Sources and Methods

I've meant to do this for a while. But let me describe the "krill flow" of news that I use for blogging. Sometimes people wonder where I get stuff as if it is from dark site that requires passwords and special access. It's all open source.

My basic sources are Yahoo News for the wire service reports (AP, UPI, Reuters, and AFP). The removal of the regional categories of news really sucks. I used to roll through the regions in order of interest to see top stories. I miss the days not so long ago really when Europe stories centered on soccer and cheese regulations rather than terror attacks and Russian threats.

I like aggregator sources like Instapundit and the Real Clear sites for defense, world affairs, and politics. They spread a broader net that identifies topics of interest, and link to articles from the Washington Post, New York Times (funny enough, until they stopped doing it, I was in the set of blogs the Times would link to in relation to their stories), LA Times and other newspapers here and abroad that I then use, as well as material from think tanks.

Strategypage is a must read. I'd recommend them above me if you can read only one site.

I like National Review Online. Also, Weekly Standard and Steyn Online. But they are more of personal interest than routine source materials.

Really, the wire services are my prime source.

Related are email based notices like my Jane's defense updates, Defense Industry Daily newsletters, Defense News, USNI News, and OSAC (the Overseas Security Advisory Council of the Department of State) newsletters (which rely on wire reports, too, but focus on security related news)

I used to have Yahoo key word notices on certain topics but they seem to have dropped them at a prior redesign of their site which erased the former ability to scan news by regions. I really miss that.

Global Security is a minor source via email because of its formatting.

I'm on the Department of Defense email list as well, so I get notices of some news and news conferences.

I get emails from Stratfor. The Real Clear sites often include their analyses, too.

Although with the press of news online, I sometimes let my email sources build up. Sometimes to my regret.

During a crisis I turn more to Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty site, Voice of America, and Radio Free Asia.

I also have military journals and related publications both online and in paper versions.

And I try to keep in mind when I read sources the Gell-Mann Amnesia effect, as described by Michael Crichton:

Briefly stated, the Gell-Mann Amnesia effect is as follows. You open the newspaper to an article on some subject you know well. In Murray's case, physics. In mine, show business. You read the article and see the journalist has absolutely no understanding of either the facts or the issues. Often, the article is so wrong it actually presents the story backward—reversing cause and effect. I call these the "wet streets cause rain" stories. Paper's full of them.

In any case, you read with exasperation or amusement the multiple errors in a story, and then turn the page to national or international affairs, and read as if the rest of the newspaper was somehow more accurate about Palestine than the baloney you just read. You turn the page, and forget what you know.

That is the Gell-Mann Amnesia effect. I'd point out it does not operate in other arenas of life. In ordinary life, if somebody consistently exaggerates or lies to you, you soon discount everything they say. In court, there is the legal doctrine of falsus in uno, falsus in omnibus, which means untruthful in one part, untruthful in all. But when it comes to the media, we believe against evidence that it is probably worth our time to read other parts of the paper. When, in fact, it almost certainly isn't. The only possible explanation for our behavior is amnesia.

I try to read through the opinions in the areas I know from my education, reading, and experience, and focus on what they are saying and not on what they say it means.

And while I am not immune to the G-MA effect, I do retain a healthy skepticism of what is said in non-defense and non-foreign affairs in the media as if it was inscribed in stone (see global warming, for example; or repeated descriptions of "far right" parties in Europe when the same media calls Republicans "Nazis").

So that's my basic open source intelligence network.