“Where do you get your political news?”

when reading blogs, make a point to get a range of perspectives, starting with those that are shut out from the mainstream news.

Reviewing an earlier draft of Allies in the blogosphere, one of my friends asked me for more details on this. Rather than bury it in an comment, I figured that it was worth a thread of its own — because that’ll also give me a chance to ask others the same question.

As an experiment, for the last year I’ve been getting virtually all of my political news online, mostly avoiding newspapers, magazines, and TV. At first I’d start out each day by checking Google News, the New York Times, and a few blogs on specific topics, like Juan Cole’s Informed Comment on Iraq. Then I added Yahoo! News (which gets feeds from Huffington Post and Real Clear Politics as well as CNN). This gave me some different perspectives and a few more stories but it was still pretty limited.

So then I experimented with getting a lot more of my news from the progressive blogosphere, experimenting to get a broader range of stories. My choices evolved over time, for example dropping dKos as the abusive attitudes became overwhelming; a thread on Facebook has snapshots from March. My mid-April list was in more or less the following order: Talking Points Memo, Marc Ambinder, Matthew Yglesias, OpenLeft, MyDD, The Nation, TAPPED, and Jack and Jill Politics. And Slashdot, of course, which despite being primarily tech-focused often does have coverage of political issues.

These are all excellent sources but with the exception of Jack and Jill Politics are all heavily male-dominated and (to the extent I know people’s race) mostly white. Even on group blogs like TAPPED and The Nation which have several women involved, most of the posts are from the guys. Not only does this mean I’m potentially getting limited perspectives, it also tends to affect what stories do and don’t get coverage. dnA’s Thanks Kos on TooSense is an interesting window on the lack of coverage of Sean Bell in the “progressive” blogosphere; as I write this, the same dynamic’s going on with lack of attention to the Phyllis Schlafly protest.

So, as I was working on Allies, I decided to change things around — and be very conscious of the order in which I’m reading. These days, my first news source isn’t a blog or aggregator; it’s the One Million Strong for Barack group on Facebook. It’s a great example of a “wisdom of the crowds phenomenon”: the headlines gives a good broad survey of what people think matters from the mainstream media, and in the comments there are often links off to more stories and videos (although there’s always a risk of getting rickrolled). I don’t think there’s anything magic about this particular group; any large and relatively diverse discussion forum could have the same effect.

And then, at least for the last couple of weeks, here’s the order in which I do my political surfing.

  • Pam’s House Blend
  • Firedoglake
  • Jack and Jill Politics
  • digby’s Hullabaloo
  • Talking Points Memo
  • Shakesville
  • OpenLeft
  • Marc Ambinder
  • The Democratic Strategist

It’s a very different experience. Now, very often my first introduction to a story is from a perspective that’s not straight, white, and male. And I get exposed in detail to topics that are getting superficial if any attention elsewhere — for example, Pam’s recent series on Tasering, and the multiple threads on OpenLeft’s front page from different players in the complex SEIU/CNA/NNOC/UHW situation.

Of course, no list of 10 sources will be diverse in all dimensions, and so I’ll continue to evolve this over time — Rural Votes, Racialicious, Wired’s THREAT LEVEL, Feministing, and the sources on my earlier top 10 list will all be getting their turns. Realistically, I’ll probably also return to somewhat more random reading, rather than the somewhat artificial “check in the same order each day” I’ve been doing as part of the experiment.

There’s no question, though, that I’ve come away convinced that while it doesn’t happen of its own accord (at least not with me), with a little effort I can use the blogosphere much more effectively to get a diverse set of perspectives — and that it’s well worth doing.

Turning this around, a couple of questions for any readers:

  • other suggestions on techniques for getting diverse perspectives?
  • after reading this, what (if any) changes will you make in how you get your political news?