Enlarging Your News Bubble

Enlarging Your News Bubble

Not long ago, my Californian friend Issa* told me she was surprised when her students rejected the New York Times as “too liberal.” She didn’t know what else one could recommend.

Then, Midwesterner Betsy* told me she can’t find a news sources that all her friends trust. Fellow conservatives reject BBC as too liberal, she commented, but grudgingly respect the pro-business Forbes.

New Englander Casey* believes all news, public health data, and politicians are unreliable, and votes however her close friends do.

Soren* feels like conservative laws on gender directly affect their safety, and reacts strongly against any statements that are less than fully west-coast progressive.

And New Yorker Ben* attacked a disabled veteran on my facebook feed for supporting the police and the military, telling him, “you are the problem with America! For shame!”

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It has become commonplace to observe a breakdown of trust in my country, America. It’s rare to see leaders model respect and friendship with those who differ in their key priorities, as Barack Obama and John McCain once did:

This gets even harder as we sort ourselves into like-minded clusters. As we choose the most jobs, neighborhoods, and churches most comfortable to us, we become more of what we already are. Which of course makes it harder to connect to those outside of our virtuous bubble.

We start trusting different sources, believing different data, and refusing to believe different things that would contradict our group’s commitments and values. We start to defer to the wisdom of those-like-us, and find it harder to speak up if we have an idea that differs from what we-all-know-is-true-and-good.

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I don’t have a solution to this process. But offhand, I have played with a few ways to slow it down.

1. Call Someone

Betsy* modeled connection across difference for me, so I called her when changing state abortion laws hit the national news. Neither of us “fixed” the other, but we could both share why we hold different views, why specific laws matter to us, and what we’re each doing–as a liberal and a conservative–to support and advocate for women and kids in our communities.

 

2. Host Discussions

In I Think You’re Wrong (But I’m Listening), Sarah Steward Holland and Beth Silvers share what they’ve learned from their podcast that talks opposite politics while maintaining a friendship.

(Obviously, this works best if you can both listen to each other with trust in the other person’s integrity and desire for truth—even if you’re deeply skeptical about some of their specific stances, data sources, or life choices. Feel free to politely step back if that’s not the case!).

 

3. Read different sources side-by-side.

The website AllSides shows how liberal vs. conservative news sources cover the same events. This gives me a quick sense of what my friends from another side might be reading. And it can also help balance the outrage or dismissiveness my usual sources have on any given issue.

Similarly, The Flip Side is a daily email that contrasts conservative and liberal quotes on one current issue. It helps me see angles that I wouldn’t otherwise catch, and to pause before either condemning or blindly supporting one set of political leader’s stancdes on how to solve an issue.

 

4. Check International News

When Casey told me she couldn’t trust American news, I suggested she check out news from other countries. Major world news sites often have a home page with local news, and a “world” or “international” page that includes US issues:

(FYI, the Times in Plain English is also useful for kids or adults who are learning to read in English. It has shorter, more direct sentences.)

5. Read satire websites for a laugh

Finally, if the real news gets too heavy, there’s always snark and satire. (Warning, may include cursing, crudity, etc!).

If you’re adventurous, you can even paste foreign satire website URLs into Google Translate, to see more skeptical headlines from around the world:

Your ideas: 

Have further suggestions for reading the news from a different view? Please share them below!

Thoughts? Leave a note here!