Avoiding Fake News – Is It Time To Pay The Price For Quality Journalism?

Avoiding Fake News – Is It Time To Pay The Price For Quality Journalism?

Our family has a dilemma – we’re big believers in reading and supporting high-quality journalism, yet we’re also frugal.

But maybe this isn't as big of a problem for you.

After all, the internet is full of free information, from blogs to social media to sites that are advertising-based, like Huffington Post and Buzzfeed.

But those options can have their problems.

Not all blogs are well-sourced, and free can sometimes mean the quality of information suffers.

And that seems to be especially true of news you get through social media and the rise of so-called "fake news."

What is fake news?

It’s incredible how fast the term "fake news" has spread across our culture.

According to Google Trends, there was hardly much impact with the phrase in Google searches until an enormous spike in 2016, both in North America and worldwide, coinciding with the U.S. Presidential election.

That highly-contentious campaign introduced most of us to the "deliberate disinformation" of issues and stories intended to help certain people and other vested interests.

The folks running Oxford Dictionaries went so far as to declare "post-truth" as the word of the year in 2016, saying the use of it was “fuelled by the rise of social media as a news source and a growing distrust of facts offered up by the establishment.”

How do I avoid fake news?

Being choosy with social media is a start.

While free, Facebook, Twitter, and the like can act as conduits for all kinds of information, factual or not...ever heard of flat-earth theories?

While it helps to remain critical of news received this way, it’s also an extra reason to sink one’s teeth into quality journalism – publications and websites that endeavour to check facts, employ standards, and seek out truth as opposed to purposefully distorting it.

Additionally, some sources of news on the web, including Google News and social-media feeds, piggyback on the paid journalism of other sites.

Ultimately, someone has to pay the piper…

This guide helps to figure out when (and if) it should be you.

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Public broadcasters

Now could be a good time to double down on your national public broadcasters.

After all, as taxpayers, you already pay to fund the CBC, which employs journalists across the country and beyond, some of whom are considered the best in their business.

The CBC’s nightly The National TV broadcast might be its best known "product," but its online presence can be daily must-reads, whether through the main CBC News website or its many local sub-sites.

Related: Free Internet TV – A Complete Guide For Canadians

Provincial broadcasters

Not to be forgotten are provincially-run broadcasters.

In Ontario, for example, TVO provides an acclaimed weeknight newscast called The Agenda that delves into today's topics with hour-long depth.

Other provinces with public networks include Quebec (Télé-Québec) and British Columbia (Knowledge).

Other national broadcasters

It can be worth searching out public broadcasters in other countries, too.

PBS, funded primarily in the U.S. (though Canadians can and do donate money), has several prestigious journalism offerings, including its nightly newscast, PBS NewsHour, and its award-winning investigative series Frontline.

The U.K.'s BBC shouldn't be forgotten as it has an international bent not always seen in North American media. Check out its comprehensive website, including a tab specifically for U.S. & Canadian news.


Libraries can be an invaluable source for high-quality journalism. Many local branches subscribe to numerous newspapers and magazines begging to be read.

And if a trip to the library isn't in the cards, many library systems offer journalism options online.

I live in Hamilton, and our library system offers apps for both newspapers (PressReader) and magazines (RB Digital). Check with your city's library for possible options.

PressReader, for example, offers me free editions of the National Post and The Washington Post, among many others, while RB Digital overflows with magazine options, including The Atlantic and Newsweek.

Some tips to keep the subscription rates low

After all this, there are still reasons you might want to shell out for a subscription:

  • for ease of use,
  • to more directly support journalists, and
  • to actually have paper in your hands as you read.

Most publications offer both digital and print subscriptions, although some print options are fading.

New York Times

Possibly the best deal out there for both quality and price is the New York Times. Granted, it has an east-coast U.S. bias, but its international and Canadian coverage continues to expand.

And while NYT print subscriptions remain expensive, its online subscriptions can be super cheap, especially if you watch for discounts and haggle.

Recently, the New York Times had a special offer for new digital-only subscribers at a rate of $2 (Canadian!) per week for a year. This gives you access to all of their articles online from any device.

Of course, this is a promotional rate, and reverts to the regular rate of C$5 a week after a year, which is still pretty cheap.

A tip to extend promotional rates

If you're looking to extend a promotional rate, just call back and request that your previous rate is reinstated. It's as easy as that.

One customer service rep even encouraged the practice recently, telling me to give them a ring once their promo rate was done.

Set yourself a reminder as they won’t do it for you – I use my iPhone’s wickedly simple Reminders app for this, which syncs to all my devices so I’ll never forget.

Make sure to turn off any automatic renewals, since this is how they "get you" with the teaser rate.

Related: The One Sneaky Category Of Expenses You Need To Watch Out For

Maximize your use of free articles

Many publication websites that are behind paywalls offer free articles temporarily, something like 10 free for the month, or free if it comes from a Google search. Always maximize free.

And once you reach your limit, there might be temporary workarounds too. Like using a different device, using your web client’s private browsing feature (to turn off the site’s "cookies" which remembers how many times you visited), or turning on its “reader view” mode.

But if you find you visit one site more than others, that might be the one you could consider subscribing to.

The British publication The Guardian provides all of its articles for free and it's one of the last to do so. But every article comes with an appeal to become a subscriber...So good luck with the guilt.

You can also keep an eye out for free copies of newspapers in hotels or public spaces, or given away by folks selling subscriptions at festivals, malls, etc.

Don't ignore your local community news

Community newspapers are often passed over as merely vehicles for weekly flyers, but they're free and can cover local issues important to you.

Other free papers in some cities include "street papers" (like NOW in Toronto or The Coast in Halifax) and transit papers, like Metro and 24 Hours.

