Finding and Evaluating Online News Sources
The Internet has greatly expanded the access and options of news seekers. News stories are accessible to us almost immediately. We can receive updates throughout the day at our desktops.
News choices are now available that previous generations did not have. If we know the languages, we can easily read news produced in other countries. We can find news produced by non-traditional sources such as Internet news agencies which represent minority perspectives. We can even find news produced by citizen journalists.
With all these choices, come new challenges. With news from distinct perspectives so easily accessible, how do we ensure that the news we find is not just telling us what we want to hear? How do we achieve balance in the contemporary news environment? The responsible news consumer needs to be able to evaluate the news he or she encounters. Does it tell the full story? Is something left out? Is news produced by non-professionals of the same quality as news produced by professional journalists?
Finding News Sources
Many public libraries subscribe to databases which contain the full-text of newspapers -- recent issues as well as past issues. Library patrons can use these databases on library computers (and on their home computers if they have a library card). The Enoch Pratt Free Library subscribes to a wide variety of databases.
Web News Aggregation
Many sites aggregate news that has been produced elsewhere, often selecting it and commenting on it from the standpoint of a particular political perspective. Here are some examples:
This type of site usually includes a mixture of news and opinion from various sources. The Drudge Report includes scoops based on Matt Drudge’s personal ties with media insiders. The Huffington Post includes site founder Arianna Huffington’s personal blog along with blogs from Huffington’s friends. RealClearPolitics aggregates news, opinion, and poll data.
Web Only News
which focuses on national politics in minute detail, was for a time
unique in that its popular Website was the primary vehicle for the
news that its reporting staff produced. Now other Web sites, such as the conservative Daily Caller, use a similar model.
Blogs are running streams of news, commentary, images, links, data tables, and/or humor. Some bloggers blog on particular topics and other bloggers commentate on everything under the sun from the news to changing fashions of male facial hair. Most bloggers blog under the banner of established Web sites. Veteran blogger, Andrew Sullivan, is currently exploring a new model of independent blogging with subscription content.
Web Newspaper Directories/Locators
Much more common than the Politico model, are the many local, national, and international print newspapers which provide Web editions secondary to their print editions. The Web editions usually include content that is more up-to-date than that of the print editions. In fact, much of the online content is up-to-the-minute. Sometimes the online editions include "Web exclusives." Listed below are directories and locators which can help you find these Web sources:
Print Newspaper Front Page Image Files
Print Newspapers Web-Archives Links
There are Web sites which archive (or store past issues of) print newspapers. A few of these sites charge for access to articles. Listed below are links to some of these Web-archive sites:
Guides to Newspaper Repositories
Not all historical newspapers have been scanned into digital format so they can appear on the Web. But there are libraries and archives which hold historical newspapers on microfilm. Below are links to the Web sites of some of these places:
News Agency Web Sites
There are many Web sites belonging to news agencies, which
employ teams of reporters to produce news (much of which is reprinted or
rebroadcast by news outlet subscribers). Here are some examples:
News Media Web Sites
Besides newspaper Web sites, there are radio news Web sites and television news Web sites. Here are some examples:
Grass Roots Journalism Sites
Web technologies have opened-up opportunities for non-professional participation in the news business. Here are some Web sites devoted to grass roots journalism:
Perhaps the most controversial of news organizations, WikiLeaks is an international, non-profit that gathers leaked documents from whistleblowers and publishes them on its Web site and in cooperating news outlets. WikiLeaks is a good example of how the Internet has radically altered the news environment. Leaking documents is now just a matter of uploading them to the WikiLeaks site. The supporters and detractors of WikiLeaks are now fighting a cyberwar, hacking each others' sites. If the WikiLeaks (wikileaks.org) site is down, a host of mirror sites have been established by supporters to mirror its content. Killing the site is proving to be like trying to whack a mole.
Web Sources for Local (Baltimore) News
Listed here are online sources for local (Baltimore) news. These sources were pulled from several of the categories presented above.
While the Web has great potential as an information source, it also has
its pitfalls. Unlike traditional newspapers which need large
circulations to operate profitably, Web sites often serve small
audiences, whose members have similar interests and/or attitudes. They
can afford to be less balanced in the information they provide. Be
careful not to only visit sites that repeat to you what you already
think. Get multiple perspectives!
Evaluating News Sources
In evaluating news from an Internet site, the “follow the money rule” is always helpful. Where do the funds to produce the news on the site come from? Knowing the source of funding will tell you a lot about the perspective which underlies the news stories. Funding sources are probably even more important in determining news content than the backgrounds of individual reporters.
Remember news production is never totally objective. The very choice of what to focus on in news stories reveals the bias of the producer.
Also look at the sources that news sites rely on. Do sources tend to be government spokespeople? Are those in opposition to government policies and positions ever given a voice?
Press Watchdog Organizations
There are several press watchdog organizations that monitor and critically examine news sources, looking for bias, self-censorship, inaccuracy, and lack of fair treatment. Most of these organizations themselves come from a particular place along the political spectrum. Some organizations may claim to be non-partisan, but one should examine these claims carefully. Look at their funding sources. Are they funded by advocates of particular political positions? Listed below is a sampling of watchdog organizations:
Nonpartisan Journalism Study Organizations
There are some truly non-partisan news study organizations. These organizations conduct unbiased research into the news business and the behaviors of news consumers:
Journalism about Journalism
There are also journals, television programs, and Web sites which cover journalism and offer insight into the reliability of news coverage. Here are a few:
Do you have more questions about finding news resources online? Please e-mail us, call (410) 396-5451, or contact us by mail:
Enoch Pratt Free Library
State Library Resource Center
400 Cathedral Street
Baltimore, MD 21201