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Ask HN: Where do you get your unbiased news?
38 points by bballbackus on July 12, 2010 | hide | past | web | favorite | 137 comments
When I say unbiased news, I refer to updates on changes in world news, politics, and economics.

I listen to NPR's hourly updates 2 to 3 times per day via [1]Stitcher, then I also read NPR's website on occasion. Aside from NPR I find it hard to find an unbiased news source.




IAMA dual-citizen of the United States and Israel. I've grown up processing a lot of news about Israel, both local (Israeli news outfits) and foreign (most journalism written in English). I've had more than one occasion to see an event unfold firsthand, and later read about it in the media.

There is no unbiased news. You must read between the lines, corroborate and reconcile different accounts, and generally think in order to piece together a picture of an event, even with reputable sources, because even reputable sources are really just a big organization that sent a reporter somewhere.

In fact, the reality is even worse: many topics of news have no singular "truth" to them. As soon as a reporter ceases to be strictly recollective, news becomes an editorial affair -- and that's ok, so long as people recognize it as such. The problem is that few people are equipped to make that distinction.

Most people never learn to take a piece of writing and tear it apart critically. It's a skill that requires time and practice to acquire. Without it, people conflate the hard news and the subjective bits. Quality journalism should include a mix of hard news and analysis, but the news market today sells to the lowest common denominator, who generally want a simple narrative in 500 words or less. This leaves little room for the ambiguity of the real world.

I constantly question what I read because of my experience with reporting about Israel, and I often think about how little I really know when reading about other places and stories that lack a neat narratives.


Exactly what I wanted to say. Maybe living in Israel teaches a lot about how good, and all too often bad, reporting is. Even the reporting considered the most "unbiased" in certain countries sounds, to me, like it's incredibly biased. Never mind which more accurate: it just goes to show that bias depends more on what you believe going into the new piece than what it contains.

After reading Seth Godin's "All Marketers are Liars", I've come to the realization that there is not truth, not in the sense people mean when they say "unbiased". Everything worth saying has a marketing spin. Everything people say to you goes through layers of previous beliefs. There is not such thing as "just the facts".

It's not even hard to "prove": take any reasonably controversial story that happened recently. The initial story already shows you what most people believe based on their first reactions. Any new piece of evidence that comes out doesn't have any effect on which side of the issue people are on: the "fact" is always somehow a proof that they are right. I've seen this happen very often, and yet people still seem to think that it's all facts.


The square of the hypotenuse of a right triangle is the sum of the squares of the other sides.


Mathematics (and certain sciences) are one of the few fields where actual facts exist.

Most news, though, deals with with humans, humans' interactions, and so on. You can never know what other people are thinking or feeling when they do something, and oftentimes they themselves don't even know.

If you want to see how bad most reporting is, just see how bad it is in fields you understand. Most reporting about the computer industry is terrible. Just as one funny example of a "fact" by an expert (and ironic who I'm writing this to), pg's article on PR has a footnote about how the damages figure for the Morris worm was calculated.

Great read in any case, which sorta makes some of the same points: http://www.paulgraham.com/submarine.html.


pg's article on

I think it's awesome that usernames are so de-emphasized in HN that one can respond directly to a comment by the site's creator without realizing it (or perhaps you did realize, but deliberately chose to use the third person[1]). Though HN obviously has reputation built in with karma and well-known members with well-deserved notoriety, it's very easy to ignore names and evaluate posts solely on their merits. I believe this can be a useful tool when implementing the suggestion of others to consider aggregated information from multiple sources.

[1] Will grammarians one day create formal rules for forum posts?


... in Pythagoras's dreams. It ain't so in our universe.

http://imagine.gsfc.nasa.gov/docs/ask_astro/answers/980327b....


Euclid fanboy!


I've seen this question pop up online a lot, and a common answer from Americans seems to be "BBC News." Brits, however, tend to detect a liberal bias in the BBC's output though it pales in comparison to any found in the US media. The BBC News team recently reported that the site will be unveiling an all new design and workflow in the next couple of weeks, including a US focused version maintained by a separate editorial team in Washington DC.

In my experience, though, it's best to use a large but manageable number of sources and interpret them with intelligence and wisdom to get a feel for what the reality is.


One reason people recommend BBC is that it's a place to get a view of the US from the outside, from perhaps a more "objective" point of view, as opposed to domestic coverage that is a part of what it reports. I like Newshour, and it seems that Owen Bennett-Jones can play devil's advocate as well as anyone.


Bias put aside, you get to detect certain patterns about the articles after you read BBC's online news service for a while. Most of the time, they seem to lack depth as well.

If you're familiar with their articles, you've probably seen a pattern where articles of ~4 paragraphs come up on the site when a breaking news occurs. You get the sense that they're only concerned with speed rather than accuracy - contents in those 4 paragraphs will change throughout the day, while they'll add about 10 more paragraphs containing some background information and/or interviews. So unless you don't read the "finished version," it's likely that you didn't read the most accurate information.

The way the BBC writers work gives them hardly any time to check facts as well. They're expected to write news tickers, e-mail the news desk about newly written stories, and make a post on Ceefax service as well (hence the 4-paragraph rule). Then they are also expected to harmonize their articles with news from other BBC outlets (e.g. BBC Radio services, BBC News Channel, etc.) so the writers multi-task and constantly have to keep an eye on those services.


Let me ask - what's your goal from the news? Entertainment? Be informed? Looking for a career that would require knowledge of that sort?

