Well, here we are: the tenth and final question in our list of basic survival questions. The final topic is the news:
10. Do I really know what’s going on in the world? If you don’t know what’s going on, you cannot plan for emergencies effectively. (Hint: If you get all your news from the mainstream media, you DO NOT know what is going on. That’s a fact.)
This is probably the most overlooked point on the list. It’s also probably the one that should cause the most thought. Where do you get your news? What are the inherent biases of those sources? Are you even aware of them?
If I have one issue with most news outlets today, it’s their claim that they are providing “balanced reporting” (I’m looking at you, Fox News…). What they’re forgetting is something that has been called “Okrent’s Law”: The pursuit of balance can cause imbalance, because sometimes something is true. You can’t always show two dissenting opinions as equivalent–particularly not if one is completely lunatic. What is more likely–that a small group of terrorists hijacked a couple of planes and flew them into buildings, or that the thousands of people in the government are collectively hiding a massive conspiracy aimed at driving the country to war? (A somewhat heavy-handed example, but it fits.)
The mainstream media, which used to be a fairly reliable way of getting at least a 30,000-foot view of what was happening in the world, is certainly not up to serving that purpose any more–not, at least, for the last 12 or 13 years. I won’t even start on Fox News. CNN was once the best source going, but they have devolved so far that it’s almost laughable. The “Big Three”–NBC, ABC, and CBS–seem these days to be marginally worth the 15 minutes or so they spend on local news. There are good online sources, but the signal-to-noise ratio of the internet can interfere. Of the major outlets, the BBC and Al-Jazeera seem to do the most unbiased reporting, to my mind.
Personally, I also frequent a few “conglomeration” sites, such as Reddit and Digg. Reddit, in particular, has a vast array of “sub-Reddits,” broken down by topic. I’m fond of the “Politics” topic, and browse through the “Progressive” and “Conservative” topics on a regular basis, mostly for laughs. The thing to beware of with many (most?) online sources is their bias–which tends to run to the left, compared to the overwhelmingly right-slanted “major media” outlets.
My overall recommendation: Take your news from as wide a variety of sources as you can manage. Compare stories on the same topic from different sources–odds are, the “truth” is somewhere in between them. When they begin telling you what to think on a given topic, or trying to drive your judgment to a particular conclusion, beware! (Quick edit to add: If they’re only telling you things you want to hear, you really need to get your news from elsewhere…)