How to Read the News
Updated: Dec 13, 2020
It seems obvious doesn't it? You don't need us to tell you how to read words on a page.
But this is a guide on how to actually read the news.
How to read between the lines.
How to spot bias.
How to understand what it's trying to tell you (or not tell you).
You know, one of the many things we probably should have been taught in school - but that's a topic for another day.
In this day and age, we need to know how to keep our media and our leaders accountable. This is where to start.
1. Accept that the news will always be biased
As much as we'd like to believe otherwise, it's impossible for any news article to be completely neutral. What they should do is present the facts with as little bias as possible, but there are very few newspapers left who are willing to do even this.
Each journalist has their own political views, their own privilege, their own experience in this world - it's useless to demand that they keep this out of their writing. Even if all they did was present the facts, the reader would still interpret them in the way that they choose.
So yes, the news is biased. But, while some outlets try their best to maintain integrity and present the truth, others blatantly disregard it.
Accept this as fact, and remember it.
2. Stop reading tabloid news
Don't click on the link. Don't retweet it. Don't even share it on Twitter and explain why it's so awful and misleading.
It's like a troll. By giving it attention, you're giving it power and influence.
Report it. Use it as kindling, toilet paper, whatever you like.
Just stop reading it.
3. Read multiple sources
The best way to get a clear picture? Look at it from multiple angles.
That means reading more than just the one article that pops up on your news feed.
We know, everyone is too busy (lazy) now to actively seek things out rather than mindlessly scroll through Twitter, but this is important.
Make it easy for yourself: have a few different news apps on your phone rather than one, and set up notifications. Or bookmark 2-3 news websites on your browser and set aside 15 minutes at the beginning of your work day to check them.
Bonus step? Read at least one article from a journalist with opposing views. If your arguments are solid enough, you won't be swayed. It's good practice.
4. Don't just read the headline
It seems silly to even point this out, but you wouldn't believe the amount of people who just read the headline of an article and take it at face value.
Do not do this.
As news has moved predominantly online, many websites are fighting to win your attention and your clicks.
This means they'll use clickbait headlines - ones that have shock value, that exaggerate the facts or are heavily suggestive - to make you go to them instead of the numerous other news sources.
And don't be fooled into thinking that reputable sources wouldn't do this. The BBC News twitter account is a prime example of misleading and problematic headlines.
Don't let them catch you out. Read the full article.
For more on the BBC, take a look at our article: Is the BBC really unbiased?
5. Be critical
This is the pessimist's chance to shine.
Be sceptical of everything you read, no matter how reputable the source.
If something doesn't sound right, it most probably isn't. Do a fact check, read some other articles, and look up the journalist who wrote the piece.
Spotting fake news isn't always easy - we're working on a guide, don't you worry - but if your instincts are telling you something smells fishy, believe them.
6. Use social media, but be wary
Social media is a double-edged sword.
In some cases, it helps shed light on the truth, allowing people without access to a platform to share a different version of events and giving voice to witnesses.
However, it is also a breeding ground for fake news, which often spreads like wildfire.
It is perfectly fine if social media is your main source of news, but not if you're not paying attention to who is feeding it to you.
Make sure you follow reputable sources - journalists (actual ones, not self-proclaimed ones), news outlets (the ones that have a right to be called that) and people you trust.
It's also important to make sure you don't just follow people with the exact same views as you.
Now we're not recommending that you go and follow racists, homophobes and people who twist the facts, but it is necessary to listen to and value other people's opinions when justified.
7. Discuss it
After you've read the news, discuss it with friends, family, colleagues or anyone who'll listen (willingly, of course).
It'll force you to remember what you've read, to pick out the key facts, and to justify your opinion on it.
It might also give you a different perspective, one that you hadn't considered before due to your own privilege or bias.
Talk about these things as much as you can - in person, not just online.
We know that reading the news these days is a minefield, and that's exactly why we've created this resource.
We may not be able to change the media, but we can change how we respond to it and how we hold it accountable.
Implement these steps into your daily life and do the work to better inform yourself and others.
And please don't buy The S*n.