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My general guide to watching news

By Ernie Williamson

The Bulletin

What do you get in November’s elections when you take advances in AI that can distort reality, then add some foreign intervention and conspiracy theories along with fewer social media safeguards?

And don’t forget the possibility of criminal trials in the middle of the presidential campaign.

According to Darrell West of the Brookings Institution, you get the “perfect storm of disinformation” for the 2024 elections. He sees “many opportunities for mischief.”  

Consumers of news will need to be more vigilant than ever in determining factual and fair news from fake and false news.

Based on my 45-year career as a newspaper editor, here are some tips to help you determine if your favorite sources for news are striving to be fair and accurate.

I have offered similar tips before, but they are worth repeating as we enter a tumultuous election season.

A trustworthy source of news:

1. Makes sure stories reflect all views on the issues.

2. Ensures the accused have a chance to respond to any accusations.

3. Uses anonymous sources only when there is no other way to get the information. A story using unnamed sources should hint at why a source is anonymous (example: fear of job loss) and how the source knows the information (a person close to an investigation).

4. Writes headlines that reflect the content of a story and are not written solely to attract reader attention.

5. Clearly labels opinion pieces.

6. Corrects its errors and doesn’t try to hide them.

7. Is careful not to use loaded language. Not all politicians can be labeled right- or left-wing, fascist or communist.

8. Makes sure “experts” quoted in news reports have reputable credentials. The National Enquirer has made millions of dollars by proving you can find somebody who will express any viewpoint you want, no matter how far-fetched.

9. Uses photos that are not misleading but reflect the day’s events, not a file photo used to make a person look bad.

10.  Does not manipulate statistics and charts and knows the difference between the numbers of something happening and the rate of it happening. Chicago is often portrayed as a city with the highest number of murders, but several cities have a higher per capita murder rate.

11.  Pays attention to little things. I would read a news source that knows the difference between your and you’re over one that did not.

(Contact Ernie at Or, send letters in care of The Bulletin, P.O. Box 2426, Angleton, TX. 77516). 

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