The news media has incredible influence and power in shaping perceptions of the world to its viewers or readers. Controlling how information is disseminated to the public will undoubtedly mold how the public will view and interact with the world at large. When consuming news information, it is important that the sources be as accurate as possible. In an age of both cable news and online news, the amount of choices in new sources can be almost infinite. Therefore, it is important to be discerning and critical in order to find the best independent news websites.
The need to find news free of inaccuracies and spin is even more crucial in this day and age in order to be well-informed and also to protect your mental and emotional state from the sensationalism of most news outlets. With the onslaught of the Russian interference in western democracies–chiefly the 2016 United States Presidential Election– has come an influx of automated Russian bots and trolls unleashing fake new stories on social media outlets directly for the purpose of misinforming voters and directing the election towards certain candidates. New websites and new social media profiles would arise daily to pass off intentionally inaccurate news that either placed preferred candidates in a falsely positive light or smeared candidates that the Russians disproved of with slanderous news reports. Given their success in the election, more attempts will assuredly be made and it is key that everyone be on their guard to view their new sources with cautious discernment.
While every news source prides itself on being free of influence and unbiased as an independent news source, ultimately most are beholden to the direction and agenda of its parent company. The thing to note when looking at the mainstream media is the consolidation of power among a frighteningly small number of corporations. In the 80s, it was reported that 90% of all media was owned by 50 companies in all. Since then, the number has shrunk even further to a mere six companies: the Walt Disney Company, 21st Century Fox, Time Warner, CBS Corporation, Viacom, and the merger of Comcast Corporation and NBC Universal. These corporations will often times have leadership that might direct news coverage to either serve an agenda or to protect a vested interest.
While some corporations might lean left or right and those leanings might affect news coverage, it is really ratings or readership that is truly going to affect what is covered. This will drive a newspaper to display sensationalist headlines that might not reflect the whole truth or a news show to push information that might be exaggerated or downplayed in order to maintain viewer interest. Watching multiple pundits shout over each other might be entertaining but not exactly enlightening.
As such, it becomes important to know and acknowledge the slants in the media you view. This is especially important in regards to news sources that can confirm your bias. If you are consistently absorbing news that feeds your own worldview, it is important to find more centered pieces of news and maybe even some news from the other end of the spectrum. Independent news sources that have proven to be trusted and accurate include the nonprofit investigative journalism outfit ProPublica, the website Politico, and the value-neutral news agency Reuters. Each and others have proven time and again that journalistic values and pursuit of the truth would trump any need for ratings or appealing to management. In a world where so much noise is lies and misinformation, looking for truthful sources is tantamount for the security of our democratic process.