How should people absorb political information/opinions?

It’s a common liberal belief that Fox News is a political “echo chamber,” just preaching to the choir and telling its viewers what they want to hear. It’s a common conservative belief that the rest of the media is the same thing to liberals.

However, I’ve felt myself the power of the echo chamber. It’s nice being able to, say, read a political blog and leave not feeling angry or argumentative or depressed over the the fact that half the country holds a particular opinion.

Which brought to mind this question: if the “echo chamber” has little worth as a source of information, what is the best way for the average citizen to inform him/herself on politics? After all, a lot of it (especially predictions on where policies will lead) is a matter of opinion; should the average Joe the Plumber attempt to educate himself on what both sides think, listen to Air America AND Fox Radio, read both Moore and Coulter, etc etc? How, without falling into the “echo chamber” mentality? After all, as I said above, it IS tempting to fall into one after leaving a bunch of blogs or a news site feeling angry and argumentative - OTOH, would one feel this way if the goal was to BECOME informed? Is the reaction legit to begin with?

Hopefully, you see what I’m getting at here - a lot of it is tangled in my mind. Thoughts on how to further refine the question welcome!

I think TV is the worst possible way to get information. Reading is better. But books from popularizers like Moore and Coulter are not high quality.

That said, I’ve come to believe that peopel are born with a particular political perspective. Therefore, the self-affirmation of an “echo chamber” is inevitable.

It would take a highly unusual and rare person to weight both liberal and conservative ideas equally. I’ve never met one.

Just because you are getting the news with a “spin” that panders to your prejudices does not negate the fact that it is news. It is still new information (or you may be learning new arguments, even if they support the kind of position you would have been inclined to support anyway). Unless they are outright lying to you, you are still learning something, even possibly something that might change your opinions in some way.

Furthermore, even people at about the same point on the overall political spectrum will often have different opinions on specific points of policy, and, of course, some will be better informed than others about one thing or another. In those circumstances your opinion on some matter might be changed, improved indeed, by new information or arguments, even without you being taken at all out of your ideological comfort zone.

I think Fox and Rush et al have executed one of the most successful yet tragic marketing campaigns in history. It’s pure advertising copy that you need to keep up to date with them in order to have a fair and balanced picture of events. While there are legitimate criticisms of the media, and no one outlet has sufficient coverage to serve as the sole source, there is no reason to fall for the false dichotomy that Fox has presented.

Get news first (e.g., Times, CSM, Post, Economist, or some other mix), then head out to the sea of opinions and commentary, not the other way around.

I think that it’s a false start to pigeon-hole everything into Liberal/Conservative media. It’s a game Fox plays so they can say “If you’re watching anything but Fox, you’re getting fed the liberal story”. Everything else from the Huffington Post to the Chicago Tribune to Reuters to Politico, from Keith Olbermann to Charles Gibson to Frontline is liberal media garbage.

This obviously isn’t true. Unfortunately, the least biased stuff (in my experience) is also the driest and least entertaining. I’m a news junkie so my tips for Joe & Jane America probably aren’t too useful. I guess if I had to say anything, it’d be an acho of Rhythmdvl, read the news portions of nearly any major paper and you’ll probably be doing okay for educating yourself about the world around you.

How about this:

Ed

To be well-informed, do just the opposite. Instead of listening to both sides, listen to neither side. Turn of all televisions and radios, cease reading daily newspapers and weekly magazines, and don’t visit political websites. Take some time to let all the daily wash of emotions and nastiness clear out of your brain. While that’s happening, read up on classics of political and economic thought: Aristotle, Plato, letters of Thomas Jefferson, d’Toqueville, Adam Smith, those types. When it’s done you should have a well-formed political philosophy, at which point you will be able to make political judgments without any need for the talking heads.

The internets will provide. When we went into Iraq, I dug up a few blogs written by Iraqis to see what they thought. They are intermittent due to the inconsistent electricity and the warfare. But I read them when I can get them.
I have blogs from Iran to see what they think. Seems weird that they don’t hate us.
I have several liberal and a couple conservative sites I visit daily. Seems the righties want me to buy stuff all the time.
I watch CNN , CNBC ,and Democracy Now. I try to watch Fox but they when they are not running a commercial ,they are often off on a tirade . To actually just give the news is too hard for them.