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Saturday, August 18, 2012

Where Do You Turn for Information?

I asked about ten people who I greatly respect for their willingness to read and learn about the United States and politics in the United States. Some of them are very liberal, some are very conservative, and some are moderate in their beliefs. So they have come to different conclusions about politics in the United States, but they all have extremely "educated" opinions. I don't agree with all of their views but I really respect their intellectual pursuit of knowledge.

In response to questions about where they turn for info, I got 6 of them to repond. Great insights, enjoy....

Here is what I asked each of the people--
1- Are there 4-5 websites you use to "educate" yourself on politics and current issues?

2- Are there 2-3 commentators or writers who you make sure you always read?

3- Are there 2-3 tv shows you feel best present the issues and the news?

4- On tv, are there any programs you like which provide poliitcal humor or satire?

5- When you hear politicians make claims you are not sure about, where do you turn to check them out?

6- Are there any newspapers, internet sites or television programing you avoid because you feel their information is either inaccurate or biased?

W says…
1. Not really. I look at Huffington Post once in a while, but I mostly read three or four newspapers each day (hard copies).

2. I like Peggy Noonan's column in the Wall St. Journal. She was President Ronald Reagan's speech writer, but she is always eager to see the other side (Hy-Vee in Galesburg sells a print copy of the Journal). I also look at Roger Simon in the Chicago Sun-Times. Jesse Jackson's columns in the Chicago Sun-Times are a must read. You would never think he would be, but Jackson is a great writer! His columns are short, and I use them extensively in my college composition classes because they are really accessible to young people.
I don't really watch much cable news--too biased one way or the other.

3. Reliable Sources, hosted by Howard Kurtz, on CNN on Sunday morning gives a great overview on how the press handled critical news stories the previous week. I never miss it! I also watch Face the Nation occasionally on CBS.

4. I watch Real Time with Bill Mahr on HBO once in a while, but I hate shows like Mahr's that are so biased. I never watch Bill O'Reilly or Sean Hannity. NEVER! Howard Kurtz plays clips of their shows on Reliable Sources so I see enough of O'Reilly and Hannity there. 

5. The Wall St. Journal has a column that checks campaign ad. claims. I usually look at that. Most politicians' claims are lies or twisting the truth. All politicians do is look for "gotcha" gaffes, like Romney's Olympic security gaffe or Obama's "You didn't build it" gaffe. There is no discussion of the real issues!

6. The Wall Street Journal's editorial pages are completely biased in favor of the Republicans. There is not a sliver of bias toward the Democrats so I avoid them except for reading Peggy Noonan's column. The Chicago Tribune's editorial pages are not much better. The Tribune has a habit of doing a series of stories on an issue and then devoting editorials to the same issue. Their stories are biased and have the same slant as their editorials. Flame retardants is the most recent issue they've covered, but they are most biased against teachers and their pensions.

I do think that the rest of the Wall St. Journal (other than the editorial pages) is great. Probably the most in-depth news coverage available.

 B says…
The Drudge Report

 2. Michael Barone
Thomas Sowell
Charles Krauthammer
Victor Davis Hanson
Brit Hume commentator on Fox

 3. Special Report with Bret Baeir on Fox at 5:00 p.m.
Fox Sunday with Chris Wallace ( the best interviewer on tv)

 4. The Daily Show (when he lampoons both sides)
News has a pod cast every few days with Jodi Miller - a conservative comedian

 5. always presents commentators on both sides of an issue

 6. MSNBC completely. Sean Hannity on Fox.

 D says…
1. I am of an age that I usually read newspapers rather than web sites.

 2. I never read those who always look for new ways to get to their biased opinions. Local or national, if I know what they are going to say, I don't read them.

 3. Public TV is my first choice. Abc news is next I guess.

 4. Not usually.

 5. Fact check some. Maybe listen to what both sides say about the issue.

 6. I have never watched FOX news.

R says…
I’ve become very cynical about “mainstream” American media and its coverage of political issues. I find most of the major media outlets (ABC, NPR, the New York Times, etc.) to be shills for Barack Obama and a left-leaning agenda. Of course, Fox News and most talk radio is relentlessly conservative and equally ideological. My test is whether I can accurately predict what a commentator is going to say on an issue in advance. If I can, I figure it’s not worth listening (or reading).

One source I’ve come to read and trust a lot is The Economist—it’s an English weekly magazine that combines a moderately liberal social agenda and with free-market economics. It really makes for balanced reading and its political commentary is insightful—I can rarely guess how a columnist or writer will come out on an issue. The magazine has a website that is free and has most of the magazine’s content available at no charge. Most of the editors are really economists and they approach social and political problems with a real objective and analytical view.

I think this source would challenge your students’ conception of what “liberal” and “conservative” labels mean and maybe make them a little more critical of the major themes of the national political campaign. [“Republicans are rich and want to decimate the middle class” and “Democrats are in favor of job-killing tax increases”].

