The News

Finding Out What's Going On

A helpful list of resources by Scott Bidstrup

"The price of liberty is eternal vigilance"
--American proverb

Why This Article

If you are an American or are living in the United States, and you've been paying attention, you surely have become aware by now that you're not getting the whole story.

Especially when it comes to national politics, political trends, economic policies and theory, and foreign policy and international news, Americans just don't get it. They don't get it because they're not informed. They're not informed because their corporate-owned media are more interested in entertaining and building their audiences than informing them. The result is that Americans are generally clueless about international affairs, and at best are woefully underinformed about matters of concern in their own country.

In the interests of helping fix that, I've put together the following list of sources of international and reliable domestic news, and would encourage you to check them out.

Internet Audio Feeds

Listening while you work (if you're in the fortunate position to be able to do so) is a great way to stay informed. For this purpose, I like the BBC World Service the best. It has two English feeds on the Internet, one of which is a "news and entertainment" service, and the other is 24-hour news. The news and entertainment feed is carried on the Yahoo Broadcast server, and the 24-hour continuous news feed is found only on the BBC's audio server in London. Both are found in my "international" services favorites, which you can import into your Real-Audio player. Simply right click here and from the pop-up menu, select "save target as" and save the file to a location where you can find it. Then open your Real-Audio player, and pull down the "favorites" menu. Click on "import," select the file you've just downloaded, and click OK. When it asks if you want to import the favorites, click yes. I would suggest you save it to a new folder called "International." You can always remove the imported favorites later.

Internet Web News

Services I suggest are the BBC's news server in London, the busiest web server in the world outside the United States. They have a page just for the Americas. Great place to start.

I would suggest that the One World server is one of the best as well. It is a well funded service by influential and well connected, but honest and sincere people.

If you want the lowdown on what's happening at such international gatherings as WTO and World Bank or IMF leadership meetings, you'll get a good idea by visiting the Independent Media Organization website. This group of unpaid journalists are dedicated to bringing the truth to the world about globalizing organizations who run roughshod over the poor and powerless - truth that the establishment doesn't always want you to hear. Its been shut down or censored by the U.S. government more than once. Shows that your government has something to hide. Its a great place to go to find out what's happening when the conglomerate media seem strangely silent about things they ought to be talking about.

Print Media

There are a handful of magazines available to Americans which can offer a balanced view of things. Most have websites that offer a lot of free and very useful content. I'd suggest checking them out.

For U.S. domestic news, three magazines are of note. The Nation has, for nearly a century, been the main source of reliable investigative reporting available to Americans. It's still good, but it has been drifting a lot to the right lately, and I find that trend disturbing. The Progressive is hard-hitting, but doesn't always spend enough time getting the facts straight. Mother Jones has an excellent reputation, but has a lot of stuff in it that doesn't appeal to news addicts such as myself.

For those with a more intellectual bent, the New Yorker and the Atlantic Monthly both have excellent articles from time to time, but not often enough in my view. The Economist is good, too, bringing a fresh, non-American view to things. But like The Progressive, it doesn't always spend enough time checking the facts. The World Press Review is a good source of international news, but as it is reprinted from foreign press, it tends to be rather dated by the time you receive it.

Shortwave Radio

Shortwave broadcasters are divided into two categories, the BBC World Service and everybody else. For years, I have relied on the BBC to provide a reasonably balanced source of news and analysis. Unfortunately, they've lost a bit of their incisiveness during the Tony Blair years, and even worse, they've abandoned their shortwave broadcasts to the U.S., Australia and New Zealand on the mistaken theory that listeners in those areas can hear the World Service on the Internet. Well, I beg to differ. The internet is fine, but you can't hear the internet in your car, on a camping trip, in your motorhome, or even a room in your house where the computer isn't. I have a suspicion that the real reason the shortwave service was abandoned to these areas is that Tony Blair, along with his buddies in the White House, don't happen to want Americans, Australians and New Zealanders to be astute and informed observers of American foreign and even domestic policy.

Well, anyway, because I believe that the BBC is so badly needed in the U.S., I've put together a spreadsheet that lists all the frequencies on which it broadcasts on shortwave. The idea is that if you go down the list, there's a good chance you'll find a frequency that is audible where you live. I strongly suggest investing in a digitally controlled receiver on which you can just punch in the frequency and listen - no knob twisting required. So here is the spreadsheet - it's called BBC Frequencies. Right click on the link and save it to your My Documents directory so you can find it.

In the spreadsheet, the row across the top is the current time in Greenwich Mean Time (which is five hours ahead of Eastern Standard Time - you would just add five hours to your current time to get GMT). The column on the left is the frequency to try. The gray areas in the matrix are the times when the BBC is actually transmitting on that frequency. In the daytime, the bottom frequencies are the ones to try first, and at night, the top frequencies are more likely. Once you find an active frequency, save it as a preset in your receiver and you should be able to come back at that time in future days. If you're having a bit of trouble hearing the signal, adding about 10 to 15 feet of wire to the telescoping antenna on your receiver can help a lot.

A 30-minute summary of news from shortwave broadcasters around the world, called Shortwave Report, is produced weekly and is posted every Friday by an organization calling itself the OutfarPress. It can be heard for free online in streaming MP3 format, or downloaded as an MP3 file. The site includes an archive of recent Reports. The OutfarPress website includes a summary of how to do shortwave listening, and recent information on some of the current major newscasts available by shortwave.

My Start Page

I've created, over the years, a browser start page that contains a large number of links to news servers, streaming news sources, etc., that I maintain frequently as it is stuff I use a lot. Rather than maintain this page as well as that one, I've decided to make my start page available to my readers.

You can decide for yourself how to use it. You can put your own links in it (open it in Wordpad and it will be evident how to do that. Just be sure to save it as a plain text file) and use it for your own start page, or you can pull links out of it and use them for your own start page if you have already created one. I don't care how you use it - I haven't bothered to copyright it, so it's up to you.

To save it, click on the "browser start page" link above, and then right click on the resulting page. The drop down menu that appears will enable you to "save file as." Click that option, and save the file to your local hard disk.

If you wish to use it as your own start page, simply open it from the files menu in your browser, and when it is loaded, open the preferences dialog, and under start page, click the "use current" button. If you modify the start page (and you should - it has a lot of Phoenix stuff in it you won't need unless you live here), be sure to save it to the same location.

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Copyright 2001, by Scott Bidstrup. All rights reserved.
Revised 10/8/02