News sources can provide insights on events 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 the news was transmitted for centuries only in newspapers, the news is now transmitted in all formats: via radio, television, and the Internet, in addition to print. Almost all 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 a very detailed analysis by experts.
  • You need sources that must be scholarly or modern views on a historical topic.

Mainstream and Non-Mainstream News Sources

Mainstream American news outlets stick with the tradition of trying to report the news as objectively as possible. That doesn’t mean their reports are perfectly objective, but they are more objective than the non-mainstream sources. As a result, mainstream news sources are more credible than non-mainstream sources. Some examples of mainstream 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-mainstream 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-mainstream American news outlets: Fox News, MSNBC, 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.

News Databases – Search current, recent, and historical newspaper content in databases provided by libraries. Most libraries offer news databases to students, staff, and faculty. They may include:

  • Alternative Press Index
  • New York Times (1853 -)
  • ProQuest Global Newsstream
  • Regional Business News

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:

Social Media – Most of the news outlets listed above contribute to Twitter and Facebook. It’s customary for highly condensed announcements in these venues 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.

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

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Critical Thinking in Academic Research by Cindy Gruwell and Robin Ewing is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

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