Read past rumors: Be better media consumers

Gwen Ueding | Cartoonist

By The Editorial Board

Most of our parents probably participate in the popular adult routine of starting each morning watching the news with a cup of coffee in hand. As children, we watched news channels or listened to radio stations alongside them, but those days are — for the most part — over. In the rush to get to our first class of the day, there’s not a big window to get a dose of daily news.

What seemed like such a simple routine has become a point of contention in recent years. The role of journalists and the distribution of news have turned into a highly criticized subject by the public and politicians.

Confusion sometimes arises from people who are not journalists spreading disinformation through social media or other outlets. Disinformation is “false information deliberately spread,” while misinformation is “incorrect or misleading information,” according to Merriam-Webster Dictionary.

Discovering the different sections of publications and the true purpose behind them can be confusing as well. As journalists and frequent media consumers, we want to start by breaking down the sections, because the jargon can be perplexing to the untrained eye.

In a traditional newspaper like The Baylor Lariat, there are four main sections: news, opinion, sports and arts and life.

The news section focuses strictly on reporting the news for various topics, such as Waco and national news, politics, campus, crime and religion.

The opinion section can be broken up into columns or points of view, editorials and letters to the editor, which we refer to as Lariat Letters.

A point of view is a column, oftentimes written by someone on staff, about a writer’s opinion on a range of topics.

Editorials are written by The Editorial Board — a group of appointed editors who meet weekly to pitch ideas for potential topics we can take a stance on.

Lastly, Lariat Letters are written by someone who is not on staff — either as a response to something we published or their opinion on something generally related to Baylor.

The sports section doesn’t just cover Baylor games and press conferences; it also includes sports takes, in which writers present their opinions on events, players and sports news.

Lastly, the arts and life section is a little more flexible than traditional news and often includes reviews, columns, event coverage, event previews and recommendations. Writers are also allowed to express their opinions in columns.

The division of newspapers can be overwhelming upon first glance, but knowing the differences among sections is very important in order to be a good consumer of news.

Fact checking the news you consume is also vital to be a good media consumer. This may seem like a lot of work, but it’s as simple as going to multiple outlets and reading about the same topic. If multiple sources say the same thing, then it’s likely reliable.

We try our best to produce content that is reflective of our journalistic principles, but journalists make mistakes, just like anyone else. Student and professional journalists can be given false or misleading information from sources, so it’s important to keep this in mind when reading the news.

Knowing how to detect bias in interviews, sources and links in an article is something that may take time and careful review, but it is doable. Is the article repeatedly relying on sources that lean to one side of the political spectrum? Is it presenting unsubstantiated claims that are strictly opinion? Is it using offensive or inappropriate language?

If so, it’s likely biased, and you should avoid getting news from this outlet.

Becoming a better news consumer can seem overwhelming at first; however, there are numerous ways to consume news other than the traditional newspaper or online publication.

Journalists and news outlets now utilize podcasts and social media platforms to reach a larger audience. Putting five to 10 minutes aside every day to catch up on current events through a podcast can make a huge difference in your news consumption. This can be while you are walking to class, driving to work or drinking your morning coffee.

Some popular podcasts include “The Daily” by The New York Times, “Up First” by NPR, “AP Headline News” by the Associated Press and “Global News Podcast” by BBC — all of which can be found on Spotify for free.

If you tend to consume your news mainly on social media, there is nothing wrong with that — just make sure you are getting your information from actual news sources and following multiple news outlets.

We recommend getting news on social media from the Associated Press, The Washington Post, The New York Times, The Houston Chronicle, The Dallas Morning News and The Waco Tribune-Herald.

Setting up alerts from multiple apps on your phone can also be helpful if you don’t consciously remember to check the news. Signing up for newsletters by email or turning on your news app notifications so that you can preview the content can serve as a great tool to stay informed.

The things that are trending or making headlines can be a lot sometimes, so having something more lighthearted to read or listen to is also important.

For this, we suggest checking out “Modern Love” by The New York Times for heartwarming, short love stories and “This American Life,” which covers many different topics and stories. For feature stories, check out “Humans of New York” and “Goodnews_movement” on any social media platform.

Being educated on local and global current events is a necessity, and it’s essential to be an informed citizen. Be a better news consumer for yourself.