Stephen E. Arnold: Coping with News Filters

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Stephen E. Arnold
Stephen E. Arnold

How to Cope with News Filtering

Ten years ago, I subscribed to traditional newspapers. Each morning I worked through the Courier Journal, the New York Times, the Financial Times, and the Wall Street Journal. Today I rely on the information available to me without charge from various online services.

On two recent research projects, I made a surprising discovery. In this Honk article I want to highlight some of the information services I have to use to get a reasonably complete, unfiltered, current view of certain topics. If I want to learn about the Kardashians or the Miley Cyrus twerking video, I can use Ask.com news, Bing news, Google news and Yahoo news. If I want information about Anthony Weiner’s wife or a fellow with three aliases or akas, I have to use multiple systems.


Let me point out that searching the news does not mean banging a term or two into a search box and looking at the top five hits. The approach that I have to use requires me to formulate a query, run a query in a search box if one is available, and then accessing individual sources of information. The work is tedious and requires continual “tweaking”, not “twerking” of the query.

I have little to tell about the US free news services. You can run your own queries on Huma Abedin or Babak Parviz/Parvis/Amirparviz/Amir Parviz and draw your own conclusions. These services are designed to provide infotainment, not enlightenment. None of the free news services make it easy to determine if a “story” is real or false. Take a look at the twerking fire video or the BBC’s version of a cannibalesque rebel eating an enemy’s heart raw.

Here are the services which I now use to get the “news.” Please, note that this list is a selection. A more in depth discussion of useful news sources will be included in my ISS intel presentation the week of September 23, 2013. We may do a short video about some additional sources. Watch Honk for more news about the video. (I am only doing two talks before 2014, so if you are a fan of my non-traditional view of certain aspects of “received wisdom”, you will have to show up at the event or encourage me to do a couple of short videos.

World News. The link for this service is www.wn.com. I am not sure who owns the service or if the service has rights to present the content available. When you run a query, the system wants to display a single video link. I let the system do this and then I click on one of the content collections at the top of the user interface or in the left hand sidebar. The big benefit of this system is that it provides access to a backfile of content. Some queries work like a champ; others require some fiddling. When I looked for the owner of the service, I was not able to get the beefy detail I wanted. I did learn some interesting things about one of the site’s managers. How long will this service be around? I don’t know. But it was online as I wrote this article. Worth a look.

Topsy. The link for this service is www.topsy.com. Topsy has been funded with more than $25 million in investment money has repositioned itself as a search system for the backfile and current flow of Twitter content. That seems to be true, but I am not into Twitter because it is too easy to pump out misinformation, disinformation, and reformation content. What is useful about Topsy is that it does index blogs and some news stories which are referenced in various RSS feeds. This service also was available when I fact checked this article. The service, in my opinion, is better than Topix.net, which has a dreadful Blekko.com powered search system. Topix.net once was useful. Now? Not so much.

Newwsnow. I learned about this system decades ago. the link is www.newsnow.co.uk. The backfile is only three or four weeks. The big plus is that content is updated frequently. The search system works within topic areas like Technology or across the full index. My tests reveal that the system is heavy on English language information, but in combination with World News, it is possible to identify versions of stories. It is a hassle to have to compare search results across two systems, but the exercise makes it easy to spot “me too” stories and stories which take a different approach to an event, person, or company.

The Big Project. You will find this direct link useful in tapping into news: www.thebigproject.co.uk/news. You will find links to many English and non-English sources. There is a search system which is provided by what Google used to call Google custom search. What’s interesting is that queries across Big Project turn up results which are not findable within the US Google.com. Big Project eliminates some of the need to run queries in Google’s country specific indexes like www.google.fr. I used to rely on www.eufeeds.eu. I have noticed more dead links and sources which require me to register or pay.

If you have money to spend, you may want to get accounts so you can search the Wall Street Journal, LexisNexis, Factiva (Dow Jones), and Silobreaker. If not, you can just rely on the free US news services and end up as talent for “If ignorance is bliss, hello, happy” poster I see in some government and Silicon Valley cubicles. This is a companion to the “They feed me sh** and keep me in the dark.” This poster features a mushroom.

If you have a favorite filter-busting Web site, let me know by writing seaky2000 at yahoo.com.

Stephen E Arnold, September 23, 2013