I’d be willing to bet that many people are kind of sick of hearing people like me bemoan the decline of journalism, how the media is generally partisan garbage, and may even make you dumber. “What is the alternative?” they may reasonably ask. “Just sit back and be content not knowing what’s going on in the world? That sounds irresponsible.”
Quite so, and a reasonable complaint… in response to another (in my humble opinion) reasonable complaint about the state of modern media. But the dichotomoy is a false one, because there is a third path, which is to follow actual journalists who do real work.
An example: my love of Christopher Hitchens — who entered the field of journalism because he himself did not trust the papers, and wanted to learn things for himself — was for the man, not of the various publications he wrote for, which included The Nation, Slate, and Vanity Fair, among others. I actually can’t recall a single article I’ve read from The Nation or Vanity Fair that was not penned by the Hitch. My trust was not in the organization, but in the author.
If people feel as if they must choose between FOX news/MSNBC/CNN/NPR/whatever and nothing, it is because they forget that they can follow individual journalists who have earned reputations for honesty and gritty pursuit of the most relevant facts related to the story in question.
Different journalists cover different kinds of stories, so if you are interested in tech news, or the latest scientific research, or archeological discoveries — all of which are outside of my own subjects of interest — then you will, unfortunately, have to do some research on your own. Such is the price of quality.
But if you are looking for examples of quality journalism in the realm of American politics or foreign affairs, two examples jump immediately to my mind.
The first is Tim Pool, who has been doing great on-the-ground coverage of major political events since the days of Occupy Wallstreet. He is a remarkably objective and thoughtful commentator too, who offers all of the sorts of analysis that pundits ought to give, with none of the spin and overreach that they more frequently offer instead.
The second is Lauren Southern, whose travels to Africa and Europe, in conjunction with a rare interest in actual arguments, rather than political loyalty, makes her well-produced videos both informative (accurate information) and educational (interesting perspectives).
Obviously, Hitchens, Pool and Southern are people, liable to making mistakes and to personal biases. But I think at the back of our minds, we’re aware of this with individual people, in a way that we aren’t — at least not in the same way — with corporate organizations. We can account for it, and in keeping our eye out for mistakes, become more critical observers ourselves, rather than just accepting consumers of whatever the daily news channel of habit has to offer.
In any case, most journalists just pull from Google and Twitter anyways. Their analysis is the linguistic equivalent of re-processed pink slime, and is probably worse for you than the dietary kind. Why choose that, when you can have grass-fed, organic stories of real journalists in the field?