News sources can provide insights that scholarly sources may not or that will take a long time to get into scholarly sources. For instance, news sources are excellent for finding out people’s reactions, opinions, and prevailing attitudes around the time of an event.
So whether news sources are good for your assignment depends on what your research question is. (You’ll find other relevant information at Sources and Information Needs.)
News is a strange term, because even when the information is old, it’s still news. Some sources are great for breaking news, some are great for aggregated (or compiled) news, and others are great for historical news.
While news was transmitted for centuries only in newspapers, news is now transmitted in all formats: via radio, television, and the Internet, in addition to print. Even most newspapers have Internet sites today.
News must be brief because much of it gets reported only moments after an event happens. News reports occur early in the Information Lifecycle. See Publication Formats and the Information Lifecycle for more information.
When Are News Sources Helpful?
- You need breaking news or historical perspectives on a topic (what people were saying at the time).
- You need to learn more about a culture, place, or time period from its own sources.
- You want to keep up with what is going in the world today.
When Are News Sources of Limited Use?
- You need very detailed analysis by experts.
- You need sources that must be scholarly or modern views on a historical topic.
Activity: Using News Effectively
Mainline and Non-Mainline News Sources
Mainline American news outlets stick with the tradition of trying to report the news as objectively as possibly. That doesn’t mean their reports are perfectly objective, but they are more objective than the non-mainline sources. As a result, mainline news sources are more credible than non-mainline sources. Some examples of mainline American news outlets: The New York Times, The Washington Post, The Boston Globe, The Chicago Tribune, The Los Angeles Times; ABC News, CBS News, NBC News, PBS News, NPR News.
News from non-mainline American news outlets is often mixed with opinions. One way they frequently exhibit bias is that they leave out pertinent facts. Some examples of non-mainline American news outlets: MSNBC, Fox News, Gawker, Reddit.
Types of News Sources
Press Services—News outlets (print, broadcast, and online) get a lot of their news from these services, such as Reuters or Associated Press (AP), which make it unnecessary for individual outlets to send their own reporters everywhere. Services are so broadly used that you may have to look at several news outlets to get a different take on an event or situation.
News aggregators—Aggregators don’t have reporters of their own but simply collect and transmit the news reported by others. Some sources pull news from a variety of places and provide a single place to search for and view multiple stories. You can browse stories or search for a topic. Aggregators tend to have current, but not archival news. Google news and Yahoo News are examples.
Newspaper sites – Many print newspapers also have their own websites. They vary as to how much news they provide for free. Take a look at these examples.
- The Lantern, Ohio State University’s student newspaper
- The Columbus Dispatch
- USA Today
- The Boston Globe
- The Times of London
- China Daily, USA edition
- The New York Times
News Databases – Search current, recent, and historical newspaper content in databases provided free by libraries. OSU Libraries offers 69 news databases to students, staff, and faculty. They include:
- LexisNexis Academic – contains news back to 1980 from newspapers, broadcast transcripts, wire services, blogs, and more.
- Proquest Historical Newspapers – contains older content from several major U.S. newspapers.
- allAfrica – contains more than a million articles from 100 African news sources, 1996-present.
- Lantern Online – contains the archive of all of OSU’s student newspaper issues, 1881-1997.
See the complete list of OSU Libraries’ newspaper databases.
Activity: Choosing a Newspaper Database
Look at the list of OSU Libraries’ newspaper databases available to OSU users. Which one would be a good place to find an article with an international left perspective on a topic? Our answer is at the end of this section.
Broadcast News Sites – Although broadcast news (from radio and television) is generally consumed in real time, such organizations also offer archives of news stories on their web sites. However, not all of their articles are provided by their own reporters: some originate from the press services, Reuters and AP. Here are some examples of broadcast new sites:
Activity: One-Minute World News from the BBC
Visit BBC’s Video area and watch their One-minute World News to get a quick update on the world’s major news stories.
Social Media – Most of the news outlets listed above contribute to Twitter and Facebook. It’s customary for highly condensed announcements in this venue to lead you back to the news outlet’s website for more information. However, how credible tech companies such as Facebook, Twitter, and Google are with news is in serious doubt now that their lawyers have testified to the U.S. Congress that more than 100 million users may have seen content actually created by Russian operatives on the tech companies’ platforms leading up to the 2016 U.S. presidential election. Read more about their testimony at NPR and The New York Times.
Blogs – Sometimes these are good sources for breaking news, as well as commentary on current events and scholarship. Authors who write more objectively elsewhere can share more insights and opinions, more initial questions and findings about a study before they are ready to release definitive data and conclusions about their research.
Citizen Journalism – A growing number of sites cater to those members of the general public who want to report breaking news and submit their own photos and videos on a wide range of topics. The people who do this are often referred to as citizen journalists.
Examples of such sources include CNN iReport, and reddit. For more details on the history and development of citizen journalism, including addressing some of the pros and cons, read Your Guide to Citizen Journalism.
News Feeds – You can get updates on specific topics or a list of major headlines, regularly sent to you so you don’t have to visit sites or hunt for new content on a topic. Look for links that contain headings such as these to sign up for news feeds:
- RSS feeds
- News Feeds
- News Alerts
- Table of Contents Alerts
Movie: What is an RSS Feed?
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Activity: RSS Feeds from Reuters
Visit Reuters News RSS Feeds to see a list of general and very specific topic areas for which you can sign up for alerts. What topic interests you? Consider signing up for one (or more).
Answer to Activity: Choosing a Newspaper Database
If you look at the database descriptions, you will notice that the one for Alternative Press Index matches the need expressed in the question.