You’ve heard doctors and diet gurus say “garbage in, garbage out” when it comes to eating. The same goes for your political diet.
Welcome back to our Greener Grassroots Activist Fitness Plan. This week, we’re concentrating on our diets.
Stop sighing, out there; I heard you. I promise, you won’t have to give up bread, or eat kale or drink vinegar (unless you’re into those kinds of things). No, we’re going to focus on your information diet – the kind of media you consume every day.
If you recall in our assessment from last week, we looked first at identifying the topics that interest you (and don’t interest you), how much you know about them, and how much of an impact you think you could make on them. (If you missed the assessment, jump back to THIS POST and catch up.)
If you’ve completed Section One of the assessment, you should have a clearer idea of the issues that motivate you, and for which you’re ready to go to bat. You should also be able to gauge whether you’re reasonably knowledgeable about each issue, enough to take action. Notice that Section Two begins with a question about your news sources: Where do you currently get most of your news/information from?
In answering that question you probably listed a few news sources, maybe some social media platforms, possibly television channels or radio programs. You might even have magazines or newspapers in the mix. If you utilize it regularly to form your knowledge and opinions, it should be on the list. Take a minute to go over your answer, and add items or sources you might have left off before.
Now we’re going to take apart the list and categorize it. Reclassify the information sources you listed based on the following categories:
- News Sources v. Opinion Sources
- I Usually Agree With v. I Usually Disagree With
- Very Popular Sources v. Less Popular Sources (as measured by ratings etc)
- Issue-specific v. General News
- Regional v. National
- National v. International
I started a sample here:
When you’re done you should have a set of five lists; the lists should have helped you put each of your information sources through a quick analysis to determine where most of them lie. This will allow you to identify any shortcomings in your media consumption. Don’t worry about making every answer fit on one side or another, either. Some sources are going to contain both news and opinion, for instance, so you could classify those more in the middle.
Look for patterns in your answers:
- Are you taking in more opinion than news?
- Are you seeking out more sources that confirm your views, or exposing yourself to sources that challenge your thinking?
- Are you monitoring sources that report on your issues?
- Do you focus on watching/reading what the majority of people around you do?
- Do you pay attention to events outside your region or your country?
Once you’ve identified patterns that might be limiting your information intake, you can look for ways to expand the channels you use. For instance, if you’re interested in education advocacy but don’t have many information sources, you can begin looking for think tanks, advocacy groups, and other sources that cover education issues thoroughly. Or if you’re passionate about poverty, you can add more sources that deal with poverty information, statistics, and work programs to your diet. If you consume a lot of information from opinion sources, you can balance that with more straight news outlets. If you have way too much media that confirms your bias, you can start looking for sources of other views that will expose you to more ideas, as well as help shore up your own views in comparison.
By the way, I have a small present for you. If you use Twitter but you find that following good news sources is difficult, I’ve developed a Journalist/Media Types list that you can follow. It contains nearly 800 sources of local, national, and international news sources and reporters, and is a great source for information from people who are out developing the stories you’ll see and read. If the link works, you can follow the list HERE; and if not, you can pick it up from my profile HERE by clicking on ‘Lists’.
One caveat, while we’re at it. More and more people are falling victim to ‘fake news’ stories. While I’ve addressed it already, be sure that you’re a vigilant consumer of news. Developing the habit of news skepticism is vital to your credibility as an activist. You can start by running most everything through this metric on How to Spot Fake News.
I really hope you spend some time contemplating your information sources, and I’d love to hear what, if anything, you changed about where you get your news. When you know more about how you get your news and information, you can adjust your feed to add information that’s more useful, relevant, and balanced to your news diet.