If your goal is get a clear understanding of how the world works, I'd recommend you transition away from current events news and into reading history. Current events gives equal time, sometimes greater time, to people that are incredibly stupid and will be thoroughly discredited in a short time. If you were about the War on Drugs in the 1980s, you were getting some now-discredited nonsense. You would've been much better informed and able to predict outcomes by reading up on Prohibition in the USA or what happens during any era with a ban on a desired product.

History repeats itself - bans and prohibitions pretty much always go the same way. Black markets emerge to deliver the goods if they're desired, this increases the price of the good and makes it lucrative. But disagreements in this lucrative trade can't be arbitrated in court because the trade is illegal. Thus, disputes are settled by violence. The need for enforcers, arms, and protection outside of the law is conducive to gradually centralizing gangs, cartels, mafia, and other organized crime. This is pretty much always the way with prohibitions on desired goods throughout history - and you could easily predict that if you study history, but it's far too easy to get distracted by charismatic talking points in a debate over current events.

If you want to learn about the American financial crisis, you'd do well to learn about banking crises throughout history. If you want to learn about public education, you could do worse than starting to learn about the Prussian education system.

I've found much more insight in looking back at largely resolved things than trying to sort through the mess of what's going on. Then when I find myself out at dinner and it comes up, I can say something like, "Well, at XYZ time in Japan they did ZYX, and the result was ABC. Do you think that will happen with this policy in America?" Thus, you're useful to the discussion because instead of rehashing one of the two mainstream viewpoints you can get on the news, you introduce new facts, and you'll inevitably hear about the mainstream viewpoints during conversation, debate, and discussion anyways. History isn't as sexy or charged as mainstream news, but you wind up becoming much better informed in the end, and you'll most likely still pick up the main viewpoints of events as they unfold.


As the old cliche says "if we don't know where we're coming from, we won't know where we're going". Great comment


Sigh... You've just pinpointed for me my biggest frustration with the current "news" industry. They could easily provide a lot of that historical background to help their viewers/readers actually understand current events. But they don't.


Facts, and real, unbiased data would probably cause the major 'news' industry to loose big ratings money.


Almost a year ago, I quit reading local news. Stopped hitting the main news sites 10x/day, stopped picking up a physical paper when I happened across one. I'd already stopped watching televised news.

I'd found that too much of what I was seeing was simply irrelevant and it either frustrated me or pissed me off.

Since that point, research into the influence of PR/publicity companies on local news showed that our primary newspaper in South Australia was comprised of 30% content pushed by PR/publicity. The online versions of the main paper here have devolved into eye-ball seeking trash - bikini galleries, celebrity gossip, etc.

Through this experience I've learnt how little I really miss. 99% of what's going on just doesn't need to be known.

I check Al Jazeera English once or twice a week and CNN a little less often. Other than that, I feel like I've saved some time and cleared my head a little (especially of some of the negativity that comes from news).


I've done something similar. I pretty much ignore what's happening on the news. Anything really big usually ends up on hacker news. :)

I do listen to a local radio talk show once in awhile to get an overview of what's happening in my state and sometimes the country. I've been meaning to watch Al Jazeera English more. I've enjoyed it whenever I've watched it.


Here's their site in case you want to bookmark it and take a look now and then: http://english.aljazeera.net/

Occasionally there's a story there that I find interesting but often it's enough to skim the front page.


I already have the site bookmarked ;)


you've independently rediscovered the principle of "if news is important or relevant enough, it will find me!"


This is fine, as long as you take the next step and also don't vote.

If you choose not to be informed, it's really irresponsible to inflict your opinion on others via the voting booth.


In Australia everyone is legally required to vote.


Is there any law against submitting a blank ballot? If so you can just write yourself in for every office for which you are eligible, and pick a friend to write in for any others.

If there's a law against a blank ballot AND write-ins are disallowed, you live in a sham democracy where an elite wants to legally compel you to signify your assent to its illegitimate rule, and it is your democratic duty to boycott any such elections in order to highlight their illegitimacy.


You can certainly submit blank or invalid ballots. One bloke I know has been writing "You must be joking" on his for years.

Technically, you're only required to attend a polling station and get your name crossed off.


What happens if you don't?


You get a letter asking for a reason why you didn't turn up and they fine you if they don't think it's a good enough excuse.

My mother once wrote "I think compulsory democracy is a contradiction in terms". They fined her.


How did they know it was her?


They send letters to everyone who hasn't had their name crossed off the voting list.


I assumed you meant she wrote "I think compulsory democracy is a contradiction in terms" on her ballot.


No, he meant she wrote that on the excuse letter.


Yes I completely misunderstood! Thanks both for setting me straight.



I'm pretty sure you can donkey vote and if not, I can't see how they'd ever find out anyway.


Then you are morally obligated to be informed.


There's informed, and then there's scraping every news site that you can in order to feel more informed. Prawn's original post said:

"I check Al Jazeera English once or twice a week and CNN a little less often."

I think that's more than enough to stay up on current issues.


Where does he get his local news and regional news? Does he not vote for those offices?


Sorry, I also check ABC's news feed (usually Just In and the local part) and with a partner who works in media plus AM radio to/from work I stay aware of what's going on. I just try to completely ignore the trash that infests mainstream papers, FM radio, etc.

Pretty sure I don't need to see the latest set of bikini shots News Ltd has stolen from Google Images because some celebrity tweeted about something mundane to stay abreast of the real things that matter.


I think you've jumped to a conclusion here. As anthonyb started pointing out (and I added to), I do follow general world news, read long-form pieces if they seem interesting and stay abreast of local issues very occasionally through the ABC, chit-chat with friends and colleagues and hear AM radio in the car (my wife listens to it for work reasons).