As for columnists, Thomas Friedman of the New York Times is a thoughtful guy, but since the Times went behind a pay wall for its website, I haven’t been reading him.

 L says…
Question No. 1
The biggest myth in media is that there is some kind of "middle ground" and any kind of work that draws conclusions - even if those conclusions are based on analysis, history and verifiable facts - represents the work of a "side."

So, for example, we have the kind of coverage of global warming that we had for nearly 15 years. Media gave the considered, overwhelming conclusions drawn by the scientific community, then "balanced" it with the opinions and oft-shoddy science of people funded by the likes of big oil and corporations. The thing is, media never told us who paid for climate change denial.

Over time, the notion that there was an "even split" between climate change "proponents" and "deniers" was created in the minds of many Americans. It was a false dicotomy created by monied interests and propped up by a lazy media looking to report on conflict.

So, when I attempt to educate myself on issues, no matter what I read I read it critically. I'm most drawn to writers and media that also engage in critical thinking and isn't afraid to draw conclusions.

 1. The New York Review of Books. There is no greater way to inform yourself about how policy, history and society intersect than by reading this source as much as you can. The articles examine policy and politics as often as art and artists. Being a critical thinker is far more important than being a Democrat or a Republican. Read this source.

 2. The New Yorker. Just last week, a long piece about Paul Ryan. Don't be put off by these resources with New York in the title. They aren't exotic or beyond the reach of Midwestern folks like us.

3. Economic Policy Institute. Maybe a little left-leaning in the parlance of many Galesburgians. It is a progressive institute aimed at social justice. But it is a much-needed resource in the face of the Heritage Foundation, the Cato Institute and other blantantly "free-market-only" news and reviews sources.

 4. You can check out sites like Mother Jones, The Nation, Truthout and Alternet for alternative takes on the news.

 Question No. 2
If your not reading Paul Krugman, you are missing out. He's a New York Times columnist and economist.

I also read George Will, Eugene Robinson, Jonas Goldberg and Charles Krauthammer. I read conservatives and liberals.

 Question No. 3
I don't rely on television for anything other than political updates. Make no mistake, there is a difference between policy and politics. Policies should help people lead better lives and improve our city, county, state and country. Politics, at best, are a surface-view of policy debates. At worst, politics serve as a distraction while policy-makers ofter accomplish goals they don't want the public to see.

I do try to catch Rachel Maddow. Call her liberal, but she is smart and tough and well-researched. Fox News could use a conservative version of her, rather than the idealogocal attack dogs they currently employ.

I do, however, watch a ton a of documentary material. Check out "The Flaw," "Enron: The Smartest Guys in the Room," and the host of work shown on PBS. Get on Netflix, there's a lot of material there.

 Question 4
Ah. Political humor and satire. I don't watch a lot but I enjoy Bill Maher the most. I find Jon Stewart funny but a tad self-serving.

 Question 5
Really good question. On the immediate side of things, I hit the search engines hard. I'm not so wed to sources as I am concerned about making sure I'm not digesting too many lies.

 Question 6
Laugh. Out. Loud. There are a ton of media I would like to avoid. But I need to know what Rush Limbaugh, Glenn Beck, the hydra at Fox News and the bunk put forth on sites like Drudge.

If you get all your news from Fox News, you really should sit down and read about Rupert Murdoch's "infotainment" empire.

M says…
1. Websites:,,,,,,,

I just look at “news” and “opinion” on these sites. Some I look at nearly every day, all I check at least once a week. It’s a good idea to see how people in other places see things here, as well as how we see ourselves.

2. Writers: David Brooks, Frank Bruni, Gail Collins, Ross Douthat, E.J. Dionne, Michael Gerson, Jonah Goldberg, Nicholas Kristof, Ruth Marcus. Dana Millbank, Kathleen Parker, Leonard Pitts, Mark Shields, George Will.
This is only a domestic list. Some of these I read regularly, and some more occasionally. It’s important to read people you don’t expect to agree with as well as those you do.

3. TV News programs: I think the old networks provide only snippets of news between their endless ads, so the only televised news I watch regularly is the News Hour on PBS where the stories they cover are covered in more depth and with a more even hand, otherwise the only one I watch is CNN where they have a resident fact checker.
4. Not really – I don’t watch much TV.

5. To get the probable truth: CNN (see above), and even better:, which was started under the auspices of the Annenberg Public Policy Center;, which won a Pulitzer prize in 2009; and, Glenn Kessler is a Pulitzer prize wining fact checker at the Washington Post, who gives Pinocchios as ratings

6. Fox News is notoriously biased – it’s the television arm of the extreme, and now dominant, wing of the Republican party, and MSNBC, though less extreme, is clearly aligned with the Democrats. Although I listen to WGIL for local news in the morning, I turn it off for the day at 9:00 am, as from then on the only time they aren’t airing hateful ranters is during the brief pauses for rehashes of local news and weather and the farm report. Similarly, I read the Galesburg Register-Mail for local news.

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