Good news, bad news, boring news, sensational news- it’s all in thousands of newspapers published in print and online daily, weekly, and monthly. But since you can’t read them all, whatever should the aspiring mind do? Are there some guidelines that might guide you through the avalanche of news available at the local newsstand and on the information superhighway.
Furthermore, there is more to reading and learning than newspapers right? Of course. There are journals, websites, blogs, etc. So allow me to introduce you to rule #1 of the 10 Weeks to an Intellectual Transformation program and how it applies to a broad range of sources- mostly by introducing you to a broad range of sources.
Rule #1. If you aren’t reading things that might get you on an FBI list you probably aren’t reading enough.
Well maybe I should explain a bit. I DON’T mean that you should run out to your local library and check out all the books you can find on becoming a survivalist, joining a militia movement, and how to make a bomb. What I DO mean is that you should have a broad and diverse reading list that transcends the mainstream media that embraces both right and left and truly radical. My inbox receives daily or weekly updates from Townhall.com, HuffingtonPost, FrontPageMag.com, PrisonPlanet, and LewRockwell.com. Moreover, I get daily and numerous emails from Beliefnet featuring insight and advice for Buddhists, Hindus, Jews, Muslims, and Christians. My internet navigation bar wanders from the Drudge Report to the New York times, from the Wall Street Journal to Sojourners. If someone tried to guess my political leaning by the internet sites I visited they would be utterly confused and most likely would throw their arms up in frustration- assuming me to be some odd non-politically aligned beast. Now if they read my blog that would be another story. But the point is simple (and bears strong emphasis):
Information intake should be both diverse and broad. You should be open to wrestling with contradictory values, reasoning through the implications of our most dearly held values, and trying even the most beloved of our ideas. However, once you are done wrestling with this new information- and pardon me for continuing the analogy- and the idea is now pinned to the mat, you should be able to come to some conclusion- the equivalent of raising your arm in victory over a vanquished foe. Despite what you might have learned at college, not all ideas are of equal value. Don’t be afraid to take a stand at the end of the day based on what you’ve researched and observed.
So your homework is to take some time and seek out a website that ideologically contrasts with your beliefs. If it deeply offends you- especially if you are the type easily offended by those who politically disagree with you- even better.
What’s in it for you?
- You will be able to argue your own side of the issue better when you know how your opponent argues and reasons through the same issue.
- You might actually learn something about yourself, like maybe you were wrong- perhaps you don’t really think the minimum wage is a good idea? Maybe you were wrong when you said, “The invasion of Iraq is a smashing good idea!”
- If you are the type who refuses to discuss political disagreements in a civil manner (I am talking to you “Buck Fush” types), maybe you might discover the humanity of those who disagree with you. And perhaps, just maybe, you will be able to sit down and share a beer, a latte, or a carbonated beverage with someone who thinks that G.W. ain’t so bad. Same goes for you Bill Clinton haters.
Where to get Started…
You might be pleasantly surprised to discover that some of the best places to start out can be found online and they are often free! Good resources include newspapers, junction websites, magazines, journals, groups, and misc. publications by advocacy groups. Each has different pros and cons, but all can play an important role in exercising your brain. Let us walk through each source one-by-one and review their pros and cons as well as representative sources that can provide you a shortcut to a helpful reading list.
Newspapers: Good news, there are tons of great newspapers out there. Bad news, there are even more mediocre or just plain bad newspapers. Most newspapers are written so anyone with a middle school education can read them. Which is great for people who barely graduated from high school, but bad for those of us seeking an intellectual challenge and a good way to maintain and grow a powerful and expressive vocabulary.
THE ONLY EXCEPTION: No matter how infantile, poorly proof read, or politically slanted, READ your local paper. Why? Bottom line, you should know what is going on in your community.
Some examples and suggestions: The New York Times, The Washington Post, The Wall Street Journal, and The Boston Globe to name a few. For world newspapers why not try The International Herald Tribune, The Jerusalem Post, The Irish Times (Dublin), The Moscow Times, Zaman Gazetesi (Turkey, English version), balance The Daily Telegraph with the The Guardian, Daily Yomiuri Online (Japan), The Hindu (India),and The Economic Times (India).
Don’t want to take my word for it fine. Want to see who the Columbia Journalism Review ranked as “America’s Best Newspapers.”
YES, I know that the list of newspapers is very long. And NO, I don’t expect you to read them every day. What I am suggesting is that you occasionally (weekly or monthly) drop-in and get a flavor for the local news across the globe. So why not bookmark this post and swing by here and use this list to track down news and views from around the globe?
Junction Websites: These sites don’t qualify as newspapers since many don’t produce in print and serve mainly as a vehicle for numerous opinion articles. However, there is some degree of overlap between this group of sources and magazine sources. For the sake of expediency both will be treated in this section.
The pros and cons of junction websites are one in the same- their political alignment is often easy to spot. The news and opinions you are getting are quite slanted, but hey, you knew that going in. A few of the most interesting and thought provoking junction sites include:
Anarcho-capitalism (in case you are unfamiliar with the term click for a definition) is fairly well represented by LewRockwell.com. I would consider this the far-right. However, I tend toward a political spectrum that places maximized personal autonomy and freedom on the far right and maximized state power on the far left. There is also Capitalism Magazine for those seeking a site that is a bit tamer than Rockwell, but further right than Frontpage magazine.
Mainstream American liberal thought can be read over at places like the Huffington Post and Air America. If you want to go a little further left try out the DailyKos [And yes I know that is technically a blog, but allow me some artistic license].
If you want a sampling of what might be considered “far left” junction sites (and admittedly the standards for the American far-left are tame compared to those of Europe) why not try out The Nation, Mother Jones, CounterPunch, and Moveon.org.
I know this post has been slanted toward politics. My apologies. Here is where I make it up to you. Why not read journals that discuss issues that you have some intellectual curiosity about? Here is a list featuring a range of subjects from politics to literature, from art to history. Well enough introducing, here are the links.
Literature: The Atlantic
General: Arts & Letters Daily
Archeology: British Archeology
Medicine: New England Journal of Medicine
Science: Cosmos and History
Groups at Yahoo! Groups and other such sites offer you a chance to practice your skill in debate and argumentation. Admittedly you are often debating with numb skulls who could not put together a rational argument to save their lives, but you stick to the rules of proper discourse, stay polite, and take advantage of the opportunity to convince a broader audience than the buffoon who thinks that the fluoride in your toothpaste is part of a government conspiracy. I would make recommendations, but there are millions of groups to choose from. Just wander over to Yahoo! Groups and search for a group that hits upon an area of interest to you.
This is enough to cu tyour teeth on. As always, please feel free to post recommendations in the comments section.