Think of what I tried to explain as removing some junk food from the diet - or driving through backstreets to avoid the roads they're on!

I'd guess that my media-light diet might have me more informed than many out there who'll read whatever catches their instinct-driven fancy, do you agree?


It isn't clear that there is such a thing. I remember a friend used to listen to NPR on the way home. At one point, he realized that he was getting home angry. Once he figured this out, he quit NPR and started listening to easy listening jazz (which I reinterpret to mean non-threatening jazz, but that's another story).

See, what most news channels do (TV, newspaper, web) is to strive to alarm you. NPR stories about central american coups, financial press predictions of doom with taxation proposals, valley press warning of the upcoming total shortage of venture capitol, bloggers warning of the impending death of microsoft, prince predicting (hoping?) for the death of the internet itself.

When we talk about bias, we are more likely to think left-leaning vs right-leaning vs libertarian. Let me suggest another way of looking at this.

Are you looking for a source of news whose thrust is to alarm you? I claim that is the common bias shared by most news sources.

So I suggest this simple experiment. As you listen to a newscast/blogger podcast/tv broadcast or read a blogger post/newspaper/news.google.com/news.combinator.com ask yourself "is this story informing or alarming".

Then check out utne.com or the Christian Science Monitor.

Better yet is to read several, or none at all.

Who is it that said "if the information is important, it will find me"?


I've picked some policy blogs written by smart people. When news happens, they often write posts about it and link to articles plus they often add their own analysis.

This is something that I don't think is well understood: the most broken component of most news organizations is the editing. News editors tend to be...not smart. They don't have nearly enough subject matter expertise to make intelligent decisions about how to asses factual claims in articles or how to put the news in context. If I want to read about economics, I know for a fact that any econ blogger on the planet knows a hell of a lot more than 98% of newspaper editors. What's far worse is how news organizations present politics; they behave as if political science doesn't exist. Everything is explained in terms of fictional narratives that often contradict polling while ignoring fundamentals. Reading news articles about politics makes you more ignorant, not less.

For example, I read Lawyers Guns and Money ( lawyersgunsmoneyblog.com/ ) and when, say, a war in Georgia breaks out or a South Korean warship sinks, I know about because the LGM guys write posts with links to news sources. But since some of them are security studies professors who specialize in international relations and global security, I get the added context to make sense of it.

So pick some subjects that interest you, find some subject matter experts with blogs and toss them into an RSS reader. The result will be better than any newspaper and you'll still get notified when an "important" article gets published in the NYT or WAPO or LAT or WSJ or anywhere else.


Would you mind posting some of your own resources and recommendations?


Sure. Looking over the list, I'm reminded why I enjoy reading these people. Even when I disagree with them, it is obvious that they love their field. They have a lot of fun with it. There's a kind of joy found in doing something that you love and have devoted your life to that comes out in their writing. As a result, these writers make actual value judgments. They don't write sterile corporate prose guaranteed to offend no one.

* Lawyers Guns and Money, global conflict, international relations, political science, some legal history: http://www.lawyersgunsmoneyblog.com/

* The Monkey Cage, real political science by political scientists: http://www.themonkeycage.org/

* The Edge of the American West, mostly history professors but some philosophers too, but less academic than Crooked Timber: http://edgeofthewest.wordpress.com/

* Brad Delong, econ prof at UC Berkley; strong focus on economic history; leans left: http://delong.typepad.com/

* Tyler Cowen, econ prof at GMU, leans right: http://www.marginalrevolution.com/

* Marc Lynch, foreign affairs prof who talks about the middle east; unlike pretty much every middle east expert, he actually speaks Arabic and has some idea about what actual Arabs are talking about: http://lynch.foreignpolicy.com/

* Matthew Yglesias, foreign policy, some economics and politics: http://yglesias.thinkprogress.org/

* Ezra Klein, health care and economic policy: http://voices.washingtonpost.com/ezra-klein/

* Felix Salmon, a former bond trader who talks about finance: http://blogs.reuters.com/felix-salmon/

* Julian Sanchez, national security law, background in philosophy, leans right (but not in terms of national security): http://www.juliansanchez.com/

* Ryan Avent, who also writes for the Economist but his personal site is more focused on urban planning and transportation economics, especially with regards to climate change mitigation: http://www.ryanavent.com/blog/

* Brad Plumer, environment and climate change: http://www.tnr.com/blogs/the-vine

* Cosma Shalizi, statistics, social science that uses statistics, lots of book reviews: http://www.cscs.umich.edu/~crshalizi/weblog/

Also, here are two sites I use to find random long form articles to read on my Kindle using Instapaper. These are more hit or miss but they cover a much broader range. These sources won't tell you about hot news stories per se, but if there's some weird NYT Magazine article that everyone is talking about, you'll find it here.

The Browser: http://thebrowser.com/

Long Form: http://longform.org/


I've found Ezra Klein's blog to be pretty legit, especially when healthcare reform was going on. (not unbiased) http://voices.washingtonpost.com/ezra-klein/


Short answer: I don't. Never mind the insanely conservative bias to every major media outlet in the US, I don't really trust news that claims to be unbiased. I prefer it if instead you get reporters and editors being honest about their biases. The whole idea of an unbiased news media being the ideal kind of news has caused a lot of problems, as can be seen from the firing of Weigel: http://crooksandliars.com/ian-welsh/court-eunuch-standard-bl.... We need to get past the idea of an unbiased news and move on to having an honest news corps.


I tend to go with NPR and The Economist. Both are biased, but their biases are relatively mild and out in the open (and, more-or-less in opposition to each other).


