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Talk About It: How to Read the News

G2K Make Your Move How to Read the News

  You've heard the warning "don't believe everything you hear." Do you believe it? Well, after all, the warning just told you not to believe everything you hear. If you believe the warning are you falling into the very trap of believing everything you're told? But if you don't believe it are you proving the warning right? Does this mean then that you actually do believe it? Wait, what is happening? What do we believe? Who am I again?

  Everyone calm down! I think we all know not to believe everything we hear. The struggle we do face however is deciding what to believe. And when it comes to the news there are so many outlets and platforms and publications with people saying so many different things that we are left flipping out, just like above, trying to figure who's right and what's true, to the point where we don't care anymore and actually let's just put on Netflix.

  Gauging the news can be like listening to a group of children dobbing on each other. All of them come running to you, telling you what happened based on their perspectives and alliances. Sally tells you that Johnny stole her ball, Johnny tells you that he had the ball first. Kate is friends with Sally and sides with her but Bernadette claims that Johnny took the ball off Sally because Sally hit him. Sally argues she only 'bumped' Johnny because he tripped her but Luke is like no way Johnny would never do that. And then there's Bobby who doesn't actually know what's going on because he found a cookie. Sometimes there are facts plain and clear, but sometimes the truth is harder to come by because it is skewed depending on who is telling it, how they perceive the event, and the factors that inform their decision-making process. So, did Johnny steal Sally's ball?


G2K Make Your Move How to Read the NewsFind the medium that suits you best. If you're looking to be more news-savvy I think this is an important place to start. You might yawn at the thought of reading a newspaper, or have better shows to watch than a news broadcast. But this doesn't mean that you and the news can't work it out. We can fall into the trap of thinking that the news isn't for us when we find hour-long talk shows on politics boring, or that we're not up-to-date with the times when the broadcaster asks us to "tweet" about a topic. To be up on current affairs you don't have to have a degree, know the ins and outs of every topic, have seven different social media profiles and bore yourself stupid. You just have to tap in on the frequency that suits you, at the pace that suits you. Television, radio, newspaper, websites, social media. Maybe flicking the radio to the news channel on your way to work gives you your news fix. Maybe you do prefer the in-depth hour-long discussions on current affairs. Maybe you just need the headlines and a fast-pace so you jump on Twitter and Facebook, follow a few news publishers and watch the high turnover of information, following hashtags when a topic crops up that interests you. The news is not beyond you just because you don't like a certain way it is delivered. No one way is better than another.

G2K Make Your Move How to Read the NewsFind the original news source. A lot of news outlets will republish stories from other outlets. And I don't mean that they mention a story but add their own spin because they have new information (that does happen and that's fine), I mean that they regurgitate the exact same story. They're not getting facts firsthand. That's effectively a gossip grapevine risking the integrity of the news story with each retelling. A fact misinterpreted here, an important detail dropped there... Look to see where your news outlet has sourced its story. A lot of the time they will mention it, and if they do then go to that publication, because that one is closer to the real story. 

G2K Make Your Move How to Read the NewsStay away from dramatization and sensationalism. You know the ones. The news reporter uses a whole bunch of adjectives and then cuts to footage with ominous music playing in the background. Outlets that do this are selling you a perspective. They use symbolism and dramatization to evoke emotions that are known to result in certain opinions. They are facilitating your decision-making process and informing your perspective. While news reporters are certainly not robots and cannot be totally unbiased in the way they frame their stories, or even in how they choose what stories to tell, they are, to the best of their ability, supposed to deliver us the facts. Not tell us what to think and then win an Oscar for it.

G2K Make Your Move How to Read the NewsQuestion everything. This might sound like a negative, doubtful thing to do but I think it's being savvy. When I say question "everything" I mean it. When a news story is delivered to you it is not just words written on a page or voiced to you over a broadcast. We already know that sensationalism and dramatization can come into play but even when that is minimized publishers are still drawing on a range of tools to frame a story. Why was it those stories that made the headlines? Why did the publisher choose that order to tell the stories in? What images have they used with the story? What about colours? Are they emotive? What language has the reporter used? Have they brought in people to interview on the matter? Why those people? What advertisers are they playing/printing around this story? Who owns the publication? Are they affiliated with any companies, political groups, NGOs or powerful people? What stories is this publisher not telling that might be being told elsewhere? Why?

  The idea here is not to be a skeptic. I'm not saying question everything and believe nothing. I'm getting you to notice the signposting. This doesn't take away from the story, it just enables you to catch yourself, to be conscious of other elements that might otherwise affect your emotions and opinions. When you are aware of these elements you know to ignore their effect and make a better-informed decision about the news story at hand.

G2K Make Your Move How to Read the NewsGet a varied perspective. Eliminate noise and narrow down your news sources, but still monitor news from a few different channels. This does two things. The first is it helps you determine facts in a story. Seeing facts reiterated by another publication will help verify them, seeing them contradicted will flag with you that an issue needs further investigation.

  The second is that this helps you get passed the biases of the publication. However hard a publisher tries, biases will still slip through, or their journalists might not be able to obtain information from all sides of a story. Also, the truth of any event can be subjective. We all, with our different backgrounds and moral systems, could experience the same event but tell it differently, based on how we feel and what we each bring to the situation. Reporters are no different.

G2K Make Your Move How to Read the News

  So it is good to check a news story with a couple of trusted sources, just to obtain a more rounded perspective and give yourself a chance to build a better-informed opinion.

G2K Make Your Move How to Read the NewsBe interactive. All quality news publications will have affiliated social network profiles. Twitter is really good for this. You can @mention the publication and #hashtag the news topic and join the conversation. If you don't agree with a story or have questions about it, tweet it. Comment on their Facebook post, email them, comment on their forums. Do your own research and bring what you know to the table. You are not a passive audience. Ask your own questions, voice your own concerns, be proactive in getting to the bottom of a story that you are interested in, be your own journalist. Find more ways of interacting with the media here.

G2K Make Your Move How to Read the NewsOr... just check out our resource page. Here I have listed news sources that I find trustworthy and that round out my perspective, and I explain why I think they are good sources. I could have led with this, I know. But I am just another voice in the media with another piece of information. And now, having read all this, you know to question even my biases, analyze the way and the reasons by which I choose my sources. You know to verify the information presented here and how to determine your own trusted channels of information.


  Well we still don't know if Johnny stole Sally's ball, but we do know that having all the kids yell at us will get us nowhere. We know that Kate is really only arguing for Sally because they're best friends, and that Sally has a flair for the dramatic, so we take what they say with a grain of salt. Luke's really just full of opinions, at least Bernadette is trying to add more to the story. Still, we might never be sure if Johnny is a ball thief. And that's fine, because upon listening to all the information, discerning who is saying what and why, we have realized that actually this issue doesn't concern our lives, that the real story of interest here is that Bobby found a cookie. And that's the beauty of engaging with the news. Instead of letting current affairs pass over your head, you pay attention, you discern what you think is truth. You know now when something that everyone is talking about actually holds little relevance to you and you can switch off to that, and that's okay, but you also know when an issue does matter to you and you can get involved. Sally's ball doesn't matter. What we need to know now though is where Bobby found those cookies...

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