Saturday, April 1, 2017

UPDATE: Review of News Apps - Where Do You Get Your News?

Most people today get their news through their phone.   Which news apps have the broadest selection of news?

We stopped watching cable and off-the-air television years ago.   The problem is, there is only so many things on Netflix and YouTube to watch, and current events, live events, and news programs are often hard to watch or stream.   Not only that, after not watching television news you realize how lame and superficial it is.

We still have clock radios and every morning the radio comes on with NPR - National People's Radio - news, which is just slanted, a tiny-weeny bit to the Left.   Not too much, mind you, just an itsy-bitsy amount, just as Fox News is just a little slightly to the right.  I am being sarcastic of course.

NPR has an "app" for your smart phone, but it basically barfs up their "Morning Edition" and "All Things Considered" stories in print from and/or audio form.  On the plus side, you don't have to listen to the simpering voices and speech impediments of the announcers (NPR wants to be politically correct by hiring people on radio that other stations reject).  One the minus side, there are not a lot of news stories to review.   You scroll down and there might be a dozen stories until you hit "load more" and get yesterday's news.   It is very superficial and of course biased.

The New York Times also has an "app" but you have to subscribe to it to read more than ten stories a month.  Again, the "Grey Lady" which was slightly left in the 1960's has gone full-blown leftist in the 2010's.   You are not getting impartial reporting here at all, even in the news pages.   On the plus side, there is a depth of content, as the newspaper has multiple sections to browse, and thus covers a number of topics.

The BBC app is interesting in that it has a foreign flavor to it, and not in just how they spell "colour" wrong (and now that Brexit is a thing, we can say the Brits are wrong - about so much!).   But the vantage point is refreshing, if not somewhat leftist, perhaps on a NPR lite level.   There are multiple sections to scroll through and their world news is broad - separate sections for Europe, North America, Latin America, Africa, etc.  They also have sections for finances, technology and the like.  The stories are not as long or in-depth as the NYT, but it does provide another perspective.

MSN has a decent app but a crappy website.  The MSN website is only a half a notch above Yahoo, which is to say, utter dreck.  Yahoo, of course, is just 100% clickbait crap, with "list" articles and "you'll never believe what happens next!" headlines.   Just avoid Yahoo entirely - and the MSN web page.   But the MSN app is a different experience.   Most of the stories are from different news sources, including the New York Times (without a ten article limit, so there!), Washington Post, Wall Street Journal, and even Fox News.   You get a variety of stories and a variety of perspectives.

Like the BBC and NYT apps, there are multiple "sections" including Money and Opinion (a great place to look at political cartoons) and Politics, US and World.   There is also a very disturbing "CRIME" section, which if you read regularly, might convince you that crime rates are higher than you might otherwise be lead to believe.   In fact, most of that is reported in the CRIME section rarely makes it to the other apps unless it is an infamous crime or the Police shot someone.

CNN has an app, but I dumped it long ago.   CNN is mostly video news for people who can't read.   I hate clicking on a link and then getting a 15-second banal video played at full volume on my computer or phone.   I want to read and digest news, not hear or see it, unless there is a really compelling video, and 9 times out of 10 there is not.

Reddit is really not an app, but a website, and it is really dreck.   A reader once recommended the self-appointed "front page of the Internet" as a way of reading news.   However, it is vastly flawed.   There is no editor on Reddit, but rather people upvote what they think is worth viewing.   If you post an article linking to a news story, and it is popular, you get a lot of Reddit "Karma" points which can be exchanged for frequent flyer miles.   Actually, as far as I know, they can't be exchanged for anything, but people lust after them anyway - a cautionary marketing tale if there ever was one.

The problems with Reddit are many.  What gets "upvoted" is not necessarily what is news, but what is popular.   It is like a popularity contest in High School.  The most popular people in High School can often be horrible people or very superficial people and popular Reddit stories are no different.  A picture or video of fluffy kitties will get voted to the top.   Any kind of "outrage" story gets voted to the top as well - the more outrage the better, of course.   People will post the same story again and again, hoping to get Karma points, so the "news" section is flooded with multiple copies of the same stories.

And since Reddit is mostly High School kids, bored IT types, and other people with a lot of time on their hands (or Russian trolls spoofing the system), what is "popular" is what is popular with this demographic.   And things that get upvoted on Reddit often end up not only on the front page of Reddit but on the front page of Google.   So it has been a great source of "fake news" as people use bots to upvote things and distort reality.   Not recommended as a news site.

Facebook is no better.   Same shit, different day.   Although Reddit, Google, and Facebook are all trying to "clean up their act" and damp down fake news stories, they still spread like wildfire on these platforms.  If you rely on what is posted on your "wall" or the first ten hits of Google for "news" you will be misinformed and go off shooting up a pizza shop.

So which of these is the best, in my opinion?   Well, in terms of political neutrality, no subscription fees, least intrusive advertising, and breadth of coverage, I think the MSN app but not the website is the best of the lot.   It is, like many other news sites, a conglomeration of other news stories from various sources, edited down into a number of categories.   It seems to provide the best of the best, from what I can see, without the freaky nonsense of "upvoted" sites or the blatant bias of specific news sites (which they may link to, however, so you do get those viewpoints - from all sides).

The only downside is that some of the links are to videos (usually CNN) that auto-load with no accompanying text.

What is your favorite news app and why?   Real news sites, please!

UPDATE:  A reader suggests Reuters (Thompson Reuters) which is one of the wire services, such as AP and UPI.  What you read on many other news sites is often verbatim from the wire services and often it will appear on the wire service sites hours or even days before.

Reuters is extensive - with over a dozen categories.   They have a "Money" and "Markets" section which seem to overlap, as well as raw data sections for stocks, bonds, and whatnot.   It is a good resource, arguably better than MSN, but almost too much data in some cases.

I will check out AP and see if UPI has an app as well.