I think this depends a lot on what your biases are. I see both the Economist and NPR as pretty ideological sources, and that's fine. The Economist is a bit more open and up front though. NPR's central ideology is bland American boosterism and an absolute refusal to ever make value judgments. That's why you see NPR being completely incapable of making truthful statements that make the US government look bad: http://www.salon.com/news/opinion/glenn_greenwald/2009/06/22...

As far as ideologies go, that's a whole lot better than Stalinism, but I personally aspire to higher standards. Nevertheless, it is a very commonly held set of ideological priors, especially among the tote bag set (i.e., the group of people that regularly donate to NPR/PBS and thus got an NPR/PBS tote bag). Just because their ideological priors mostly match up with yours doesn't make them "unbiased".


I tend to go with the same. I've been a bit disappointed with the Economist lately, due to the recent cover Photoshopping incident (http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2010/07/06/economist-defends-p...).

That said, I hear what their spokesperson said, but this sort of thing would never fly at most news organizations in the US.


There is no "unbiased news." Period.

If what you want to do is get information without an overt bias, then yes, NPR is fairly good. Others have recommended The Economist, I second that. I would recommend getting your news from a variety of sources (preferably not American-centric, if you wish to hear international news).

I tend to lean heavily on NPR, The Economist, and the NY Times (the last two are seriously contradictory, but I find that to be useful). I have heard good things about The Atlantic, although I cannot vouch for it myself.


BBC, Al Jazeera English, and the Financial Times.

In my opinion, those are the three most journalistic institutions remaining - they report the facts as cleanly as humanly possible.


Is this a joke? Al Jazeera!? And BBC? BBC is sometimes even more anti-Israel than Al Jazeera...


Without getting into an Israel vs Palestine debate, consider this: would you call the BBC biased for being anti-nazi in the 1940s? Or American journalists being anti- the terrorists behind the 9/11 attacks? And, are there surely not Palestinians out there who would see BBC's coverage as overly pro-Israel?


You disagree with me by comparing jews to nazis (and to the 9/11 terrorists) and I'm the one getting down voted. Fun.

Well, come on, reply saying you didn't say "jews" and comparing Israelis to Nazis is legitimate. Except it isn't.

Or maybe you'll deny you compared them, and say it was purely an example of how being anti-X doesn't prove bias. But I didn't say being anti-X indicates bias for all X. I said taking a strong anti-Israel stand on a controversial topic does not constitute unbiased reporting. See the difference? You said opposing uncontroversially bad things is legitimate. But either you missed the point or you think Jews are uncontroversially bad.


My personal view: when they stop killing palestinians I'll stop comparing them to people in the pastw who killed people of a certain race.

My view on bias ignoring my personal view: "I didn't say being anti-X indicates bias for all X" - just being anti-Israeli indicates a bias against Israel? Seems you're being biased against the coverage because you're pro-Israel to me...


So now you're comparing Jews with Nazis more and saying they both did/do racial genocide. Why don't you take your anti-semitisim to Kos or DU? There's plenty of appropriate websites for you.


1.) Where did I accuse Israel of Genocide? 2.) I said Israel kills palestinians. Feel free to argue with me that it's a war so it's fair, or that it's neccesary. Don't tell me I wasn't truthfully saying what does happen, unless the entire world's press, and the Israeli goverment, have all lied about the fact that Israeli soldiers DO kill palestinians.


Do you really view Israel as the only one in the wrong in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict?


No of course not (I do however think they're vastly more in the wrong in general)


You know AJE is has a completely seperate staff, management, and purpose to Al Jazeera (Arabic)? If you missed it, there was a really good article about them on HN a while back: http://www.walrusmagazine.com/print/2009.10-media-the-most-h...


There is no such thing as a lack of bias.


If you're hearing news that seems unbiased to you, what you are hearing is news that conforms to your bias.


When I woke up this morning (Aus) my first action was to google for World Cup 2010. Seeing the Netherlands:0, Spain:1 was certainly news. I'm not seeing any bias though..

There is such a thing as "just the facts".


Well, bias also comes from withholding facts. "Netherlands:0, Spain:1" doesn't mention the dramatic game between Germany & Spain.

Although it's pretty harmless here, it can make a difference when you talk about bigger things, like unemployment. Fox News might be apt to stress the fact that X Million Americans are unemployed this quarter, whereas NPR might note that unemployment rates are down Y%.

They're both true, and plain facts. Yet, highly biased. Even if you state both, you're ignoring other, larger factors. Did a government program start/expire? Did a set of large companies undergo layoffs? Etc.

So theoretically, if you read enough (true) information, you don't have to worry about bias. (Very hard to do practically)


Yes, sports news is generally held up as the highest-quality news by media critics. They think it's maybe an outlet for people's intelligence, where very sophisticated analysis is common and the audience isn't afraid to disagree with coaches and other experts.

(I guess we could say that there's a bias in favor of good sports news and against good political news.)

When trying to look for unbiased news, it's useful to see what the filters actually are, and the basic business model of media corporations. Prof Bob McChesney is knowledgeable, and even has a radio program about it. http://www.robertmcchesney.com/

The typical analysis is that the business press often has the best coverage, as they need a tolerable view of the world. For example, at least pre-Murdoch (I don't what people think now), the Wall St Journal was considered by critics to be be informative, aside from the over-the-top editorials. And in the New York Times, they recommend you read the articles starting from the ends (rather from the beginning), as editorial filters are loosest there.

The usual recommendation is not to worry so much about "biased news", and instead consume media with an awareness of the biases.


