Keeping up with the news these days can be exhausting, confusing and frustrating.
There’s an overwhelming amount of information blasting through news websites and blogs, social media channels, 24-hour cable stations and of course the traditional legacy media — network TV, newspapers and radio. It’s more important than ever that readers and viewers learn to sort through the noise as rapidly and effectively as possible.
How do you determine what’s true? What’s just spin by someone with an agenda? What should news consumers expect — even demand — from news providers?
As readers we find ourselves in a time when you really can’t judge this particular book by its cover — you have to look deep inside and determine whether you think the news outlet is fair, the news sources are legitimate and the information is as accurate as possible.
As journalists, we sometimes face harsh criticism of our work and an underlying rumble that we’re not to be trusted. It’s a major disconnect between how we see ourselves and how you view us.
Civil Beat is committed to restoring that trust. And we think one way to do that is to be more open about who we are and how we operate.
“Understanding The News” is our new initiative aimed at not only bringing you inside our own newsroom but also at giving you the tools you need to critically think about what you’re reading and hearing. In this section you’ll find resources and information that will teach you how to analyze a news story for accuracy and fairness and how to figure out if a news organization is independent or connected to special interests.
“Understanding The News” has a number of new components, including:
• Behind The Story: a regular column by Civil Beat editors explaining the decisions that go into our journalism and our stories (check back for the first installment later this week)
• What We’re Reading: Stories about the news industry that we found interesting and we think you will, too
• Office Hours: Our Facebook Live show that features discussions with Civil Beat staffers, airing every Friday afternoon
We actually began this effort last year. Since we became a nonprofit news site in June 2016, we’ve been inviting readers into our newsroom about once a month for what we call “Conversation and Coffee.” We have great discussions about our coverage of issues, why we do — or don’t do — certain things and what people think we should be doing differently.
At one point, someone asked, simply, “But how do I know what to believe?”
That led to three news literacy events, in conjunction with the Hawaii State Public Library System, that we organized last year. With the help of research professionals and veteran local journalists, our well-attended panel discussions tackled a variety of issues including how to navigate through the news maze, how journalists can be accurate and fair when reporting rapidly unfolding events, and why it’s important to pay attention to a diversity of sources — not just those you agree with politically.
We have more news literacy events planned, and you can find those in the Civil Beat Calendar section along with other events and public forums we’ll be holding.
Besides publishing stories and commentary on our website, we think it’s important to spend as much time in the community as we can. Our member coffees, Civil Cafes and Hawaii Storytellers are a big part of the overall effort to build trust with our audience.
“Understanding The News” is one more way we think we can help you understand the important role that a free and independent press plays in society and in a strong democracy.
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Patti Epler is the Editor and General Manager of Civil Beat. She's been a reporter and editor for more than 30 years, primarily in Hawaii, Alaska, Washington and Arizona. You can follow her on twitter at @PattiEpler, email her at email@example.com or call her at 808-377-0561.