OPINION: Don’t rely on opinion programs for your news

Get your information from a reputable source, not just from an amusing sound byte online



It is easy to find opinions about news events, but dig a little deeper for better information.

GUS WATERS, Evergreen columnist

Do not get your news from the opinion section. Instead, get your news from an array of trustworthy sources that make you respect other sides.

By consuming trustworthy and unbiased news sources, people gain a better understanding of current events which allows them to have respectful conversations with others who might disagree with their viewpoint. This creates a better environment for politics and helps fight political polarization.

Cornell Clayton, a Thomas S. Foley distinguished professor of government at WSU, said consuming opinion pieces as your sole source of news isn’t a good news diet because the information presented in the pieces is either slanted or untrue. Clayton said these sources would lead someone to base their politics on falsehoods, which can be dangerous for American democracy.

Opinion programs like the “Sean Hannity Show” and the “Rachel Maddow Show” are entertaining and have their place, but they present facts in ways that are warped and don’t lead to productive politics or a factual understanding of current events. Watching these programs isn’t wrong and it doesn’t make you a bad person, but they cannot be relied on as actual sources of news.

It is perfectly acceptable to watch opinion programs, but it is important to take them with a grain of salt. They should not be blown up to be anything other than opinions.

Clayton recommended looking at print sources, which tend to follow strict fact checking routines like The New York Times, The Washington Post or local papers like The Spokesman-Review, or major television programs like MSN, ABC or PBS.

While these news sources are very accurate in their reporting regiment, they aren’t always easy to access and sources like the New York Times or the Washington Post can be expensive.

Travis Ridout, a WSU professor of Political Science, recommended online news aggregators like Google News, that automatically filter news stories from a wide array of sources which makes seeking out other perspectives than your own easy and efficient.

While it is preferable to read the New York Times or the Washington Post, what is most important is that you look at multiple news outlets that report facts not feelings.

Being considerate to other people’s opinions isn’t just a nice thing to do, it also indirectly good for reducing political polarization.

Ridout said that having a wide array of perspectives in your news consumption leads people to want the government to work proactively on solutions to problems facing the American people instead of notching up a win on the other side because the information they read isn’t a mouthpiece for one agenda or the other.

Looking at news from a wide array of perspectives and staying away from the opinion section is an important thing to do as a responsible and proactive citizen.

That said, it is impossible to expect every American to radically alter their news diet overnight. Having a careful media intake takes time to build, and there isn’t one perfect fit for everyone.

Try taking a first easy step tonight by looking at the first three stories on Google News, and reading the entire article all the way through. The next time you watch your favorite opinion show, see if they mention the story you read. If they missed something, keep on reading the news on a schedule that works for you.