You did most of the work : fact selection, and fact presentation/interpretation.

Otherwise, seeing "Netherlands:0, Spain:1" on a headline is a biased news. I can see it as noise (non-important entertainment massively supported by ads I'm paying against my will in products I buy) taking my time and thus hiding more important things happening in the world (and insightful analysis of them) or around me I should care and do something about.


I love The Economist. It's the only magazine I subscribe to.

I think British culture is close enough to US culture to do a great job capturing the subtleties of American politics; at the same time they remain less biased since, for the most part, they don't have a horse in the race.

BTW: I also find that while they do try to remain unbiased, NPR slants a little more to the left than the right,


The Economist isn't even close to unbiased. It has a very clear view and interpretation of the world.


I think there's a big confusion in a lot of this discussion between bias and general rationality. The Economist has a much more rational, well-thought-out point of view than most American newspapers and periodicals, but it's also a very ideological one, and while reading it one should be trying to consider ways that the facts presented could lead to different conclusions which the editors would not be promoting.

I ultimately agree that this is a much better place to be in than trying to publish irrational but "unbiased" news, however.


They're opinionated but they're clear and upfront on what their opinions are.


I really enjoy the Christian Science Monitor. Despite its name, it seems to be relatively unbiased. I also like its approach to news- They tend to work on a local level, but cover broad issues from a different perspective than you'd typically find from the AP or Reuters.


CSM tends to have a much more thorough perspective than the big news sources. I'm not sure how that came to be the case, but I do appreciate them for it.


There isn't such a thing as an unbiased news source. One solution is to get de-constructed news from a source like No Agenda - http://www.noagendashow.com/, and then you'll start to recognize the slant behind new stories more readily.

All professional new outlets have sponsors, and so they are biased. NPR for example, has shows sponsored by Monsanto, GE, and Archer Daniels Midland - so good luck avoiding bias!


Yeah, I like to listen to their stream in the morning. Good stuff! ;-)


ITM! :)


No Agenda in the morning!


PBS Frontline is amazing. Very in depth, very informative. http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/pages/frontline/


Why do people feel the need to label news sources as either "left" or "right" wing. Why do both sides always have to have valid points? Either the news source has good reporting and its opinions are logical and supported by facts, or not.

That said I don't really read much news but I prefer Al Jazeera English and the BBC.


I like the PBS NewsHour program. They seem to have a slight left bias that I find tolerable. I really like the way they pick two or three issues daily to go in-depth with and try to get opinions from multiple sides. I also like that the people they get opinions from seem to be the well thought, well spoken type rather than the "I can talk the loudest and make the other guy look dumb" type that the cable news networks seem to use.


As a Brit I find that I just need to tune into pretty much any American news channel (like Fox), and after five minutes of that right wing hilarity any other coverage in the world seems 110% unbiased in comparison.


The Daily Show with Jon Stewart. Watch it for yukks and for a general take on what occupies the American psyche. It's in your face frivolous, but so much news these days is frivolous while pretending not to be that in comparison, The Daily Show actually feels like straight talk. They seem to really do their homework when it comes to researching past news. And the interviews are gold.

The Economist has a decent survey of what's important to different peoples around the world, but I try to keep in mind that a page or two of commentary often doesn't capture all the nuances of a local situation. Other times I just scan the front page of Google News.

All news is biased. Just choosing the verbs and nouns in a news report makes it so. Things I try to avoid these days are outright dishonesty, unfair judgement (different standards when judging Party A vs Party B), and hidden agendas. Having a value system is alright if you are honest and forthright about it.


And the interviews are gold.

Um, what? Daily Show interviews tend to be awful. Most of them are random book authors hawking their latest book or actors hawking their latest film. Stewart often acts like an attention-starved puppy. When he decides to actually confront his guests, things often go badly because he's so unprepared. Did you see his interview with John Yoo? Yoo wiped the floor with him. Did you see how he sucked up to Musharraf? I mean, when you have a dictator on your show, you can at least ask one or two challenging questions.


The Daily Show is biased towards humor. They will stretch facts and take quotes out of context so that it fits their joke.


I personally use Twitter to subscribe to a variety of individual journalists, news makers, wire services, lawmakers, media personalities, etc. Thus, essentially building my own "news aggregrator".

I try to follow +just enough+ people that infuriate me from time to time - just to challenge my own well established biases.


NPR is pretty left leaning. I certainly wouldn't call them unbiased.

As for where to go I agree with the other comments. There is no unbiased news. I say check both. Add Fox News to your NPR habit and you should be fine.


I fail to see how adding a channel which makes a business out of blatantly lying about whatever issue they touch makes anyone fine. The case of Fox News is part of why I said we need to move beyond the whole "unbiased" versus "biased" debate to get to the real problem of downright fraudulent coverage.


I don't know under what standards you can ever consider Fox News to be "news". They go beyong having a difference of opinion into outright lying and misstating facts. Taking into consideration the opinions of liars is now way to clear your own biases.


Add MSNBC to your Fox habit and you should be fine. MSBNC is left-leaning. NPR does a lot of international reporting and stories regarding the arts, which I think is why they sometimes get unfairly labeled as left-leaning. If you take a look at a typical NPR story, they have time to go into enough depth to give reasonably equal time to different sides of an issue or debate. I was listening to Talk of the Nation recently and a conservative PA rep who is pro-Arizona immigration reform was given a lot of time to speak uninterrupted. Had that person been on MSNBC he would have been cut off quickly and questioned.

I agree there's no one source for unbiased news -- you have to read/listen to a lot of sources and examine critically.


