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How To Trust The News In 2020

Anyone else confused with the media? Of course you are. When one says black, the other says white. How can you tell which is telling the truth?

In the past few years, sensationalism and viewership goals have overpowered the truth. Admittedly I have pretty strong opinions about who’s on the “truer” side of the equation. But I can still recognize that my go-to sources for information are taking shortcuts just to be the first to break the story or just be part of the conversation.

Every day we’re bombarded with stories, and they always seem to have two truths. It’s become difficult to read the news and feel truly informed.

Centuries of fake news

The concept of fake news isn’t new. One of its early written appearances can be traced as far back as a personal note from President John Adams: “There has been more new error propagated by the press in the last ten years than in a hundred years before 1798.” Imagine what we would say today? There is probably more incorrect news published on the internet in the last ten hours than in the last 100 years.

The promise of neutral, fact-based journalism is inviting but was never quite realized. The internet officially crushed it by giving everyone a platform to distribute content with no restrictions–including me, and I promise to make every effort possible to provide well researched opinions.

Is this story true?

Of course we don’t always have time to fact check everything that’s in the news. Aren’t the media supposed to be doing that for us? Unfortunately, we’re in a new era of content. Anyone can say anything they want and put it on the internet where it may get picked up and spread to hundreds of millions of people in a matter of hours.

We have to re-learn skepticism. One of the first pieces of advice I remember my father giving me growing up was not to trust everything you read. It was good advice then, it’s good advice now. I’ve since always made a point to vet my sources.

As the Russians say: “Doveryai, no proveryai” (trust but verify.)

Here are some rules of thumb for “truth-testing” the news:

Is the story about a direct attack on someone or an idea? Attack and judgement are the number one sign that the news is not objective. They are the tools of demagogues, someone who wants to persuade and manipulate.

The publisher is only using one source, without verifying facts with other experts. Give it double doubtful points if the expert has a history of contested claims.

The story sounds too extreme to be true. For example: “our former Secretary of State and her allies are the leaders of a child sex-trafficking ring located in the basement of a pizzeria.” Does Pizzagate sound insane? That’s because it is.

Caring about truth is boring, I get it. But it’s so important. We are in danger of losing everything we believe in because as a society, we are falling for the sensational. We lead with negativity instead of focusing on solutions.

Those who always attack but never offer solutions should not be trusted.


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