Information, Misinformation, and Missed Information: A Decade after 9/11
I happen to think most of what Keith Olbermann says is true. But how do I know it's true? Because I get out of the echo chamber and read.
In England, during my writing residencies at the Gladstone Library, I look forward to reading the papers at the end of the day. The Library gets a number of papers; there's The Guardian, The Independent, The Times, The Telegraph. Each has its own editorial slant, its own particular focus. The Guardian, my favorite, is a lefty investigative newspaper; The Times is (or was) the paper of the Establishment; The Independent proudly flaunts its independence from any political party.
Each covers stories in a slightly different way, with a different slant, and often one helps me understand a situation in ways the others don't. If I read only The Guardian, although it is a great paper, I would miss out on other approaches and I'd fail to see what the larger debate might be about.
Read, Watch, and Listen
Likewise it's important to employ different forms of media. Although I'm a professional writer working in the fields of religion, politics, and culture, and thus I need to be a little better informed than your average bear, I've always believed it was necessary for Americans to be better informed than they are. How else can we know what to think, how to vote, what causes to support?
So I'll offer this list of news sources I consult—and I hope comments might add or debate these publications and media sources—that might offer a wealth of approaches to the news and issues of the day. I think it's important first to read news daily, at least. For me, that means consulting great newspapers: The Guardian, The Washington Post, The New York Times. I read them on the web, I don't read them in their entirety, and I do tend to focus on issues I'm following, but I always get sidetracked, and read more than I intended, and that's probably a good thing.
Since I don't watch TV news daily, I do tend to listen to the radio. In the U.S., I listen to National Public Radio, and BBC Radio if it's available. In each of these categories, an international news source helps to give a different perspective on issues. Network news and CNN might round out your news viewing, and shows like Fresh Air, The Bob Edwards Show, or Religion and Ethics Weekly might add a tighter focus on an issue or newsmaker.
Since issues often develop over days, weeks, and even months, I read newsmagazines. Every week I read Time and The Economist, and I sometimes read Newsweek and The Nation as well. I also like to read articles in the New Yorker, Harpers, and Mother Jones, magazines that do terrific investigative journalism.
I also like to watch The Daily Show, which does a great job of detecting lies and screening the news, in an entertaining way. But, as Jon Stewart would be the first to admit, it is a comedy show, not a news show, although it serves a useful function as B.S. detector.
I also watch Fox News and listen to Rush Limbaugh. Not much. But not never.
I read the National Review. I listen to right-wing talk shows, for as long as I can stand to. I read conservative blogs and articles from the Washington Times, although I don't think it's a very good paper, because there are thing in the Times I don't find in the Post, or anywhere else, for that matter.
I read articles from al Jazeera, which is actually a really fine news organization.
And in doing so I step out of my white liberal Christian ghetto and listen to the world.
I don't always like or agree with what I find out there, but I learn what concerns people, what scares people, what angers people.
And, I hope, I learn a little bit about how I might talk to them so we can get back to that place of authentic conversation and contact.
Next week, I'll talk about the other dimension of my work, reading the Bible and studying theology as they apply to the world, and I'll suggest methods and resources that may help us better come to grips with the religious and ethical problems of our post-9/11 world. Until then, my prayer for us is that the God who is the source of Truth and Knowledge will bless our attempts to know the truth so that we may serve Him better, and that we may love and forgive each other even when we understand the truth differently, for we often do.
See you next week.
Greg Garrett is (according to BBC Radio) one of America's leading voices on religion and culture. He is the author or co-author of over twenty books of fiction, theology, cultural criticism, and spiritual autobiography. His most recent books are The Prodigal, written with the legendary Brennan Manning, Entertaining Judgment: The Afterlife in Popular Imagination, and My Church Is Not Dying: Episcopalians in the 21st Century. A contributor to Patheos since 2010, Greg also writes for the Huffington Post, Salon.com, OnFaith, The Tablet, Reform, and other web and print publications in the US and UK.