Lately, I’ve been struggling to digest the evening news. Perhaps it started when the view from my window was my only vantage point. Whatever the reason, my mind has felt claustrophobic. I’ve felt as though I was having my thoughts pushed into a uniformly shaped box.
It’s been like being on some kind of crazy “news diet,” and information was being fed to me from a vending machine with only one food available. Rows and rows of mush! So I shared my unrest with you folks out there on social media. I asked if others were finding it as tough to watch the usual news sources as I was. I said I was looking for straight, good old, boring news without all the hype and editorials, balance not bias. I want anchors like Chet Huntley, and David Brinkley, or Walter Cronkite. No gender bias intended, but how about delivering just the facts so that I can make up my own mind? Wouldn’t that be nice? Turns out I’m not the only one.
You did not disappoint me. I really appreciate those of you who shared your thoughts with me. So, I thought it might be interesting for you to know what I learned in this process. Some of you expressed such distaste for local and national news that you’ve been fasting from all news sources. Not that it is bad to turn off the radio and TV, but to me that would be the equivalent of sticking my head in the sand. Others of you skip the local news media altogether, and search out news from across the pond. Several said that they tune into the BBC European and Australian for world news.
You shared news sources that I had never heard of, or embarrassingly enough, had heard of but was clueless about origins or content. So, with my fingers poised on Google, I began a crash course of personal enlightenment about broadcast news outlets. I was consumed by all things news. I decided to make a list and look at each news site with my “betty-sized” magnifier. I also did a Wikipedia comparison so that I could look at how long these services had been around and the origins of the news organizations. Once I started digging into things, I became like my little white Westie on a mission to find his favorite “fluffy!” I was focused!
I divided my list into categories. First, are the major news sources, or news agencies. They are The Associate Press (AP), Reuters, and Agence France-Presse, (AFP). They are considered major because nearly all news comes from these three sources. These agencies have been around for a long time. The AFP is the oldest established in 1835, Reuters in 1848, and the AP in 1917.
The next category is television, radio, and online news networks. Chief among the television networks are the ‘Big 3’ (ABC, CBS, and NBC). Others include Fox; Cable Network News (CNN); NBC’s pay cable network (MSNBC), One American News Network (OAN), Liberty Nation, or Truth Cable news, National Public Radio (NPR) as well as other major network radio shows from the Big 3. I also investigated a new network, News Nation. They just began a daily prime time broadcast on September 1st of this year.
Finally, I examined print news media. This was not an exhaustive list, but I did look into The Federalist, an online magazine, and The Epoch Times a weekly newspaper, and daily online news source. They were recommended by some of you and I wasn’t familiar with them, so I wanted to get a better look.
I’ve nearly exclusively watched the “Big 3” for many years. You might say that I was oblivious to any slant or bias. There may have been, I just didn’t recognize it. It has only been within the last few years that I’ve noticed a decidedly biased trend, and that has been disturbing to me.
At one point in my life, I lived and worked in Mainland China during two summer seasons teaching English to high school and middle school English teachers. There I found news sources to be managed and shaped by the government. There was no freedom of the press. The only opinion was the one given by the governmental party.
I certainly don’t want to see our news networks dominated by the government as they are in China. I defend our freedoms whole-heartedly. But the vast array of news sources we take for granted has begun, not so subtly, to shift. For example, CNN, which had been straight news programing in the prime time slot, now has become personality-based left-wing programing featuring liberal opinion/talk programs. On the other side, FOX began building it’s programing around conservative talk shows using propaganda-style talking points that have gathered criticism.
Like a crusader riding up on a white horse, we now have another option. In October 2019, Nexstar Media Group, a media conglomerate, commissioned viewer research that showed that people were dissatisfied with opinion-based programing on cable and public news channels. People were looking for news that wouldn’t leave their stomachs tied in knots within the first five minutes.
In January of this year using the codename of Project Neutral, Nexstar, developed a new three hour prime time program renamed News Nation, which went live on September 1, 2020. Based in Chicago at WGN, the new program strives to deliver fact-based, balanced, and unbiased national news seven days a week. It is lead by a team of veteran journalists, and 5,400 journalists in 110 local newsrooms across the country. Several of you mentioned that you were now watching this program nightly. Joe Donlon, who spent twenty years here in Portland as an anchor on KGW, is one of their lead anchors, who has always been a favorite of mine.
So what have I decided to do about my personal news options? Well, after looking at what’s currently out there, I made two decisions. First, I have subscribed to the newspaper, The Epoch Times, which is delivered in the mail once a week. I have the app on my phone, and get a daily briefing each morning on my computer. I also opted to get the enhanced package that gives me a bi-monthly magazine that examines particular news stories of interest in greater depth. I’ve never taken the newspaper to bed to read, but the first paper that arrived in the mail was so interesting and informative, I had to keep reading. Mind you I love reading in bed, but usually it is one of my favorite new mystery novels. I’m hooked on those. It might be interesting to note that The Epoch Times, was founded in 2000 by John Tang and other Chinese Americans. They were responding to the censorship inside China and lack of international understanding of the repression of religious groups. It was first published in the Chinese language.
The second decision I made was to begin watching the new WGN news program, News Nation, on WGN America. The only negative about this show is that it’s aired in prime time from 8-11p.m. each night. I know! That’s the whole idea–that this type of news could certainly challenge the usual offerings on prime time. So I tape it and then watch the next day. I like to watch other programs on Netflix, Disney+, HGTV, and Prime Video during those hours. Some would say that they like having this new option for prime time.
Probably you already figured out that I’m a conservative, and lean a bit to the right myself. That certainly gives me a particular bias. But I object to having the opinions of celebrities, who are not experts, influence the content of my news. For example, Bill Gates is certainly an expert on Microsoft computer technology, but he is not a reliable source about the Covid-19 pandemic. (“Bill Gates: Trump’s China travel ban ‘seeded Covid-19 outbreak.” just today on CNN) Preferring rather to have my own opinions after reading or listening to a balance of news. My conservative heritage has taught me that the best source for truth is found in my well-worn Bible.
The following passage from Paul’s letter to Timothy gives us a reason to look to God’s word for the truth for which we are searching.
“All scripture is God-breathed [given by divine inspiration] and is profitable for instruction, for conviction [of sin], for correction [of error and restoration to obedience], for training in righteousness [learning to live in conformity to God’s will, both publicly and privately–behaving honorably with personal integrity and moral courage]; so that the man of God may be complete and proficient, outfitted and thoroughly equipped for every good work.” 2 Tim 3: 16-17 AMP
But what about news sources? How can we be sure they are reliable and that we are not being given information that is designed to fit a slanted narrative. I would suggest that we must do our best to measure what we are reading by the plumb line of God’s truth. We must be discerning and not just accept everything we see either in print, on television, or the internet. Ask yourself, who stands to gain by this information? What do they want me to believe? Look to the rules of good journalism and make sure sources are documented and reliable.