I think it's a real mistake to throw MSNBC into anything other than the "right-wing" column. Yes, they have Olbermann and Maddow, which are both good, fact-based shows with obvious and upfront ideological viewpoints, but that's overwhelmed by people like Scarborough, Buchannan, Matthews, etc. The presence of Olbermann and Maddow on MSNBC speaks mainly to that they do not want to appear to be as rightward-leaning as they actually are, and to the fact that fact-based programming, regardless of bent, enjoys a real lucrative niche.

BTW, I think people have forgotten what a "liberal" looks like if Olbermann is held up as the extreme of the left wing. Remember, America is in the middle of recovering from one of the most severe ideological swings in recent memory, and so things that previously were center or even slightly right-wing are now seen as being extremely liberal. For instance, Obama's health plan is extremely similar to that proposed by the Republicans in the mid 1990s. Point being, bias can be seen relative to the zeitgeist, from which view MSNBC etc can be seen to attempt to steer conversation rightwards by making issues such as "deficit reduction" more discussed than issues such as "unemployment." Olbermann and Maddow spend much of their time defending their own views, and rarely set the tone of the conversation.


I think in general, Americans have completely forgotten the distinction between liberal and leftist.

It also bears mentioning that the status quo before Obama's health care plan was, for the most part, proposed and enacted by leftist Democrats over the past several decades, and the maintenance of those systems has been seen as right-wing or centrist when their creation in the first place came from the left. The few actual right-wing reforms to health care (such as the HSA) are in fact weakened by Obama's reforms.


Actually I would throw both Fox and MSNBC into the entertainment column. Liberal used to describe a set of values, but now is mostly an epithet.


NPR and Fox News? More like Fox News and Comedy Central.


Haha, now come on, surely* NPR wouldn't be equal to Fox News' level of bias and sensationalism... how about NPR + HuffPost?

...okay, yeah, I don't get why NPR is in there, either.

* As surely as a non-American who just samples a lot of American media could say, at least.

[edited: I guess that came out wrong... not intended to slag off NPR. Or are people just sensitive about HuffPo?]


Certainly doesn't help to pick two right-leaning sources, anyway. I've never gotten where this whole idea that NPR is a liberal outlet comes from.


I don't know why anyone would be regularly consuming any such obviously/strongly biased sources. I'd be concerned that spending too much time amongst poor journalism and extreme views, they might just start to seem more 'normal' or 'acceptable' when they are really potentially very damaging/hurtful our (your?) society as a whole.

Certainly, sample some of it from time to time, to get a feel for what people are consuming, but there are more sensible options. For example, here in Australia I read a mix of The Age (moderate left bias) and the Australian (moderate right bias), and also sometimes the Australian Financial Review (surprisingly centrist, pleasantly free of sensationalism).


I like HuffPo but lately I've begun to feel they're a bit Fox News-y except in the other direction. Though I don't exactly think it's an evil direction to be leaning in.


I definitely enjoy some of their articles, I just singled them out mainly because they come to mind as an online news source with a clear left-lean. Still, while the politics stuff is usually well written, they bring themselves down a few notches with trash like the 'Celebrity Skin' section.

Also, the 'Living' section is full of quackery, with amazing articles like this one about how having an enema would protect you from Swine Flu: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/kim-evans/swine-flu-protect-yo...


Those claiming here that Fox news are lying bastards are probably going to be equaled by the number of people here claiming that NPR leans left. As objectively as I can observe, the real outliers (far to the left) are the entire NBC/MSNBC set of stations and Newsweek (which is about to go under anyway). Among ABC and CBS, I think the only valuable sources are 60 minutes (which can lean left) and CBS Sunday Morning (which isn't hard news, but is informative and entertaining).

Again, in my opinion, NPR <i>leans</i> left. Fox news <i>leans</i> right. And if you want to watch the NEWS programming on Fox, then it is usually accurate as opposed to the OPINION programming on Fox like Glen Beck and O'Reilly.

Surprisingly enough, the most worldly, unbiased, informed and thorough daily news sources are the Financial Times and the Wall Street Journal. Unfortunately, both of them use some combination of pay-for-service access - which changes regularly as the newspaper industry figures it out. They're both very close to centered, although the editorial boards lean left and right respectively. The big difference, however, is that both also give voice to dissenting opinions (where appropriate - on the OPINION pages) and publish well-thought-out, if contrary, letters to the editor.

Some of the other commenters are right - you need to take a look at multiple sources and discern for yourself not only where they sit on the political spectrum, but also the percentage of news to bullshit each chooses to publish.


> (far to the left) are the entire NBC/MSNBC set of stations and Newsweek

If you think NBC is far-left then you probably don't understand the left.

Far to the left is Socialist Worker. MSNBC is basically a mish-mash of bog-standard (American) liberal populists and analysts.

This is mostly new for MSNBC, because in 2001-2004, MSNBC was one of the biggest boosters of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars, with Scarborough and Carlson headlining the prime-time opinion shows. As soon as the American public lost interest in the culture war and turned against interventionist foreign policy, they started staffing up liberals.

I also disagree with FT Op-Ed leaning left. Being a socially-permissive capitalist doesn't make you a lefty.


