On being informed: Faithful living in the Trump era, part 5

Ted Grimsrud—December 12, 2016

My approach to gathering news and information about the world is pretty haphazard. I have not put much time into self-consciously seeking out the best sources. More, I notice some sources that I find helpful and connect with them. In this post, I will simply list what I find helpful. I invite anyone who has additional ideas to share them in the comments.

I don’t offer this out of any sense of expertise on my part. But it is possible there are some sources here that might be new to a few people. In these times, we need to share our thoughts and resources and not worry too much about whether we are profound enough. What I offer here is simply a response to my wife Kathleen’s question: How do you stay informed?

I’m far from being a news junkie. I have pretty much eliminated television and radio from my life. Partly, I find those media to be more conducive to manipulating the watcher/listener.

I used to read corporate media regularly—Time or Newsweek, New York Times, Washington Post. And longer ago I listened to NPR. But I increasingly felt like I was being shaped by them in ways I didn’t like, even if I partook of them critically. I was reminded of this during the primaries this year when I read the Post a lot. I found the pro-Clinton bias quite subtle but relentless—and off-putting.

Now, I try to stay aware with a wide mix of written sources, mostly accessed randomly.For starters, though, to help my convictional framework, I read as much as I can from a core group of thinkers who I trust. This is partly for their information, but maybe even more to reinforce a sense of critical awareness. Some of the key people for me are Noam Chomsky, Naomi Klein, and Cornel West. I greatly respect their values, their knowledge and intelligence, and the breadth of their visions for human wellbeing.

I get emails from numerous sources that I scan over quickly. And I do mean “scan.” I never spend more than a few seconds on an email except when, occasionally, I seem something I want to read more thoroughly. Not very sophisticated, but I find this approach useful.

As I put this list together, I realized that I don’t know of any sites from an overt faith perspective other than Tikkun. I would love to learn of more….

Twenty-five informative sites:

Democracy Now

Journalist Amy Goodman is the heart and soul of this multimedia resource. The main production is an hourly TV/radio news show every weekday morning. This show features reporting of key events, analysis from a progressive political perspective, and regular in-depth interviews with important newsmakers and analysts. The website is terrific; it offers written transcripts of each show, a comprehensive video archive, and additional footage beyond what makes the main show. And, no commercials!

The Huffington Post

I don’t actually read very much from this site, though I am glad for its existence. One service I appreciate is email alerts throughout the day on breaking news of import. There is a progressive sensibility in the reporting, so it’s a nice alternative to more mainstream sources such as the Washington Post and New York Times.

Tom Dispatch

A source of excellent longform analyses. Several times a week, essays are published taking a deep look at some current issue, often related to “national security.” The site is resolutely anti-war and anti-empire. Writers include former military people such as Andrew Bacevich and Ann Jones, hotshot reporters such as Nick Turse and Jeremy Scahill, and superstar thinkers such as Noam Chomsky and Naomi Klein. The editor, Tom Engelhardt is a national treasure. A nice bonus is that a regular writer, Rebecca Gordon, is a theologian.

FAIR

A small but mighty newsletter that offers sharp critiques of the corporate media (especially the NY Times, Washington Post and the TV networks—and PBS and NPR). Many of these critiques are devastating, and they show that the “liberal” media serves a corporate agenda and a pro-establishment agenda. By reading FAIR, I feel at least somewhat inoculated against the subtle dynamic of “manufacturing consent” that the pro-Empire propaganda of the corporate media plagues us with.

Truthout

One of three news and analysis aggregating sites I subscribe to (see the next two notes as well). They have some original work, but also link to writings from various sources. The general orientation is leftish. A helpful way to stay current and to have some kind of filter that identifies important reporting.

Common Dreams 

See comments above under “Truthout.” I don’t play close enough attention to the differences among these three sites to say what is distinctive about each. There is some overlap of articles among them, but not enough to make me not want to keep reading all three.

Reader Supported News

Ditto in relation to what I wrote in the above two notes. As a rule, it seems as if all three draw pretty heavily on mainstream newspapers, especially the Post and Times. And they seem a bit credulous in repeating Democratic Party talking points.

Tikkun

The one overtly religious site in this list. I love the sensibility of Tikkun, the voice of the Network of Spiritual Progressives. I’ve been reading the hard copy journal since it started around 30 years ago. Rabbi Michael Lerner has done terrific work over the years in providing an education on the peaceable elements of the Jewish tradition and equally terrific work at giving voice to the peaceable elements of other faith traditions.

