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A balanced media diet

Posted in Journals, Politics, Reading, Television by Alex L. on November 28, 2016

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Every presidential election cycle, I get interested in politics all over again. This recent election was no different. But apart from conversation with politically-minded friends, something has to fuel and sustain the interest over the long months of the build-up to the election: informative and entertaining media sources. During the many months before November 2016, the go-to media source for me was The Young Turks, an online news show.

TYT is a progressive daily (Monday through Friday) show that is freely available live on YouTube. It has pros and cons for me. The big benefit is the commentary of Cenk Uygur, the outspoken founder and co-host. Like a more aggressive Noam Chomsky, Cenk cuts through the noise of establishment rhetoric to tune into a rarefied perspective about what’s really going on behind the scenes in the halls of power (it rarely looks pretty). The drawback of the show is a lack of intelligent conservative perspectives to provide a counterpoint to Cenk’s commentary. Cenk and his co-hosts (who rarely disagree with him on substantial issues) are always “right” and listening to TYT exclusively can lead one to develop political blinders, in my opinion.

There are intelligent counterpoints out there, though. Recently, I picked up The Economist from the bookshelves of Barnes and Noble. I used to read The Economist weekly back in college, but let my subscription lapse some years ago. Like TYT, the magazine has a self-confident tone backed by factual evidence. There are some areas where The Economist agrees with TYT, such as on the threat of climate change. On other issues–such as support for the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) and whether the Democratic Party should go in a populist direction–these two media sources disagree.

What I like about The Economist is that its calm, reassuring tone epitomizes reason in troubled times. The drawback to this perspective is that sometimes reason needs a kick on the behind, such as on the question of the urgency of responding to climate change (Noam Chomsky, Jill Stein, and others see it as an existential crisis for the human race). TYT tends to be more on the alarmist side. Overall, the two media sources seem to make for a healthy balanced diet of information for me.

But to really be well-informed, in my opinion, one needs to seek out and research the issues on one’s own. One needs to be a proactive sifter and winnower of facts rather than a mere passive recipient. Assembling a collection of sources that provide just the facts without the commentary (for instance, polling organizations) proves more difficult. But it’s necessary to seek out true sources of information–in addition to commentary from media–if one is to really craft informed opinions on the issues.

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