How to live in a world of post-truth media.

Political Leaning of different news sources in US. (Source: Business Insider, 2014)

Living in a post-truth world is problematic; the same thing is reported differently in different media sources.

Adding to the problem, our Facebook and Twitter timelines are just echo chambers fulfilling confirmation biases.

The trust in mainstream news media is declining, and rightly so; but it’s important to realize that they must still be preferred to alternative media. Let me explain:

Every media outlet has biases; each one of them misreports the news sometimes. That has always been the case. The difference is that now with the advent of Twitter, internet, and social media, it’s much easier to debunk the false stories- which have led to a decline in trust.

But why does the decline in trust lie mostly on the mainstream news? Their news gets debunked more than alternative media. Why are there more instances of debunking in the mainstream media? Because:

1. They have a larger reach than alternative media. The higher the number of views of a news article, the higher the chance for the misinformation in it to be pointed out.
(A viral fake news has a better chance of being debunked than fake news in obscure sources)

2. They have a much more diverse reach than alternative media. The more diverse the type of viewers, the higher the chance for the misinformation to be pointed out by a group not suffering from confirmation bias on that issue.
(Fake news that targets immigrants will most likely be debunked by liberals, while fake news that supports higher taxes will most likely be debunked by libertarians)

Believing that you’ll find an outlet that is totally true and unbiased- is utter bullshit. The only thing one can do is follow those sources whose bullshit is much more likely to be debunked. It’s important to choose mainstream media as sources- and treat alternative media only as watchdogs on those sources.

Never believe any news story reported by the alt-media, but do read their reports and analyses on existing popular news reports by mainstream outlets.

This solves the problem of fake news- but what about news that outlets choose not to cover?

The solution lies in following a diverse group of outlets to get informed on most topics. So, tell your liberal friend to follow Fox News too, along with MSNBC/CNN- it is important to debunk their falsehoods, and watch them to know what the other side thinks.

As always, the best way to reduce risk- in this case, the risk of being uninformed- is diversification.

Edit: This is not meant for Indian media. Mainstream Media in India is largely sold out and the freedom of journalists is declining, evident in the country’s drop in Press Freedom Rankings. And the alternate media too isn’t exactly a paragon of honesty.