What is a "reliable" source of information? When you want to look beneath or beyond the headlines, or to research a topic for an article – where do you go for grounded, first-hand, actual-factual information?
It is increasingly difficult – not only to find the primary, factual sources of information – but also to recognize them in the first place. Popular culture has become so attuned to repeated and regurgitated analysis, interpretation and opinion passing as news that we don't stop to distinguish the reality behind the bloviation any longer.
Here are 15 sources, which have earned their respectable reputations through investigative reporting and the maintenance of high journalistic standards of integrity. I have grouped them by media.
"All the News That's Fit to Print" … that slogan graced the masthead of The New York Times for more than 100 years. The Times is now 162 years old and has moved successfully into online publishing, despite bumps and obstacles along the way. It is still America's flagship news source, translated into dozens of languages – the first place people world over look for news of the United States. The Washington Post runs a close second – 136 years old and also now online. These two papers have nearly defined the term "investigative journalism" over the years and have the Pulitzers to prove it. Large "papers" in large cities – the L.A. Times, Chicago Tribune, Cleveland Plain-Dealer, etc. – are also respected and reliable sources of news and facts if they are reporting from their localities.
This brings up a salient point: always go to the primary source. In the recent controversy over whether or not the father of a Sandy Hook victim actually was heckled by gun rights activists during a Newtown Town Council meeting, right-wing and left-wing bloggers threw accusations at each other all over the internet – until it's extremely difficult to decide who's "right" about this. I found the original news report from the original reporter's account of the meeting, with original videotape – from The Connecticut Post.
Magazines don't publish the way newspapers do. They allow more time for their writers to compose longer format articles – for more in-depth reporting. They also include analysis and interpretation by reputable thinkers – generally from more than one side of an issue. The Atlantic has been in business for 157 years and holds a singular reputation among American thought leaders. It has published – among others – Harriett Beecher Stowe, Oliver Wendell Holmes. Martin Luther King, Jr. Mark Twain, Emily Dickenson, James Fallows and Ta-Nehisi Coates.
The Christian Science Monitor began life as a newspaper in 1908 and became a weekly magazine in 2008. Its reputation for solid reporting on international and financial issues remains unchanged, however.
Video newsgathering associations
Internationally, the BBC is the ruler of the airwaves and owns the best reputation for the highest journalistic standards, if not always the slickest production values. Al-Jazeera (English) also maintains high standards and deservedly has a stellar reputation for fairness and for covering stories nobody else covers. Reuters is an international newsgathering service of the highest reputation for accuracy in reporting.
In the U.S., PBS Newshour has the best reputation for fairness and accuracy, as well as for in-depth information. Among the so-called "mainstream," NBC has the most highly respected reporters and analysts in American broadcast journalism. CurrentTV is a phenomenon in the world of cable. Founded by former Vice President Al Gore, its journalistic standards are both politically independent and journalistically excellent. Gore has recently sold the network to – also fascinating – Al Jazeera (English). Watch his interview with Jon Stewart of The Daily Show (not always a reliable source, BTW) as he explains the sale and the "fit" between Current and its new parent.