Yes!

A unique and most welcome voice among progressive political sites. As the title indicates, Yes! focuses on “good news”—communities and strategies that work to bring about social healing and transformation. However, this is not a superficial, cheerleady approach. The analyses are hard-hitting and the sensibility is quite realistic about the depth of brokenness and resistance to change that we face.

The Nation

An important and venerable publication that continues to fight the good fight of critique and advocacy from a left-liberal perspective. I read the weekly magazine in hard copy, but the website is also solid and goes far beyond the magazine’s articles. It is largely an asset that a variety of perspectives within that broad rubric “left-liberal” is included—though sometimes there is a kind of smugness in some of the more “liberal” and “realistic” voices that I find irritating. Consistently anti-war—the Nation passed a key test for me in opposing the attacks on Afghanistan shortly after 9/11 (unlike many other “liberals”).

Consortium News

For many years this was a kind of one person shop featuring in-depth reporting and analysis from Robert Parry. In recent years, the stable of writers has expanded. These tend to be longer analyses, along with some original reporting. The focus is on national security issues and the stance is rigorously critical of American warism.

Counter Punch

A fascinating site and hard-copy publication that I have only recently been more attentive to. The general stance is consistently a bit to the left of many of the cites mentioned above. The writers often are academics who likely identify themselves as Marxists or Socialists. So they tend to more critical of the Democratic Party than some of the other cites. The tone tends to be a bit adversarial, but I am finding the vast majority of pieces to be well thought through.

The Intercept

A fairly new entry into the alternative media arena. Features the writings of two of the sites co-founders, Glenn Greenwald and Jeremy Scahill, among others. These are some of our best anti-imperial reporters. They often cut through the propaganda of the Empire that even some very intelligent progressive analysts too easily accept.

Jacobin

Another newer publication taking a consistently leftish, anti-imperial stance. Tends to be more academically-oriented than most of the other sites I’m mentioning here. I have not looked at it that often, but the pieces I see tend to be solid and helpful.

In These Times

I mention this site and the following two mostly in homage to their past contributions to my understandings. I used to subscribe to all three as hard-copy magazines in years past. However, I have kind of lost track of them in more recent years. They do have websites that I expect would reward attention. In These Times was (and presumably still is) especially strong on labor coverage and provides a nice alternative to the East Coast-centeredness of many of the sites I mention here.

The Progressive

Note the above comment. Historically, The Progressive has been especially strong in its coverage of peace movements and its critiques of warism. It is, like In These Times, a midwestern publication, being free from the New York City bubble.

Z Net

The publishers of Z Magazine. These folks have tried to create a wide-ranging community of the Left. Set in Boston. Worth checking out.

The New Yorker

This and the following four sites are all representatives of the corporate media. I believe they should all be read critically (not meaning to imply that the other sites above should not also be read critically; the difference, it seems to me, is that we read the progressive media critically in relation to clearly expressed commitments whereas we read the corporate media critically in relation to more subtle pro-status quo commitments). None are devoted to social transformation in the same sense as the above sites. The New Yorker does regularly publish some excellent reporting, especially by writers Jane Mayer and Elizabeth Kolbert. Many of the other writers, including editor David Remnick, are often smug and condescending in their subtle pro-establishment sensibilities. The website provides daily commentary on breaking news.

The New York Review of Books

I love to read this magazine for educational purposes. The writing is kind of high generalist, mostly written by academics but accessible to non-specialists. It’s a way to stay in touch with today’s intellectual currents. The political orientation is generally liberal, kind of genteel Ivy League. This is often frustrating, but if one expects such a sensibility, one can learn a lot from the articles. The website includes some, not all, the articles from the print version, as well as a few shorter pieces responding to daily events.

The Guardian

I just started subscribing to their news bulletins. Probably a more trustworthy mainstream source than the Times  or Post in that the Guardian is not in thrall to the American Empire in the same way. In the post-election days they gave voices to great North American thinkers such as Cornel West and Naomi Klein who not have been welcomed in the US corporate media.

The Washington Post

I am not a fan of the Post. It’s editorial page is predictably pro-war and many of its reporters reflect a strongly pro-establishment bias (under the guise of being “neutral”). But getting the daily bulletins is a good way to keep a eye on the establishment’s thinking and it is a good way to be aware of breaking events.