Those claiming that Fox News are lying bastards (such as myself, though I didn't use "bastards" originally) likely are doing so because the evidence is on our side. On Fox, there is no division between the opinion and news programming, and both are riddled with so many outright lies that it is an insult to journalists to apply the word "news." To then equate that total butchering of facts with an upfront and honest ideological bias such as those espoused by Olbermann and Maddow (whom I am assuming you mean when you refer to MSNBC, as they don't really have very many liberals at all) is no more than false equivocation. Liberal-leaning watchdog groups such as Media Matters (http://mediamatters.org/) do a damn fine job of documenting and citing evidence of Fox's lies, and so I will not get into it here. Rather, my point is that there is a huge gulf between having two or three liberal hosts of fact-based shows and having an entire channel twist and abuse facts into subservience to the Republican/Tea Party.


Despite all of the conflicting research around the TP, the one thing that I'm fairly sure of is that 100% of them watch the Fox News & Entertainment.


upvoted you to counter-act what I think is a rather strong right/Fox/Repub segment among HN readers (I think, based on activity I've seen so far)


bloomberg is my favorite news source. its no bull shit and data driven.

i remember once comparing a NYT's article on apple's earnings a little while back. one had to skip past the 10th paragraph to actually discover what their EPS was and by how much they beat expectations. those figures would never be found past the first sentence on a bloomberg piece.

in general i consider it safe to read articles with goggles that filter any hint of an opinion provided by the author. i look for the numbers and the facts, the rest is just noise.


I like to read FiveThirtyEight.com, not because I care about the issues but because I enjoy seeing issues explained with numbers and statistical reasoning.


Honestly, HN is primarily my source. With the exception of some hard science and astronomy that I get from more direct sources. I usually hit msnbc once or twice a day and find nothing worthy of the name news. I dislike the layout of nytimes.com, so that prevents me from reading much there. Overall, if something hits HN it's usually of interest.


I gave up on all news about 10 years ago. If something is important, or unimportant but popular, I cannot escape hearing about it. Once in a while I buy the economist to read on the plane.

That said, I recently started reading the New York Post. There's something to be said about a really trashy, tabloid take on the news.


no such thing as unbiased news. also, no such thing as left-leaning mass media outlets. think about it: mass media implies mass funding - you need to be a corporation to be a mass media outlet. nuff said.

if you want to learn about what is happening in the world, you could do worse than start at the forums of media watch sites such as http://medialens.org (for uk-centered media monitoring) or http://fair.org (for us-centered media monitoring). from there, you can refer to the original articles in the mass media and contemplate on the validity of the criticism by the media watchers.

that way, you incorporate a critical view on the news medium right from the moment you read the news.


The Wall Street Journal. * Their opinion columns are slightly against leftist policies. I've been reading the Journal since Obama took charge in Washington, and the opinion pieces have been highly critical of the present administration. But then, anti-business sentiment among the people is high, and the present administration reflects this, so I would still say that the Journal is a great source of news AND opinion.

The New York Times, on the other hand is very much a left-leaning publication... I read it during the Bush years, and I am planning on reading more NYTimes, come November ;)

Edit: Oh yeah, forget about TV as a source of unbiased news... It's far better to go to the papers for your news :)


It's really a shame that the WSJ has gone down the toilet since Murdoch bought it. I subscribed from college until its recent decline and modulo the hilariously biased opinion pieces ("we have both sides of the story: the right-wing opinion, and the far-right-wing opinion...") it was a good source of information about what was happening in the world because its subscribers had a vested interest in getting information about what was really happening: when real money is on the line you want a no-BS, no-spin view of the world because it can cost you dearly if your news source loses its way and tries to tell you what it thinks should be true rather than what it knows to be true. Since the journal joined Rupert's empire the story quality has declined, the headlines have become less informative and more sensationalistic (even in articles that are not page one stories), and its current trajectory seems to be aiming for crash-and-burn before the decade is out.

These days if you want good daily business reporting the Financial Times is really the only choice you have.


That is a pretty harsh assessment. But I think the Journal still does a pretty good job. Consider, for instance, the repeated support of the Journal for extending the Bush-era tax brackets (that are set to expire by the end of this year, I think).

Initially, I got the impression that opinion writers at the Journal seem to have a 'no-tax' fetish... But then, it appears that many other publications are joining the Journal in insisting on making the Bush-era tax income tax brackets permanent, because all of them are of the opinion that this is essentially a pretty good stimulus policy, considering that the other forms of stimulus show no signs of improving the miserable jobs numbers.

Arguing that the Journal has gone down the toilet since Murdoch bought it is a specious argument, and I would think that it is essentially an ad-hominem attack against Murdoch. Murdoch also owns the Fox serials like Family Guy, which has a blatantly far-left viewpoint and doesn't shy away from showing it... So McFarlane and co. routinely get the question, ' How can you work for Murdoch who also owns the 'fair and balanced' fox news?', to which they answer that Murdoch doesn't interfere with their business, because he wants revenue-generators, and he is a businessman first. Of course this is an anecdotal piece of info, but I do not think Murdoch is fiddling with the Journal. And the so-called 'right-wing / far-right-wing' articles appear under the clear heading 'opinion'...

So your claim that 'the Journal has gone down the toilet since Murdoch bought it' doesn't appear to be a fair one, to me.


There's no such things as unbiased news, all news stories are written for their specific audiences across geography and culture. All news stories of the same event have different narratives, to fit according to the intuition and interests/expectations of the intended audience.

When people say BBC news or some other news is less biased (some say read Chinese news about the US). It's really because it's a different narrative that sounds new/fresh, it covers different tangents that boring local media has never went.

So just watch whatever fits your taste/ideology.But if you are out to change your perspective and encompass as many divergent views as possible.

Just go for the highest contrast, and read history.


Several years ago I read a biography on Rupert Murdoch and one thing that this book impressed upon me was how biased much of the world media is.

