In a world filled with fake news, misinformation, disinformation, and politically polarized journalism, tremendous responsibility falls upon the news consumer. We are decades past the time when one could turn to ABC, NBC, or CBS television and expect fair and objective news reporting. Today cable networks like FOX News and MSNBC take political stances and bad actors disseminate false information either to serve an agenda or simply to deceive. This leaves the average reader, viewer, and digital user wondering how and where to get good, quality news that is objective, accurate, fair. That reader, viewer, and user is the ethical news consumer. Yes, because of the issues noted above, we have a responsibility to be ethical in our consumption of news content. We cannot simply believe every headline we see without vetting its source.
Here is a great video that tells us how to find and consume reliable news and information:
The first thing the ethical news consumer must do is read beyond the headline. Often times–especially on social media platforms–headlines are written less to title a story and more to generate a click. When we see a headline that interests us, it is our responsibility to click on the link and read the story. We cannot make an informed opinion based upon one headline or one piece of clickbait.
The next obligation we have as ethical news consumers is vetting the source of the information we are reading or watching. If the story is created and housed by a major new outlet like CNN, The New York Times, or the Associated Press, we are off to a good start. News organizations, even local ones like Newswatch 16 or Action News, have an ethical responsibility to the facts. Unfortunately, our ethical quest does not stop there.
Finally, we must assess the outlet presenting the story and call its own bias into question. When we examine the media bias chart, we know that the version of a story on FOX will be drastically different than the same story on MSNBC. In this case, it is important to read both stories and get both angles in an effort to extract the truth. While CNN recently made a major shift toward the political center, we can generally rely on non-commercial entities for the most fair and ethical coverage. These include the Associated Press, National Public Radio, and Reuters. They have to advertisers to appease and no agenda to uphold.