Choose News from Views

“Extra, extra, read all about it!” That cry once was heard up and down city streets, as newsboys in knickers sold the latest edition of dozens of daily newspapers.

“Newsies” would be stunned if they could see our world today. We can get the latest information on any topic, event or issue from an electronic box we can hold in our hands. And it seems like everybody, including your grandma, has his or her own blog.

In other words, we don’t just receive news anymore; we share in its creation. And if the news is going to be truthful, accurate and worth our precious time; we need to learn how to choose the real news from someone’s views.

That’s not to say that other people’s viewpoints have no value. Others’ perspectives matter enormously. Otherwise we’d be like the story of four blind men trying to figure out what an elephant looks like: Each of us would sense only a part of the whole, yet we’d think we’ve described the entire beast! Only when we can put all the parts together do we get a complete picture.

Once upon a time in the news biz, you could get by with writing about what’s known as the 5 W’s and an H: who, what, where, when, why and how. These days, however, our global society is so complex that really valuable news is the kind that digs deep into the “why” and “how” and gives us some “handles” on how to respond. So here’s how to choose:

First, establish a relationship with your news outlet. Read, view or listen to it daily for at least two weeks (that’s like an eternity in Internet time, but trust us, it’s worth it). What kind of content does it offer? Is it relevant to your lifestyle or business situation? Does it adequately report on your special interests, such as the local music scene or city politics? Is the content presented in a factual but lively manner, or does the content scream “look at me” (kind of like Tom Cruise jumping up and down on Oprah’s couch)? Most importantly, do the news presenters give you ways – like talking with several people or experts – to be sure what they’re saying is accurate?

Next, does your news outlet seem to have you in mind? For instance if there’s local story about an increase in the cost of city utility service, does it give you a breakdown of how much per gallon it’s going to cost your household to get water? In other words, your news outlet should make an effort not only to report the facts, but to explain them to you in ways that make sense to you.

Finally, does your news outlet include you in the process? Is there a way for you to comment on reports (especially if you find an error that needs correcting)? Can you contribute articles, photos or video?

No, we won’t all grow up to be journalists, but we all have a stake in seeing that what gets reported serves our best interests.