News Sources for Economics Current Events Commentaries
The Daily Star (Lebanon)
The Daily Yomiuri (Japan)
The Globe and Mail (Canada)
The Guardian (U.K.)
The Hindu (India)
International Herald Tribune
Jerusalem Post (Israel)
The Mail and Guardian (South Africa)
The Nation (Thailand; not the same as The Nation magazine below)
National Post (Canada)
People’s Daily (China)
Sydney Morning Herald (Australia)
The Times of India
The Times (U.K.)
Non-Print News Outlets
This site compiles articles from a variety of African newspapers. When citing sources from this site, track down the original publication for bibliographic information.
British Broadcasting Corporation
Canadian Broadcasting Corporation
Christian Science Monitor (U.S.)
Los Angeles Times
Miami Herald (Good source of news on Latin America under the “Americas” tab, which is down the main page under “the grid”)
New York Times
Oregon/Eugene Regional Newspapers
The Eugene Weekly
The Oregonian (Portland)
The Register Guard (Eugene)
The Statesman Journal (Salem)
(U.S. unless otherwise noted)
U.S. News & World Report
The Utne Reader
(U.S. unless otherwise noted)
Dollars and Sense
The Economist (U.K.)
Ask your teacher for permission before using this source. Many articles already contain too much economic analysis and may make your job too easy!
Financial Times (U.K.)
Identifying and Evaluating the Perspective or Slant of a Source in Current Events Commentaries
A significant part of your grade on the current events commentaries comes from evaluation. Students often think evaluation is simply an explanation of the article’s contents, but it is much more than that. Evaluation means not just taking what you read at face value; it means questioning an author’s conclusions and arguing for your own interpretation.
In order to effectively evaluate the ideas in an article, you must first learn to identify the strengths and weaknesses of those ideas. The tips below will help get you started.
1. Consider the county in which the publication is located.
Is the source printed in a country with guaranteed protections of free speech and the press? Is it from a country with an authoritarian government? Undemocratic governments may be more likely to censor the press, pressure reporters to emphasize certain facts over others or even print outright lies. Check the CIA World Factbook at https://www.cia.gov/cia/publications/factbook/ to find out what kind of government a country has. Keep in mind that the Factbook will present the views of the American government.
Don’t assume a source is correct just because it is published in a democracy, however. In 2004 the editors of the reputable New York Times admitted in a letter to readers that they had made mistakes in reporting Saddam Hussein possessed weapons of mass destruction. These mistakes were based in part on false information that U.S. Vice President Richard Cheney supplied to reporter Judith Miller. This is just one example of how the government can distort news even in a democracy.
2. Read the publication’s self-description.
Some newspapers have an “about” link on their web page that gives insights into the publication’s perspective. The People’s Daily of China, for example, “brings you the latest news dispatches of policy information and resolutions of the Chinese Government,” according to the “About Us” link on the paper’s web site. While the paper is written to sound fair and balanced, it is in fact a “government organ,” or a government-run newspaper that gives only one real point of view. The paper may be a great resource for finding out what the Chinese government believes, but it’s a lousy way to learn the views of its critics.
3. Identify the source’s supporters.
Some “about” tabs will lead to a list of donors who support the publication. Foreign Policy magazine, for example, is published by the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. The endowment’s web site shows that it takes money from a number of large oil companies (Look under “sources of funding.”) As a result, Foreign Policy may be careful not to print stories that offend these corporations for fear of losing funding. (Foreign Policy also counts several prestigious non-profit organizations among its donors, however.)
Most publications will not rely on donors so much as advertising to pay their bills. For this reason, many publications reflect a pro-business perspective. Publications that are very critical of business overall could lose advertising revenue.
4. Read several articles from the same publication.
One article may not tell you a great deal about the publication’s perspective, but if you read the same message over and over again in different articles you can start to make generalizations. Dollars and Sense magazine might contain several articles advocating an interventionist approach to economics, for example, but one article may advocate a free market approach. If you were to read only the free market article, you would get an inaccurate picture of the magazine’s overall perspective.
5. Compare the publication with other sources and your own knowledge.
Reading the top stories from multiple sources on the same day can provide a good sense of various publications’ perspectives. A plane crash that killed 170 people in Russia on August 22, 2006 was featured prominently on the Pravda web site, but received little attention in American newspapers. Based in Russia, Pravda demonstrated its Russian perspective that day (and U.S. papers showed a disinterest in Russian affairs).
As you read, make a “reality check” against what you already know and what appears in other sources. If a publication leaves out an important fact supporting laissez-faire economics that several other publications emphasize, you may have detected an interventionist bias. You could then speculate that other information that would support a laissez-faire approach might also have been left out.
6. Look for the use of propaganda techniques
Does the author of an article use vague language, trying to convince readers without providing evidence? Does she appeal to readers’ emotions without giving hard facts? Does she give all of the arguments for one side of a debate and leave out arguments for the other side? Does she attach a negative label to a viewpoint she disagrees with? Does she commit logical fallacies?
The following article from Wikipedia on “weasel words” does a good job of explaining how authors can manipulate language to persuade readers without offering compelling evidence: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Weasel_words
7. Determine how perspective or slant could influence the article’s conclusions.
It is not good enough to identify an article as “biased” in your current events commentaries – it’s not even good enough to explain how you know the article is biased. For the purposes of this class, identifying a perspective or bias is only useful to the extent that it can help us take the next step and get closer to the truth.
Once you have figured out how a publication’s perspective might distort the real story, make an educated guess and explain just what the real story is. Go out on a limb and speculate a bit. How would additional information conveniently left out of the article change the overall picture? Would this hypothetical information support a free market or interventionist approach?
8. Don’t get stuck discussing the bias of the author
In most articles you will not notice an obvious bias or agenda on the part of the author. More important than discussing the reliability of the article itself is examining the economic concepts relevant to the article. Using information from the article, demonstrate your mastery of theory by arguing for a specific action that government, industry or consumers should take to improve economic outcomes. Or consider which people mentioned in the story benefit and which people lose out. Another option is to make a prediction about the future based on your own knowledge of economics.
The author’s bias or perspective won’t be the main topic of your evaluation. Rather, your own awareness of where the author is coming from will help you read between the lines and make insightful observations about the bigger picture. Most journalists lack a strong grasp of economic principles. That gives you an opportunity to show how much more you know than the average reporter. Good luck!