Research season is coming for my students and I’m thinking about how to best help my students understand that not every source is reliable no matter who recommends it and not all information is factual even if the source is usually reliable. Last year, two classes of seniors read about fifteen articles from various sources and had to determine the value of the source, the value of information, and identify its bias.
I keep hammering the idea that not every source is created equal and many consumers fail to notice. The Atlantic Monthly leans liberal and Fox News leans conservative. Anyone can go online to see the different covers Newsweek has for its international clients versus its American clients. The point is, again, that all of these sources are biased or a consumer has to search and search for relatively unbiased sources.
The Economist,Al Jazeera, and BBC America have been regularly voted the most fair source of news in the US by various polls. Two of those sources aren’t based in the United States, so they aren’t beholden to corporations that back certain American political parties. Their news comes across as a little drier, because they aren’t trying to entertain the masses; they are trying to inform the masses. The first question every consumer needs to ask is: Who is the target audience?
To be a rational thinker and an informed citizen, We have to make sure to acknowledge and actually give time to other viewpoints, to sources of information that we might not normally rely on. It’s our job to double check information. It’s our job to make sure the source is somewhat reliable and to understand the source’s bias. It is our job to assess the information and incorporate information that has actual value.