If Twitter is your exclusive source for news—here's another quality source you might try
Millions of Americans exclusively receive the news from social media platforms like Twitter. I mean, why not, right? These platforms provide the same functions newspapers used to: news reports, editorials, long form investigations, and responses from the general public. Users engage in endless debates about the day’s events, as well as debates about the debates, which often completely overwhelm the former.
The flaw of relying on social media for news was on display November 15 during a small crisis made possible by the war between Russia and Ukraine. That day, news outlets reported that a missile had landed in Poland near the border with Ukraine and killed two people. Since Poland is a NATO ally, the incident had the potential to become severe. Almost immediately, “World War III” trended on Twitter. Hyperbolic arguments about the inevitably of global war and nuclear conflict ensued, some of those arguments being based on a report that would later be retracted. The loudest, most dramatic voices took over and held court for several more hours until it became clear that the missile was, in fact, a Ukrainian defensive missile.
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This episode seems ludicrous now, but it would have been particularly disturbing to someone exclusively relying—wittingly or not—on social media for news about the world.
Social media news has obvious benefits, but even more obvious flaws. Since each social media platform is an information ecosystem with its own distinctive themes and discourse patterns—indeed, with its own collective history and official and unofficial norms—it’s critical to cultivate sources of information that are not endemic to social media. An often-overlooked source that should be an established part of every news customer’s diet is a short curio that is older than the NATO alliance.
The World News Roundup, broadcast on the CBS Radio Network and the Audacy app, began in 1938 and has continued on a daily basis ever since. It was a pioneering radio program that distilled an entire day’s worth of stories to a 10-minute piece. The program has won numerous awards, including a Peabody Award, and has been rated the best newscast many times by the Radio Television Digital News Association. The Roundup often carries reports from leading correspondents around the world as well as brief clips from interviews and segments of CBS shows such as CBS Mornings and Face The Nation.
The Roundup is not a final source for all of the news that a person needs. It is not even the only quick news summary that is available. What this source provides is a distillation of what “the news media” is covering at any time. It is similar to a summary of AP newswires or the front page of The New York Times. But it is better than many of these sources because it flies under the radar. The Roundup has not faced the back-and-forth discussion that has targeted NPR or the Times in recent years. There have been no accusations of “liberal bias” or obsessions over headlines. That’s allowed it to carry on, undisturbed by the culture war acids that have left so many other discourse platforms in ashes.
One limitation of social media news is its algorithmic spotlight will be directed by the interests of its most committed users. If that happens to be a younger audience who are more susceptible to hyperbole such as, say, the kind displayed in the Polish missle debate … that’s not a feature you want in your exclusive news provider. The World News Roundup, by contrast, gives listeners a fresh perspective that they may not hear if they’ve spent all day refreshing a famous journalist’s Twitter feed.
Listening to the World News Roundup will not solve our current news problem on its own, of course. News companies have to find the right mixture of subscriptions and advertising that will make their businesses profitable. They must find a way to appeal to a wide audience while also fairly and ethically reporting on the news. But one step we can take to give the news an incentive to do good in the world is to patronize more old-fashioned sources of news, even if those sources only give us a few minutes of stories at a time. A daily listen to the World News Roundup may help shift the incentives of the news business while also giving the social media generation a different perspective.
Since Twitter is not a neutral public square flawlessly restricting its discussions to what is most newsworthy, it should never be your exclusive news source. The Roundup is just one supplementary option out of many. The idea isn’t to rack up download numbers for the Roundup specifically—the idea is to cultivate a well-rounded selection of sources, ultimately giving you the best possible shot of forming an accurate picture about what’s going on in the world.
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