Sifting the News: What to Look for

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Sifting the News

What to Look for

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News comes in many forms these days. With the Internet more than two decades old and accessible around the planet, relying on a single television station, newspaper or a few newsmagazines is no longer the norm. Becoming your own "investigative reporter" is as close as the nearest computer.

Regardless of where we get our news, determining the truth of the information requires discerning analysis. Unquestioningly believing whatever news is presented by various media sources is no longer viable. Common sense demands a more perceptive appraisal of how human nature works.

News and noise

Important questions arise: What is news and what is just noise? News, in general, is the word we use to refer to the reports of events that have occurred in the recent past. Current events is another phrase that carries basically the same meaning, and we usually assume that most current events will be reported in a factual manner.

Noise is unimportant news (like celebrity gossip) or news that isn't presented in a completely truthful way. There is a lot of noise in this world, and people have a variety of reasons for shading the truth. Noise is also the endless array of advertisements and infomercials used to get people to think a certain way or buy a certain product. Outright lies also come under the umbrella of noise.

How can we identify the difference between useful news and useless noise?

Bias affects the news

Bias is the inclination to a certain philosophy or line of reasoning as one presents the facts of a situation. Bias is evident when certain facts are reported while others are omitted. And bias is certainly present when a reporter gives his or her interpretation of the facts.

Most news has some bias since those reporting it do so from a particular perspective. Even the Bible has a bias, being written from God's point of view. The challenge is to find news sources that share a bias as close to the biblical one as possible.

This takes a bit of detective work. Most news agencies have an Internet presence, and we can often learn much from their Web sites. Click the link named "about," "history" or "philosophy" and read the background of the founders or the current philosophy of the organization.

Reading between the lines will usually tell us the bias. If that news source's point of view is contrary to that of the Bible in major respects, we will know to be wary of its reporting and conclusions.

The importance of multiple sources

"In the multitude of counselors there is safety," concludes Proverbs 11:14, and this is also an important tool for sifting the news. Just as getting counsel about a major decision in life from more than one person allows us to determine whether each piece of advice is worth considering, checking multiple sources of news allows us a better chance of getting at the truth of a matter.

Collecting news from various sources provides a summary of the ideological spectrum in any given location. Nations provide news in different ways. Some nations have government-controlled television or radio stations, and their reporting will have a very specific slant. Sources not controlled by the government will provide a different view.

We have to keep in mind that there are people in this world who are not above reporting outright lies and proclaiming them as truth. Some do it accidentally and others on purpose, resulting in noise instead of news. That's human nature, and that's why we need discernment.

Likewise, some Internet sources or e-mails that circulate amount to nothing more than international gossip and are similarly unreliable. To get a better understanding of what is really going on, we should check our sources carefully and gather a variety of reports on the same story or issue.

Guidance from good sources

Above all, we need to ask God for discernment, wisdom and access to truthful sources. The Bible is the guide by which we determine values. News sources that respect godly values are more likely to present truthful information, but we still have to be aware of human nature. Greed, fear and anger are often used to distort information and manipulate viewers or readers.

Finally, we can ask for advice from individuals who show significant wisdom and good character—often our own family members or respected friends or elders. Their insights can help us understand what is really happening. If we apply these principles, we'll be able to wisely sift the news. VT