Monday, November 23, 2020

Countering News Bias - A Simple Solution

Getting your news from a single source is a great way to lock yourself into an echo chamber. Clearly, the smart news diet is the diverse news diet. And yet, there's no denying that I nearly always turn to CNN when I want to quickly check the news.

To try to kick this habit, I've added a new 'News' bookmark to my browser's toolbar. Rather than directing me to one site, it runs this code:

javascript:
(function(){
  U=[
  'https://cnn.com/',
  'https://msnbc.com/',
  'https://abcnews.go.com/',
  'https://foxnews.com/',
  'https://wsj.com/',
  'https://vox.com/',
  'https://arlnow.com/'
  ];
  window.location = U[Math.floor(Math.random()*U.length)]})()

This bookmarklet, as hopefully any first year CS student can tell you, creates an array of sites and picks one at random to visit. As long as I hit the News button on my toolbar, I won't be sucked into one news source.

I figured a random URL bookmarklet could come in handy in other contexts, so I created a tool for generating them. Check it out at http://code.benjisimon.com/bookmarklets/random-url.php. Here's an example of me creating a goof-off bookmarklet that sends me to a random site for a quick laugh:

Are my worries about news bias put to bed? Not by a long shot. But I feel like I'm at least headed in the right direction.

Check out the code behind the bookmarklet generator on github.

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