Fighting Fake News, One Source at a Time

New Orleans    On a soul-killing wait at an airport recently, I found myself mindlessly scrolling Facebook, and I happened to notice that one of my real friends, Christine Allemano, who is also a Facebook friend, had posted an interesting query on her update. She wanted to combat “fake news,” and wondered what her friends read in order to try and puzzle out the facts of the world and combat the flood of false information, which is often no more than a lie in the skin of an opinion. Last weekend, I also found myself in a discussion with friends who read newspapers, but did so on-line, about whether they could really get the whole story that way, and, frankly, I was skeptical.

These questions struck me as not only interesting, but important somehow, prompting me to stand back and take account of how I personally puzzle out our wide world both physically at hand and at the keyboard, even though I’m not sure anyone but me and the rat in my pocket really cares, at least listeners and readers can know when they disagree with me, that for their sake and my own, I at least made an effort.

I guess the first disclosure is that, sure, when I’m on the road, I read The New York Times and The Wall Street Journal on-line, but I also have to admit that I don’t trust the process. First, it takes more time to scroll, click, close the popups, and then read. Secondly, the headlines are the guideposts, and they often point wrong directions or at least don’t disclose some of the hidden treasures. I regularly find key stories that I had missed on this physical, second go-round. Therefore, when I’m at home I go back through both papers as well as read my daily paper, The New Orleans Advocate, and what has become my occasional hometown paper, The Times-Picayune. I don’t read them on-line. Both rely heavily for national and world news on wire services, so I think I’ve got that covered, and anything really breathtakingly important locally will find its way to my in-box from my family. I’m not sure I know how to get the news from Facebook or Twitter to tell the truth, and although I think there are probably good internet news sources of various kinds, but I only go there if it’s a link driven by my Google Alerts for various sources like community organizations and ACORN. I guess I should also admit that I do read the editorials and op-eds in the Wall Street Journal, so I know what the right is thinking or at least arguing about. I don’t read most of editorials in the New York Times. I figure I already know the Times’ opinion, though I do religiously read their conservative columnists and guest op-eds, I try to keep away from the echo chamber and don’t trust Tom Friedman’s globalization program or Kristof’s bleeding heart. I check on The Guardian on-line every couple of weeks, and scroll through their protest section, whenever I want something to finish one of my radio and web, Daily Peoples’ News reports.

I get magazines and read them, not necessarily when they hit the door, but when I can. The list includes The New Yorker, Harpers, The Atlantic, The Economist, Wired, Scientific American, Science, and of course the journal Social Policy word by word. I read High Country News to keep up with the West. Recently I started reading the New York Review of Books, because another friend and one of my board members kept recommending that I read articles she had found there. It usually only takes me a minute to get through In These Times, but I think it’s important to support. I used to get The Nation on-line, but something happened to it, and now I look at their emails instead. I make sure I look through Shelterforce regularly on housing policy. I support The Lens, the online news source in New Orleans, but only look at the site during elections to tell the truth. For years I’ve subscribed to Granta, but am many issues behind, and not sure why I still hang in.

On line I go more for specialized list services that come right to my box. I started getting “Medium Daily Digest” in several subject areas when the head organizer for ACORN in Britain began forwarding links. I get “Truthout,” but probably only read something every month or so. I look at the almost daily bulletins from the Economic Policy Institute. Local 100’s Texas State Director turned me onto Politico’s Morning Shift on labor news, which I religiously read, but don’t follow the links. I regularly go through the headlines on the Center for Economic and Policy Research (CEPR) daily Latin American News Report and scan their regular economic bulletins. For years I got LACLA’s quarterly on Latin America, but when they went on-line, I didn’t go with them. I’ve tried to figure out something better for India, Asian, Africa, and Europe, but don’t feel like I’ve solved the puzzle though both The Economist, despite its conservative, business bias, and The Guardian help.

Maybe there’s more, but who can keep up? I mean really? The print business model allows me to skip the ads at the flip of a page, while the online model is noxious and time consuming. To get around it is an investment of both time, and, frankly, money. I think that’s at the heart of the fake news problem. It’s just so much easier to pretend to be up to date by letting Facebook and the let them curate your news via your friends or their algorithms. The problem is that you won’t know much, and finding the facts is a dialectical and contentious process of allowing various voices and opinions to confront and challenge your own, as well as bolstering and refining your own views.


For one of our loyal readers, Ry Cooder’s John Lee Hooker for President