Chris, in a comment to my post on Syria, Strategy, and Policy, asked me about what I look at for source material. While both Cervantes and BobS weighed in with some good recommendations, I promised I’d put something up for Chris yesterday. This has slipped to today. I’m going to break this into three parts and actually start with the final third.
A lot of my research and analytical work is done using open source resources. When I do this type of work I’m basically relying on targeted key word searches that lead me to source material. I then vet that source material in several ways. First, I try to vet the author and the outlet. So if its on a blog or some other form of commentary site, I’m looking to see if I can identify the author and determine if they actually know anything about what they’re talking about and what, if any, biases I can determine. I’m also looking for links to related material at every source I’m looking at. For two reasons: 1) as documentation/citation for what I’m reading and 2) to widen my source material pool as I’m working my way through the subject search. I’m also constantly bookmarking and saving links to potential material that I might possibly need in the future. So that’s a portion of how I go about looking for, finding, and vetting source material. I go where the search takes me, vet continuously, and work the links in the sources I’m finding. The kind of work I do requires me to basically live in information overload, so I do.
So now back to the first third. For news sources, as in straight news reporting and not commentary, I largely avoid US news media. Rather than CNN or FOX or ABC or etc, I prefer the BBC, al Jazeera English, Agency France Press, the Guardian. I will use the AP and Reuters wires, as well as the Christian Science Monitor and McClatchy. For long form reporting I’ve found that the best stuff seems to be at Harpers, Vanity Fair, Rolling Stone, Pro Publica, the New Yorker, and likely several others I’m forgetting. Overall, however, I tend to avoid initial straight news reporting from the US news media. Some of this goes out the window when I doing open source research and analysis. So if, while doing that, the best source is CNN or Time, I’ll use it. So that’s an important caveat.
In the middle third I understood Chris to be asking about material pertaining to the Middle East. I have several go to sites that I like to start with depending on the issue. These include Juan Cole’s Informed Comment (full disclosure: I’ve guest written a couple of posts for Professor Cole, specifically back in 2008 and 2009 shortly after I got back from Iraq) and COL Lang’s Sic Semper Tyrannis (full disclosure for those not paying attention: I used to be a front pager there and COL Lang helped train me). One of my favorite sites regarding the Middle East is Jadaliyya. Great site, interesting and informative material across a variety of topics. I also like to use the Middle East Monitor and for Israel-Palestinian specific issues +927 Magazine. I’ve also used the National AE, as well as Haaretz. A great site, that I actually used a lot when deployed to Iraq to get a good overview, is Musings on Iraq. The Al Monitor is very useful as they provide good translations of reports from Middle Eastern news sources. There are other sources that I use, but I don’t think we need to belabor this.
And that, as they say, is that. I know I promised to do something about the Levantine drought and I’ll try to get that up tomorrow. Everyone have a great night! Or evening for those of you in Mountain, Pacific, or points farther west.