News: A User’s Manual

  1. The Basics
  2. Keys to Recognizing a Good Reporter
  3. Media Savvy Bill of Rights
  4. Media Savvy Tips for KIDS
  5. Media Savvy Tips for Parents
  6. Properly Feeding Your Brain
  7. Seven Ways to Have the Final Say
  8. Media Complaint Department

News colors your outlook and shapes your opinions, that’s why it’s important to have a variety of news voices within a market. Comparing and contrasting information develops and sharpens deductive reasoning skills. Obviously, the earlier a person becomes news literate, the better.

By exposing people to current events and information on how our planet is advancing, news not only creates critical thinkers, it creates world-class citizens.

Incorporate a variety of news outlets into your life by creating your own media mix of television, newspapers, cable shows, radio and internet news, and news magazines. Make sure they come from different sources. For example, reading The New York Times in print and online is not a mix of media: it’s coming from the same source.

An overwhelming amount of Americans — more than 80 percent — get their news from watching television. The formula for local television news is to give you a top-line summary of what just happened. In short, it’s fast-food for your brain. While television news tells you what just happened, newspapers and magazines tell you why it happened, and why you should care.

Since the advent of cable in 1980, there’s been a rise in agenda-driven news outlets. And that’s OK, as long as you know that what you’re reading, watching or listening to leans a particular way. For instance, CNN leans left, so the Fox News Channel was created as the antidote. Incorporate a little of the left leaning with a little of the right leaning and — guess what — you stand up straight. If you want the view from outside, check out the BBC. Looking for the view from the inside? Add PBS.

Not all news is the same. For instance, a news article should be devoid of the reporter’s opinion, but it may be filled with the opinions of quoted sources. A newspaper column, on the other hand, gives the reporter a chance to air his or her particular viewpoint. Knowing the difference between a news story and a column is crucial, because one informs while the other seeks to persuade.

Another place where it’s OK for opinions to appear in a newspaper: on the editorial page and the page opposite the editorial page (known as the op.ed. page). In the world of television, talk shows are the equivalent of newspaper columns and editorials. Since a lot of talk shows look like news programs, the trick here is to pay attention to the labels.

Sometimes it’s necessary to do a bit of research to find out what you’re watching or reading, but in the long run, it’s worth it.