Consumer-related news and policy junkies have many information sources from which to draw and participate in debates. While it’s comforting to live in an echo chamber, it’s healthier to hear fresh information and perspectives that differ from your own point of view. But, when we seek that more rounded perspective, we are too often bombarded by ugly claims and responses from partisan hacks. Does it have to be like that?
In my personal experience, there are some natural categories of sites based on their partisan bias and their value as a news source. In any category, sites may either exert strong centralized editorial control or allow for authors with divergent points of view.
Aggressive Left: The RT Network, Huffington Post, Mother Jones, Salon, and MSNBC. These are reliable wells of partisan venom for anyone who’s down a quart. On a recent visit to Arlington, VA, I was surprised that the RT Network was one of the few dozen channels on the Hyatt’s TV lineup. RT offers news of how poorly the USA treats its own people and other nations. As balance, it vilifies the misguided Russians who criticize Putin.
Moderate Left: New York Times, Washington Post, The Economist, The Financial Times, CNN, Brookings Institution, Reuters, and The Atlantic. Some of the most thoughtful reporting comes from NY Times and Financial Times. NYT presents both non-partisan writers (e.g. David Brooks) and some legendary partisans (e.g. Thomas Friedman). If anyone thinks Friedman deserves deference for his Nobel Prize, note that the committee also gave President Obama a Nobel Prize after a few months in office, anticipating that he might do something to merit it. Time will tell. Brookings publishes papers by a stable of smart policy thinkers from a balanced political spectrum.
offer straight news. Their coverage scope is focused on financial and economic issues, wars, accidents and calamities. Excepting Yahoo, they don’t fawn over Hollywood, style and personalities. Yahoo borrows news articles from many sources, including ABC News, so it is coated in partisan grease occasionally. Politico is full-strength “news” on politicians and polling all the time, with just a lilt of leftward tilt.
Moderate Right: Wall Street Journal, Forbes, Fox News, American Enterprise Institute, CATO Foundation, and Heritage Foundation are thoughtful sources of conservative and libertarian views on public policy. WSJ, Fox Business and Forbes mix financial news reporting with conservative editorial perspectives on current issues. Contrary to its detractors’ claims, Fox News usually avoids right-wing extremist views.
The best and worst are found in reader-contributed commentaries on these sites. The Economist’s and The Atlantic’s commenters often share good insights on the substance. In The Financial Times, some comment knowledgeably on European finance, politics and economics. But in most sources, the bulk of comments are echo-chamber drivel or name-calling freshly lifted from a political party’s talking points. Unfortunately you can’t get all the best information from a single one of the above categories.
Who said policy analysis is easy?
Alan Daley is a retired businessman living in Florida who follows public policy from a consumer’s perspective.