Based on that, the approach I take is not how to find unbiased news sources (although I still do try to find those), but to read widely and deeply and most importantly, to think! I try to read both 'liberal' and 'conservative' media to get both sides of the stories. I feel a lot of arguments could be avoided and consensus more easily achieved if more people tried to understand what the 'other side' thinks/feels ... and so I try to keep myself 'educated' by reading all sorts of media.


I agree that there is no unbiased news. Ideally you would be equally critical towards all sources. Be aware of every word you read on the page, and understand that anything could be fabricated.

As soon as you become "loyal", you're much more likely to believe them regardless of what they say.

In addition to sites others have listed, for politics mostly, I've found that these two sites are a good addition (though they're surely biased as well): http://www.factcheck.org/, http://politifact.com


Stratfor is my daily geopolitics fix. They occasionally offer $99 subscriptions, but there's a free weekly email and podcast that's a good way to get an idea of what they do.

They're not news so much as forecasting. A lot of what happens in the news now which used to seem to come out of nowhere doesn't, because I've been reading their updates on the brewing situation between countries X & Y for months.

Similarly I enjoy Foreign Policy, though they're a bit pulpy at times. Still cheaper than an Economist subscription though.


No media outlet is unbiased -- and that's fine. Whenever I read an article (especially opinion pieces) the first thing I do is check the byline and research the author a tiny bit.

I stopped watching TV years ago, and have mostly dropped radio as well. I enjoy reading news with the time to stop and think about what I just read. My main sources are (in no particular order): The Economist, NY Times, BBC News, The Guardian, NPR, and the Globe and Mail.


I now try to only follow the news for 3 or 4 days a week - no news down time is nice.

When I do follow the news, if a story interests me I try to find articles from 2 or 3 different countries to get a spread of bias - not saying that averaging always helps though.

I live in the USA, and I generally feel that our news is of very low quality. The corporate control of our news media and government is a done-deal, and that strongly effects accuracy and impartiality.


All news is biased. It is the essence of news and reporting. Whoever is recording has chosen to show you what you see and hear. If someone is telling you something it is biased.

When I'm buying a book at amazon.com, I read the One, Three and Five star review before deciding what to believe.

When I hear something on the news go to Fox, CNN/BBC and NPR/CSPAN...assuming I feel it is 'bias-able'.


I don't think there are any unbiased news source. I think the best we can do is read from several different sources and interpolate accurate news. I'm starting to feel that this method is too much work, but here's who I read:

Primaries: New York Times BBC Al Jazeera English

Skim both: Drudge Report and Huffington Post


My view is that no media outlet is completely unbiased, so I try to read as many opposing views as possible with as many facts as possible, and derive some interpretation of the truth for myself, based on as many relevant facts I can find from all sides of a debate/topic.


I watch MSNBC and Fox, and average everything together. Good first approximation of the truth. YMMV



Combination of reddit.com , NPR , bbc.co.uk , cryptome.org and off the hook. Sometimes I will watch CNN. If one thing I have learned is that there is no such thing as unbiased news. I try to get from all angles and remain skeptical.


Every story no matter the source will have its (1) Origin (2) Value (3) Limitation (4) Purpose. Keep that mind mind. Credit to the IB History Program for embedding those criteria for analyzing sources into my brain.


There is always some level of bias. If there is space for reader's comments (like here), I try to parse them because there I usually find "the other side" of the bias, then I have more to build my opinion...



I have a script that launches a browser with several tabs, for BBC, Drudge, al Jazeera (sp?), Google News, a few others. Somewhere in the mix I get to know when something or other happened.


Noam Chomsky's brief (41s) response to the question of 'best newspaper':

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9r3z1Wp6nWc


I agree with him. Here in the UK it's probably the only vaguely impartial newspaper, plus the actual news that is reported feels more important than the news reported by the rest of the UK media. Maybe it's just because there are more numbers involved.


parse out the facts like everyone says. if you already know bias exists, then you don't have too much to worry about. seeing bias shouldn't be a worry for some people, especially HN users. Here we always read and analyze everything carefully before making a decision about how to take it.

Treat all news sources the same way, it shouldn't be too bad.


NPR is not unbiased. What you will perceive as unbiased depends on your own political leanings.

For example, I consider anything left of Ayn Rand level capitalism advocacy a left-leaning bias because it's left of the truth. But other people would say that's extremely biased even though it consists of nothing but true statements. What they would call unbiased would be advocacy of some mixed/compromise economic system which is left of capitalism. Shrug.



I do not get unbiased news. I get biased news and account for the bias.


Bloomberg.com. Least biased US source I can find.


Colbert.


sad but true: the daily show

when all news is biased, at least they make their bias clear.


The Daily Show has a bias against stupidity, which both major parties have more than enough of....


bbc news is a very good ressource


I agree. BCC is legally bound to be objective


The PBS Newshour

You can watch the 1 hour, no commercial, programs online on their site. In my opinion this is the only professional national nightly news program in America. They do not lack journalistic integrity or show 'fluff' stories. Usually the program consists of 3-4 main stories where they bring on 2-3 highly qualified commentators with opposing or unique viewpoints and the discussion is moderated. At one point in the program they give a rundown of the days other stories in a brief rapid fire list, delving into more detail depending on the importance or gravity of the story.

This Week with Jake Tapper

Sunday's at 9am. Excellent and unbiased. Tapper asks really hard questions of both sides of the political spectrum. Last week he had McCain, this week he had David Axelrod. He owned them both a few times.

--------

The quality of news in this country from the main stream media is deplorable but there are a few gems out there.


I haven't settled on one yet but I know it would not be Fox News.




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