Non-stop campaign coverage. Heated debates. An endless parade of breaking news, talking heads, policy, predictions, and spin--all of it culminating in a breathless marathon of projections as the map turns red, then blue, then red, then…
Welcome to the presidential elections.
There’s arguably no event in America that occupies more space in our media--and our minds--than the elections. And while the media circus may be entertaining, staying informed can be overwhelming, and even lead to election anxiety.
This is especially true now that most of us get our news from the internet. Following the elections has become easier in some respects, but much harder in others. We may have more access to information than ever before, but it’s become harder to suss out the actual news from the noise. Social media is a helpful tool for staying informed, at least until it devolves into a battleground of screaming matches and dubious sources. And then of course there’s the proliferation of “fake news” sites, which force us to be extra vigilant about where we get our information.
The 2020 elections are likely to be the most chaotic in recent history, and staying informed while preserving your sanity will take some effort. If you want to follow along without succumbing to burnout or misinformation, here are some recommendations for the best ways to stay on top of the news leading up to the 2020 presidential elections.
It’s important to recognize the difference between bias and unsubstantiated facts in reporting. Although the New York Times is regularly accused of liberal bias and the Wall Street Journal is seen as staunchly right-wing, both papers are committed to journalistic integrity and fact-checking. The Washington Post, NPR, and the BBC join them as news outlets that invest time and money into following up sources and verifying that their facts are correct before running a story.
The Washington Post, New York Times, Wall Street Journal, and NPR all employ investigative journalists who spend a lengthy amount of time on their stories. In terms of Pulitzer Prizes, the Washington Post, New York Times, and Wall Street Journal are the big 3 winners.
These are all great options to ensure you’re getting information that’s been scrupulously fact-checked. And if you read a news story from a less-respectable source, you can always turn to these sites to see whether the story is legitimate.
Every day of an election cycle seems to bring a new revelation, a new controversy, or a new talking point. During these blink-and-you’ll-miss-it months, those who are committed to staying informed often rely on RSS feeds from news sites that are always being updated with the latest breaking news. Reuters, the wire service that acts as the news source for most news outlets, is one of the best options to choose from.
News aggregation sites like Google News are also a good choice. Because they gather articles from thousands of news sites around the world, they are quick to pick up on breaking local stories that haven’t yet become international news. Other options include large news agencies like the BBC, which has reporters in most countries in the world so that it’s frequently among the first to share big headlines.
There’s a time and a place for editorials and think-pieces, but sometimes you want cold-hard facts. In those times, it’s a good idea to hit the straight news sites or look for articles from wire services like Reuters, which is frequently quoted in other news outlets because they run an international network of reporters who get the news first.
It used to be impossible to subscribe to Reuters directly, but now they run their own website. Reuters sticks to the facts and is strongly committed to journalistic integrity, including fact-checking before publishing.
American politics have become more polarized than ever, and even professional news outlets aren’t exempt from leaning towards one side or another.
Many respectable news sites carry with them the biases of the writers or editors. Though it’s important to have sober, objective news sources to turn to, we all naturally gravitate towards opinions that reflect our own. Sometimes we also seek out news that challenges our viewpoints. You don’t need to necessarily avoid sites with perceived slants, as long as you’re aware of them.
The Wall Street Journal is generally believed to have a conservative slant, while Fox News features fiery personalities that often reflect the right-wing opinions of its viewers. CNN and NBC, meanwhile, feature commentators perceived to have a more centrist or progressive bend. These sites can be helpful for confirming or challenging your opinions, as long as you’re cognizant of any biases that may exist.
Despite their perception as leaning one way or the other politically, surveys show that the major TV news outlets are considered to be mostly trusted news sources by the majority of Americans.
The truth is that there’s no such thing as a news story without bias. Everything, from the choice of words to the decision about what counts as newsworthy, is affected by the prejudices of the journalist and the news outlet. So, if you really want to get a balanced picture of what’s going on in the elections and you don’t want someone else deciding what stories you should be reading, the best approach is to treat news as a smorgasbord.
Online news aggregation sites like Google News share articles from multiple news outlets around the world, using algorithms instead of letting humans decide. You can tweak the settings so that you only see political news, for example, or focus on US news rather than international reporting. This way, you’ll be able to find out about all the news worldwide instead of having some stories hidden from your eyes. You’ll still be reading human-written articles which contain some (or more) bias, but instead of getting all of your opinions and facts from one single slant, you’ll be sampling many different takes on the same matter.
It may seem counterintuitive to turn to another country for US election news, but there’s an argument to be made for making international outlets one of your go-to news sources.
In the face of so much bias and slant, many Americans have started to get their news from international news outlets. The British BBC has become viewed as one of the most trusted and objective news outlets available, and with regular American content from both US and international reporters, it can be an informative and often eye-opening place to turn for election coverage.
International news outlets may be more removed from the emotions, drama, and media circus occurring stateside, and sometimes can provide a more sober perspective. Additionally, international news sites are a great place to read about the candidates’ foreign policy issues and other factors that affect the larger world.
The barrage of election news is growing everyday, and with both legitimate and dubious news sources proliferating online, it’s up to each citizen to find a strategy for staying informed. Luckily, this can be easily done by assessing your news needs and finding sources that you trust. The above news outlets are good places to turn to for all types of election coverage, whether you’re looking for sober facts, in-depth journalism, thoughtful editorials, or impassioned commentary. By taking a proactive approach to reading the news and developing a strategy for keeping yourself sane during the coming election cycle, you can stay on top of all the important election stories as they unfold.