We have a major challenge in our information saturated day and age to stay informed and avoid fake news.
It is incredible and at times dismaying to realize we live in an age when there is so much information readily available and at our fingertips but we are drawn like magnets to the false and the outrageous. This is why national anthem protests supplant the Syrian Civil War or Ebola outbreak in Congo as lead stories in the news cycles.
Our 24-hour news networks don’t help matters. A couple of weeks ago on the morning after a massive earthquake hit Venezuela I posted screen shots of the home pages of CNN, MSN and FOX News to demonstrate this reality. Not one of these major news sources in the US had anything about the quake on their home page. They all featured very unique takes on the most recent scandals from the Trump administration. It was the wrong news and presented in a way to perpetuate the echo chambers our society is collapsing into. That’s just bad news and it does no service to our culture or to those of us who want to know the real facts about what is going on.
I have written posts in the past about Fake News and also how to avoid being duped by fake news. Today I want to show a very simple (and free) tool and method that can be used to stay informed and learn to separate facts from hype as we digest news in the information age. This is how I stay informed and also the tools I use to do so. I should add, I barely watch any of the news networks. This includes all of the different brands. I don’t watch the news. I intake all of my news through this method.
This Is Old-ish Technology
This is not new technology. It is an old technology. I simply apply a systematic method for intaking the news with this technology. Because it is older technology, almost every blog and web site I want to learn from can utilize this.
The technology is RSS feeds. RSS stands for Rich Site Summary or Really Simple Syndication. I could go into how these work but that is not really the point of this post. I want to show you how to use them. If there is a web site or blog that you like and want to keep track of look for a symbol on the web site that looks like one of these.
On some web sites the symbol is really prominent. I try to include it on every post at the End of History. In other web sites it is more difficult to find.
By subscribing to a web site’s RSS feed you will be sent a link to every article or post they publish each day.
I Use RSS Reader Feedly to Stay Informed and Avoid Fake News
Before you subscribe you need a RSS Reader. There are several different ones out there, all pretty good but my favorite is Feedly. Like I said, this is free. You can get a paid version that increases the bells and whistles. I’m just going over the basic version today.
For me it is important to note that I have this on my Macbook and on my smartphone. So when I go through a list of articles on one, it shows that I have gone through them on the other as well. I don’t have to repeat my wading through the same list of articles. If this doesn’t make sense now, it will after you use this for a while.
So after you set up your Feedly (or whatever RSS Reader you like). Go to the web site or blog that you want to subscribe to. If they set it up right (some blogs don’t) you should be able to just click on the RSS symbol.
When you click the RSS symbol you will be directed to a new page automatically.
The top of that web page is going show the basic info of the site you are subscribing to. The one I am showing here is what you see when you subscribe to the End of History’s RSS feed.
The bottom of the page has a sampling of the most recent posts in the feed.
And the middle of the page is where you complete the subscription process. Simply click on the logo for the RSS Reader you are using. If you are using Feedly, like I do, then click on that one.
You can also have it delivered by email per the options here. I don’t do that because I would have too much email to wade through every day. Once you click on the Feedly logo you are subscribed to that RSS Feed. Voila!
Organizing Your Feed to Stay Informed and Avoid Fake News
That’s how to subscribe to a feed. The next step is to go and choose the feeds you want to subscribe to. You will want to update this occasionally.
As you subscribe to them you can go to your Feedly page (you should be taken there automatically whenever you type in feedly.com if you have set up a username and signed in.
You can organize you different RSS subscriptions by topic and/or category. Here’s a look at how I have mine set up.
The little numbers next to the category name are the number of articles you have that are unread in that category.
Warning. If you subscribe to something like the New York Times or Washington Post you are going to get hundreds of articles a day. So you will want to limit how many of these type of subscriptions you include in your RSS Feed Subscriptions.
Also, I would avoid subscribing to things like Al Jazeera or CNN. They release upwards of a 700 posts to their feed a day and a lot of it is simply duplicate info. I find it to be a waste of time.
The System I Use to Stay Informed and Avoid Fake News
This is the system I use. Be forewarned. I’m an information and news junky. So you might want to reduce this and customize it to your own preferences.
Step 1. Subscribe to a variety of sources to stay informed and avoid fake news
I try to get a mixed bag of views and perspectives because I don’t want to be in an echo chamber. So if I subscribe to Newsweek (liberal) I’m also going to subscribe to US News (conservative). Get a mixture. They will probably report on the same issues and topics and by reading both you will be able to counter the viewpoints of each one in order to identify the actual facts of the stories.
You might want to cancel and add new fees to your subscription list every couple of months or so.
Step 2. Review Often to stay informed and avoid fake news
I try to go through my feeds every day but sometimes I can only to it two or three times a week.
I don’t read every article. That would be insane! I select the articles I want to read by right clicking on them and choosing the “save for later” option.
My objective is to read through every headline so that nothing is unread then later (usually on the weekends) I will go back through and read the articles I saved for later.
Step 3. Spotting the Counterfeits that are fake news
There’s an old anecdote about how bankers are trained to spot counterfeit currency. They are simply exposed to a lot of the real thing. When the fake shows up, it is obvious to them. They spot it and discard it.
The same things goes for this system. As you go through hundreds of headlines you are going to get a feel for what the different news outlets are reporting and also a feel for the bias and perspectives that are being pushed. When you begin reading the articles you will notice this and begin to weed out the agendas from the actual facts.
Give It a Shot: Stay Informed and Avoid Fake News
I am curious to hear how this works for you. This is what I have been doing for years. Let me know how it goes for you. Start small on your subscription count and build up slowly. Get the smartphone app too for your reader. Don’t forget to subscribe to the End of History’s RSS feed too!