The New York Times

The Times is a bit less problematic than the Post. The editorials are often good, and some of the regular op-ed writers are worth following. Some of the reporting is solid, of course, though the pro-establishment bias is strong (the work of FAIR, mentioned above, is indispensable for protection against the tendency to be too credulous concerning the Times). It’s worth the trouble of signing up for the various email bulletins to get a sense of what’s happening in the world as filtered through the ideas of the world’s most influential newspaper.

The American Conservative

I can’t say much about this site yet. I just discovered it and signed up for regular emails. My sense is that it is intelligent and perceptive in many ways—the farthest thing from being a mouthpiece for the Republican Party or corporate capitalism. There does seem to be a clear anti-warism element, at least among some of the writers. It strikes me as a useful thing to be aware of possible connections that might be made between the “right” and the “left” in the days to come.

KPFA

I include this site at the urging of Kathleen. KPFA is a radio station, not a publication. The resources here are audio, not written. I actually only rarely visit it because I’m mostly a reader. But the station and the site are great resources. Along with live streaming, the site contains archives of many terrific shows—reporting, analysis, interviews, from a broad set of progressive sources. The radio station is in Berkeley, CA, so there is an emphasis on Bay Area issues. But it has a national and international focus as well. A great source of podcasts.

Facebook

Perhaps it goes without saying, but I find Facebook a helpful resource. I have several friends who regularly post links to materials I would not know about otherwise. Whatever else one might say about the addictions and cheap pleasures of Facebook, I have also found it to be the source of a lot of useful information—and occasionally enlightening conversations.

[This is the fifth of a series of six posts reflecting on the election and its aftermath. The first post was “What happened?” The second post was “What to expect and what to hope for.”  The third post was, “The book of Revelation and America’s election.” The fourth, “The book of Revelation on living in Empire.” The sixth post will be “Ten books for a radical Christian sensibility.”]

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13 thoughts on “On being informed: Faithful living in the Trump era, part 5

  1. Great list Ted! Most are ones I read regularly or at least check out for particular writers and subjects. I always tell people that it is imperative that we get our “news” and even more our analysis from alternative sources rather than rely on mainstream media for anything more than cursory news updates. However, there are some good journalists in mainstream media. One source I really appreciate and follow closely for the range of its political analysis is the Brookings Institute, which is a centrist scholarly source but has some great scholars and analysts. I also recommend Sojourners and Christian Peacemaker Teams, both of which I have long been close to and know very well. Other peace sources are Pace e Bene, Voices for Creative Nonviolence, and Waging Nonviolence. Weldon

  2. Thanks for this informative list! I’ve gotten a few good suggestions from it, and confirmation on a couple I’ve not followed much yet. I don’t have specifics to add, but one blog syndicate that can help one readily focus in on various angles pertaining to religious issues and news is Patheos.com. I have long followed various blogs housed there, some well researched and written and some not, so it’s certainly not an automatic, even within one’s preferred category.

    Another, which I get daily email links from altho I don’t often check on them, is Pew Research (.org), especially the religion section (Pew Forum).

    I personally DO get a lot of my general news from NPR, given that my job involves a lot of driving and if I get it then, my reading time can go more to deeper interests. I also wish to “stick up” for NPR and my local public station KPBS) which uses its content mostly. While your general critique may have validity as to overall bias, I don’t experience much of their reporting or programming as seeking to ignore or undermine conservative issues, political figures, etc. In fact, I’d say they are one of the best in my experience (radio or TV) at letting each interviewee have ample time and not be fed “gotcha” questions or be cornered/badgered. Interviewers there are almost always very respectful and professional, although they do often ask hard or confrontive questions, but seemingly equally of “liberals”, “conservatives” and others.

    One of their weekly hour-long programs I find especially informative is “On the Media” (about media). It is often reflective on themselves and the broader “mainstream media”, sometimes critical, as well as they are of media outlets and processes by those to the right of them. I get more in-depth and informative things here than anywhere, including the talk-shows which have time and freedom to dig into virtually anything. (I purposely listen to right-wing talkers a fair amount, trying to see if they do have new or deeper info or can make a valid case for some of their positions and perspectives (which I find they very seldom can).

  3. P.S. to my comment: This is not a general but very specialized site focused on just one issue and related ones: what brought down the 3 (three) towers on 9-11 in NYC. It is by professional architects and engineers, the site/organization founder and virtually all the others coming to the issue WITHOUT any preconceptions (except tending to accept the “official” explanation). It is http://www.ae911truth.org.