Share the love of news

Share publications with friends or family members – especially magazines, which usually don’t get as stale as daily newspapers.

And consider sharing subscription costs with those close to you.

What about you?

The way we get our news has changed over the years, but the importance of being informed hasn't.

How do you get your news? Do you still pay for a newspaper?

Are you at all concerned about fake news? Or do you find you're pretty good at telling the difference yourself?

Disclosure: Some links in this article may be affiliate links. We're letting you know because it's the right thing to do. Here’s a more detailed disclosure on how HTS makes money.

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Rick's picture

That is a sad article.
Unfortunately, you started playing politics.
You are recommending public broadcaster CBC as an ulternative to fake news. They are the source of fake news and a government broadcaster puppet.

So long, I ain’t a sheep to follow this laughable advice.

January 08, 2019 @ 11:11 am
Jerome's picture

Sheep enough to make this shepherded comment, though.

January 08, 2019 @ 11:19 am
Marpy's picture

The CBC can be very biased in its reporting and 9its news programs and a lot of what they report amounts to opinion or news laced with opinion which is not much different than "fake news". The sheep may witch it sucking it all up and not knowing any better but "it is what it is"! ;-)

January 08, 2019 @ 5:50 pm
Gerry's picture

If Rick thinks CBC is the source of fake news, he must imagine all sorts of conspiracies! Maybe he has been exposed to too much Trump!

January 08, 2019 @ 11:21 am
Andrea's picture

Nice points to consider. I'm still exploring all that our public library has to offer, locally and online via Ontario network. I tried an on-line newspaper subscription 2 years ago, cuz I wanted to support journalism. I was disappointed. As a paid subscriber I did not expect to be bombarded with ads on my screen; and have my article jumping around on a tiny slit of my screen. I wonder if anyone has ever had a seizure triggered? I got plenty of eye fatigue and did not renew. Attention-seeking ads just turn me off. Am I alone in this reaction, I wonder.

January 08, 2019 @ 11:47 am
HowToSaveMoney Team
HowToSaveMoney Team's picture

Hello Andrea,

You're definitely not the only one to be turned off from intrusive ads on paid content. If you're paying, you'd think they'd want you to have a comfortable experience so you want it to continue...Doesn't make much sense.

Thanks for sharing!

January 10, 2019 @ 10:02 am
Denzil FEINBERG's picture

Agree with the worth of The Guardian to which I do pay occasionally. South Africa's Daily Maverick also free, informative, clever wording & data, worth reading anytime. Zapiro is their fantastic cartoonist.

Good tips, thanks Stephen, like asking for extension of specials & using up Free.

CBC Radio is the best. Overnight radio has Germany at 4am, Australia 5am, really varied programs.

January 08, 2019 @ 1:13 pm
HowToSaveMoney Team
HowToSaveMoney Team's picture

Hey Denzil,

Sounds like you listen to a large amount of global news. Must be really interesting hearing how different countries approach the same content – or what content they choose to approach at all.

Thanks for your comment!

January 10, 2019 @ 10:02 am
Ruth's picture

Appreciate your site and your insight
Thank you

January 08, 2019 @ 3:19 pm
Chuck's picture

Thanks for the article. You are right, there are number of great publications at the Library. But there are still great News Apps available and yes CBC is one of them. As always, you still have to filter the information you are getting and if interested check the facts.

January 08, 2019 @ 3:26 pm
HowToSaveMoney Team
HowToSaveMoney Team's picture

Hello Chuck,

Journalists are only human after all. Everything you read should be taken with a grain of salt, no matter where it comes from.

Probably one of the most useful methods is reading a bunch of different sources on a topic that interests you – sources with different political biases as well. The things that are common between them may be what is most important about the story.

January 10, 2019 @ 10:06 am
Marpy's picture

Regardless of where it comes from (regular news papers or online or through social media), there is a lot of junk reporting or fake news. I regularly look at my local paper (city of 500k people) as well as 2 national papers and I am not impressed. Lots of advertisements disguised as news stories, lots of stuff from Reuters and Bloomberg (available for free on Reuters and Bloomberg's site and elsewhere in the net) and way to much opinion disguised as news or news stories that are 20% fact and 80% opinion. They also at times tend to be days behind in what they do report. So really, why would anyone want to pay for this stuff?? Yes their are a lot of fake news or biased sites on line but they are easy to spot and in my opinion, the quality stuff on line came be far better than the traditional news sources.
With on line and biased/ fake news, sites like Rebel media comes to mind - its basically an on line right wing heavily biased publication and anyone that goes their quickly finds that out. On the left you are equivalents with fancy names like the Council for Canadians (or something like that) anyway its the same thing as Rebel media except left leaning. LMAO - I am still trying to figure out who authorized them to council anyone!! ;-). In the day, and still today, the written versions were publications like the National Enquirer and so junk or fake news is nothing new, its just that with on line and like everything else on line, there are more of them.
Traditional media has created their own demise by trying to cling on to old outdated and what some people would consider to be abusive business models. The news papers did this by trying to hang on to their old "pay model" and trying to keep on line at bay even though the likes of Google were growing by leaps and bounds. The telco companies are doing the same thing by trying to keep their cable platforms and traditional TV while trying to keep steaming at bay.
The end result of not embracing change and especially technical change is almost always failure. The newspapers are way further along in failure than the telco's are but in both cases, the traditional models are failing. They really only have themselves to blame for resisting change but will of course try to blame everyone else.
I would argue that their are many online sources that are far better than the traditional news papers and traditional media ( faster, more content, more stories, more factual and less opinion). Proportionally, the traditional media has just as much junk, biased opinion or fake news as they do on line. Change is happening whether one may like it or not and fake news is and always has been present in all forms of media.

January 08, 2019 @ 8:17 pm

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