Here’s a terrific question to begin with:
How well do we really perceive each other and our world?
This 40-minute investigation is by The Center for Humane Technology, from their program “Your Undivided Attention.”
Next, here’s a clear introduction to propaganda and bias — National Geographic‘s recommendations — aimed at high school students but also useful for adults.
Also, Media Bias Fact Check (MBFC) covers over 5,000 publications around the world.
Next is an eye-opening podcast on the history of “fake news” from Andie Tucher, a professor at the School of Journalism at Columbia University in New York. She takes us through 400 years of fake news in America, beginning with a story published in 1690. Today, of course, given the the speed, anonymity, and reach of the Internet it’s much easier to get away with faking news in dangerous ways — and harder to push back. Her book is Not Exactly Lying: Fake News and Fake Journalism in American History (1918).
These are the newspapers and wire services that appear most frequently on the “most trusted” lists.
British Broadcasting Corporation is the world’s largest international broadcasting network — broadcasting speeches, discussions, digital and radio news in over 40 different languages across the world.
Moreover, it is funded by the British government and thus is not under the influence of any corporation.
The New York Times
The NYTimes is the third most circulated newspaper in the world. Since it’s establishment in 1851, it has won a total of 127 Pulitzer Prizes, the highest number by any newspaper.
In discussions about ethical journalistic standards, the NYTimes is most often cited as a prime example.
Despite it’s factual and highly transparent reporting, it has been known to be slightly left-leaning, especially when it comes to political news.
The Washington Post
This major American daily is owned by Jeff Bezos (founder of Amazon) and is one of the big three national newspapers including the NYTimes and Wall Street Journal. The Post’s editorial page is center-left in comparison to the NYTimes.
Public Broadcasting Service
PBS is a USA-based, non-profit, public broadcaster and TV program distributor, well trusted by both Democrats and Republicans.
Funding of the PBS comes from member station dues, the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, private foundations and individuals. It is subject to a protocol that prevents influence on programming.
James Wilson established The Economist in September 1843 in London. It has published its magazine-styled weekly newspaper ever since.
The Economist is clear about its editorial stance. It supports classic economic liberalism: free trade, globalisation, free immigration, and cultural acceptance. Nonetheless, it is known for thorough editing, based firmly on the facts. Also, it does not display bylines.
National Public Radio
NPR is a non-profit organization that makes radio programming for public stations throughout the USA. It has a reputation of being left-leaning but also of being truthful. Its journalists are, in fact, highly respected in their search for truth.
The Wall Street Journal
The editorial pages of the Wall Street Journal are quite conservative, but the paper has proved itself to be a trusted source of authentic information.
It is owned by News Corporation, run by the conservative Murdoch family. Some of their media outlets have a reputation for spreading biased and inaccurate news. Regardless, the WSJ has retained a good reputation for authentic and unbiased news. It is the second most circulated newspaper in the United States and has won 37 Pulitzer Prizes.
Owned by Thomson Reuters, Reuters is one of the most trusted wire services, providing news to newspapers, radio, and television stations. It has a huge network of journalists that send reports from throughout the world.
Reuters is well known for its “value-neutral approach” to minimize bias. Furthermore, its journalists adhere to the Reuters “Handbook of Journalism” – known as an excellent resource for any reporter.
Founded in 1846, AP is a US based non-profit wire service, more or less similar to Reuters. It reports news in English, Spanish, and Arabic. It is a symbol of factual and unbiased news and has won 53 Pulitzer Prizes.
The search for truth is of course rarely easy and often unsatisfying. Here are a few basic suggestions in seeking voices we can trust:
- Use information from various sources (including those with opinions different than yours).
- Try to detect bias and propaganda.
- Be conscious of our own biases.
- Consider the context of what we are hearing or reading.
- Accept that truth is often not what we hope it to be.
In the 1980’s (as a visiting lecturer at Babson College in Boston), I designed and taught a course to help students discover what’s truly happening in the world. THI is currently researching — from curricula across the continents — dozens of way more recent (!) examples of such a course, as we intend to develop a “positive change curriculum” for high school and college students.