Basement Beat: The Bridge's 'News Bubble Swap'
I happened to read an article by the online investigative news magazine The Bridge the other day. It was about a few readers of their who had agreed to switch up their regular sources for news—swapped, in fact, with someone else’s.
Because they were on opposite ends of the political progression, there were predictable results: the things that are egregious about each group’s sources really stood out and grated against their nerves, editorial biases were annoying to infuriating, all that.
So it wasn’t ground-breaking stuff or anything. However, at the end, it gave us the chance to sign up ourselves for something similar.
It’s here, if you want to check it out: http://www.bridgemi.com/center-michigan/news-bubble-swap. They may or may not be still accepting more people into this round of exploring this topic.
I did not sign up because I think there will be something novel in my experience. As a delivery truck driver in my youth, boredom drove me to try out conservative talk radio—and other stuff, such as the classical music station, sports radio, etc. Also (sometimes with great difficulty) I have cultivated a circle of acquaintances who provide a range of news headlines beyond that which I normally see. Plus, who doesn’t have that relative who’s still complaining about the New Deal or Obama’s Hawaiian vacations.
So I know what I’m going to get. I still feel like it’s important to open myself up to it. As many readers of my column know well, I try to be a moderate in the paper, leaning liberal, of course. Personally, I’m sure I’m much more liberal than I emphasize publicly. My main news source is NPR and Michigan Radio, mainly as a way to avoid silence while driving. Online, I’ll skim headlines on Google News, but, to be honest, I don’t spend too long reading about international, national or state news; I skip quickly to science-related stuff—when’s SpaceX’s next launch, what’s NASA up to this week, how long until the James Webb Telescope launches (it’s still 2018). When I’m really bored, I’ll skim sillier headlines on Yahoo News. And I noodle around on AVClub.com to keep abreast of when the next Marvel or Star Wars movie is coming out—and for anything written by one of their senior writers, Sean O’Neal; he just satire and sarcasm up to 11 with his stuff.
It’s definitely a “ news bubble.” And it’s good to step beyond all that. The Bridge’s experiment seemed as good as any arbitrary way to go about that. Plenty of others felt the same way. According to Amber DeLind, engagement strategy director for The Center for Michigan (which publishes The Bridge), “In just one week, more than 200 people from 32 states and four countries signed up to step out of their comfort zones and experience the world through news sources with points of view different from their own.”
So, as of today (April 14) through April 21, I will be refraining from my usual news sources and tuning in from only the following sources: Glenn Beck’s radio show, the Daily Caller and The Federalist.
As DeLind described it, there were an unequal number of participants leaning right and left, so my sources were settled upon using www.allsides.com/bias/bias-ratings.
They know the matches aren’t perfect, but it’s something. “Our goal was to give you a chance to consume media and news from sites outside of your normal comfort zone,” she said.
Sounds good to me. I’ll share with you in my weekly column my observations, same as the feedback I’ll be sending to The Bridge. Catch you in a week!
"Basement Beat" is an occasional online column by Allegan County News editor Ryan Lewis.