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Know News

:

1. The News Environment

A guide to reading (and sharing) news in the "post-truth" world.

Information Pollution in the News Environment

collage of online news logos and headlines, and social media logos.

You can help slow the pollution

  1. Stop: Don't let your anger or moral outrage or an endorsement of your beliefs con you into sharing information pollution.
  2. Read: Read the whole article, not just the headline. Who wrote it? Who published it? What are their purposes? Are claims supported by evidence? What's the ratio of pollution to solid information?
  3. Think: What's the benefit of sharing this? Will it deepen dialog? Will it further entrench and polarize?

How do you sort out...

  • real or fake?
  • ads & propaganda or honest information?
  • my own bubble or my own open & critical thinking? 

This guide tries to help you make sense of the whole picture. The news environment has 3 big areas:

  1. Reader/Sharers
  2. Publisher/Broadcasters
  3. Web Giants

You are an important part of this environment, both as a reader and as a sharer.  You want to read and share real news, right? Not information pollution.

Use this guide to learn more about the three areas of the news environment, and find tools to help you account for how each one of these areas affects the quality and accuracy of the news you find and share.

Reader/Sharers

Twitter generic profile image, aka "egg and gumdrop"This is you. You have roles and responsibilities both in consuming and distributing (sharing) news, as do your friends and other social media connections. This is also the President of the United States, congressmen, presidents of corporations, actors, authors, celebrities, bots, journalists, government offices, rogue government offices... all with varying degrees of influence and reach.

Publisher/Broadcasters

Logos for The Washington Post, Mashable, and Weekly World News

This is the old media industry continuing in print, radio, and television and adapting to online spaces: The New York Times, CNN, Fox News, iHeartMedia. This is also the new media industry creating new news spaces: Huffington Post, Breitbart News Network, Mashable. It's also mis- and dis-information: Infostormer, news4ktla.com, weeklyworldnews.com. In a nutshell, this is journalism: an industry that reports stories and packages and sells them to make advertising revenue. News businesses participate--some more, some less--in ethics that separate money sources or political goals from the reporting.

Web Giants

logos of facebook, google, youtube, and twitter

These are the big entities that move news content to you by sharing and via algorithms: Facebook, Google, YouTube, & Twitter*, and the clicks that drive advertising profits. These companies have invested less than traditional news media in ethical questions of how profits affect information distribution. When you click a link, fractions of a penny go from a web advertiser to a web giant, and the click is added to a profile of you in a database. Your web environment gradually adapts to your profile, click by click turning the web into a mirror of your own inclinations and preferences, so that you will be more likely to stumble on links you will click. Remember, if it's free, your attention is the product.


*Other social media entities also have a big share of our attention: Instagram, Snapchat, Pinterest, LinkedIn, & WhatsApp. However, how people use news on these sites has only just begun to be explored, and very few studies or articles are available as of Fall 2018.

Looking for the old News Know-How guide?