? If the latter, there’s probably a better way.
- Do get your news by visiting trusted news sources directly. Subscribe to them. Watch the full videos, don’t just rely on the commentary or edited clips. Also, journalism requires resources to produce and needs your support. This includes local news, and it’s important to remember the impact you can have on your local community and contact with your local officials more than you do the federal government.
- If you don’t know what’s a trusted news source, do some research. The “about” section of most news sites tells you who owns it or explain the perspective they seek to bring. Find out how long the organization has been around. There are a lot of fake news sites posing as real organizations spreading disinformation.
- If you do want to read news on social media, avoid anything that comes from a .org or .biz website, which usually indicates it comes from a think tank which has a distinct persuasive bias.
- Share these tips with those in your life, especially parents and grandparents, since many phone and phishing scams seek to target people 60 and over. We all can be better consumers of the news and information and all could use a little help now and then.
- Spend less time online, more time conversing in real life, and keep staying skeptical.
This article is based in part on Honestly Speaking: How the Way we Communicate Transforms Leadership, Love, and Life. Thanks to so many who have shared good ideas around how to be responsible consumers and producers of social media, news and information over the years, including Dahlia Lithwick, from whom some of these tips have been gathered. I’d love to hear yours.