    For years they dealt with no more than the science involved, and they still tread very carefully on anything beyond that. But I’d say they represent the tip of the spear re. the latest version of our military-industrial-national-security complex. If the 9-11 case could be broken open, it just MIGHT provide the insight and a set of indictments that could make a real difference.

  4. Howard, re. NPR, I appreciate your nuanced comments, even though I generally endorse Ted’s more critical approach. My primary focus in recent years has been U.S. imperialism, and because NPR is awful in that regard, I stay away from NPR. My wife’s interests are more broadly focused, and she listens regularly, sometimes to the evening news and especially on Saturday afternoons to “On the Media” and other such fare.

    Thank you too for your reference to Architects and Engineers for 9/11 Truth. Surprisingly, it is rare to hear from a “progressive” who is curious about the basic science of events that have so fundamentally shaped our lives and times. But such strange creatures exist and (we) need to find one another.

    1. Thanks for the comment, Berry. I take it you’ve followed AE911Truth.org some? They are far from the only science-based investigators of 9-11, but probably the largest and most activist; and a sort of “clearing house” for related scientific and engineering issues on 9-11 and the aftermath.

      As to the last part: I am naturally oriented toward the sciences, tho only deeply into the social sciences/theology. But as to 9-11, I respected and applauded the AE911 approach as soon as I discovered it several years ago. It leaves only hard data and good observation/investigation of mainly photographic and materials evidence to “argue with”. Therefore it more purely exposes who and where people are resisting a knowledge of what actually happened. And they recognize the emotional barriers for many to even face the scientific evidences and their implications. So, among their many archived materials, they have a good series on the psychological barriers to looking at and/or accepting the facts.

  5. your list seems overwhelmingleft leaning. I try to gather news from both sides of the spectrum for more balance. Only one or two conservative leaning outlets on your list.

    1. Linda, if you can name a couple of conservative news sources that you feel are the best, I’ll certainly check them out. Personally, I’ve gradually moved, as to general political as well as theological alignment, to much more progressive with continued deeper study, reflection, observation over the years. But I purposely listen (not much reading, which you might direct me to) to conservative sources on radio… quite a few, both local and nationally syndicated. I want to know what I may be NOT getting or getting misconstrued from the “mainstream” side or avowedly more liberal sources. It’s extremely meager fare and usually not emotionally healthy (emotional/mental health being much of my 2 main fields of study – psych and theology).

      I HAVE actively looked, though not extensively, for either solid news reporting or deeper analysis of domestic and world affairs from a conservative perspective or source. Almost no luck so far. Certainly not Fox News on TV. Certainly not any of the “big name” national talk show hosts, who are way more biased and non-objective, in nearly everything I hear from them, than are the mainstream outlets they criticize almost continually (while using their basic reporting facts, generally).

      I can’t find any intellectually deep and honest sources such as Wm. F. Buckley used to be among conservatives. Certainly not Krauthammer, nor Kristol, nor Douthat, nor D’souza (how in the world HE got “elevated”, I cannot figure out!), etc. I’m sure I’m forgetting others of some prominence that I HAVE given a “hearing”. I also imagine there are some lesser-known “lights” unfamiliar to me who may have consistent deeper thought, but just the fact that they are not much known seems to bespeak the intellectual bankruptcy of current populist conservatism. Feel free to set me straight if I’m missing important things… truly… that’s not sarcasm.

      1. Howard, I expect Linda will reply, but quickly I encourage you to wander over The American Conservative website and read from the offerings of the writers there. Generally speaking, they are anti-imperialist in perspective.

        Just today, Rod Dreher posted a column “The Dark Benedict Option” that I can almost promise you will find worthy of your time and thought.

      2. Thanks Berry, I won’t be able to right now, but try to in the next 24 hrs.

        I guess my larger point, just hinted at before, is that if a person who stays reasonably informed and understands the “echo chamber” issue on all parts of a spectrum (esp. the outer poles) has to go searching and/or asking around for thoughtful, in-depth conservative analysis, it seems to say that there may not be nearly as much of it around as there is the counterpart on more “liberal” side. There’s more I could say re. this from my long background in Evangelicalism (and NOT the most anti-intellectual branches) about the skewing “left” of education being at least a good bit “allowed on purpose” by religious conservatives.

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