An Honest Question About The News

Hey. I miss you all and I miss doing this. I hope everyone is doing as well as possible .

Since September 2016, I live in New York. It's ok. Whereas in earlier parts of my life, I would have moved here to be a part of something, now I am here because I don't want to be part of anything. It's very easy to be independent here if one can afford rent. Right now, I can. 

Mine is a very modest life. Boring, not satisfying, but, given the social and political context, I think, smart. Selfish maybe, but then again, I can't help but think that the world is exactly what most people want it to be. Not only because of the willingness of those who benefit from the present situation to persist in maintaining said situation, but also because those who are in opposition to the present situation seem to be primarily concerned with the preservation of the precession of their interpretative frameworks. It may seem selfish to drop out, but then again, isn't it also selfish to think of trying to change a system that so many people seem to want?

Years ago, in a political science class, I argued that tacit consent was a weak basis on which to predicate and assume the coherence of social and political structures and institutions. My comments were met with either indifference or incomprehension (the ability to present the latter as the former is surely the only true prerequisite for sophistication). I feel vindicated and dissatisfied at feeling vindicated.

It's annoying to me that the phrase "fake news" has been monopolized by the right. Every time I try and "get back into" contemporary music and read another mis-informed think piece, more hysterical praise of mediocre "underground" music, another self-serious analysis of commercial pop music (did anyone dream in those heady days of arguing for Missy over Neutral Milk Hotel that the end result would be a successful "career" of having to parse Taylor Swift's social media presence in the stodgy voice of an establishment New York media outlet?), I can't help feeling profoundly alienated. Any time I try and figure out what, for instance, exactly, is going on with the Trump administration and Russia, I can't seem to get any unbiased reporting, just leftist denunciations of liberal hysteria, liberal hysteria (are we, like, supposed to go to war or something?), under-reported "objective" journalism, and the self-serving denials of the Republicans. I'm exhausted by the Internet, exhausted by the constant editorializing, and, even better/worse, the constant editorializing on other editorials. I am doing my best to resist the temptation to hold opinions on that which I know nothing about, and feel resentful at the idea that that is my only option these days, the only condition to be met, to the exclusion of all others, that would allow me to participate in the present discourse.

Yes, the usual caveats about the limits of objectivity as an ideal and a possibility apply, but why I'm breaking my inadvertent silence is simple: I'm looking for advice on how to end my reliance on the Internet when it comes to staying informed about the state of the world. I'd appreciate your answers to this simple question: if you had to go completely back to print news only (assuming, perhaps incorrectly, that this is a feasible option), what would you read?

I'm open to being wrong, but here are my thoughts so far, limited to periodicals I have read with frequency at various points in my life:
The Economist - I used to read this magazine regularly, and I never minded the "house ideology" as it was always presented transparently and coherently, the interpretations discernible from that which was being interpreted. I am tempted to try again unless things have changed.
The Atlantic (Monthly) - They seem to do good work occasionally, but I don't think I have ever allowed them to recover in my estimation since their support for the Iraq war. I check the website sporadically, and the quality of the work there seems to exist in inverse proportion to the significance of the subject covered.
Harper's - I haven't checked them out in a while. I appreciate that they retained at least some sense of critical distance during Obama's presidency.
Newsweek/Time - I seem to vaguely recall a time (no pun intended) when these weren't USA Today with higher word counts. Alternately: the boundaries between objectivity and obliviousness.
New York Times - please tell me there is something else - between the increased lifestyle coverage, the pathetic editorial section, the desire to chase the Internet for scoops, the pompous cluelessness of the house style, and the decreased metro NYC coverage, I just really can't quite bring myself to pay for this thing again. Every time they try and "adapt to a changing world", they seem to rid themselves of more of the characteristics that would make them necessary within it. That their readers seem to think they are reading the same paper they always have shows the level of critical insight within the American elite. Then again, wasn't the justification, in the end, always conformity?
Washington Post - see above, only with parochial haircuts, and (just a reasonable guess on my part), decreased metro DC coverage.
The Guardian - what an embarrassing collapse - I hate that I still go to this website first thing in the morning out of habit.
The New Republic - should have self-immolated with profound apologies to the world sometime in 1997 (or maybe earlier - I'm not old enough to really know)
The New Yorker - at best, the best, but, often, not (these words within parentheses are meant to allow the seven words that precede them to remain distinct from the words that follow, and the closest I will ever come to auditioning for the role of a capable writer) and yet, I live, in New York, so maybe?

As an aside, I've tried, both in earnest and in jest, to Google phrases such as "most objective newspaper" or "best daily newspaper" and have gotten a lot of poll results and financial/circulation numbers. In other words, Family Feud, George W.S. Trow, capitalism, as always and again.

A reminder: this wasn't meant to be another editorial. The questions remain, I hope you will answer.





BDR said...

I got no answers, but glad to see you typing!

:-p said...

Thanks for the support.

I'm not sure how often I will be back, at least for now. Given the present political situation, I can't blame others for reacting, at speed, to the unfolding of events, but, for some reason, patience, deliberation, distance, and an interrogation of my own facile opinions, feel more necessary to me.

I think that's actually what I am looking for in the above post, really; a source of facts provided with the same attitude.

Reading the newspaper online is definitely part of the problem - the need for page views seems to be forcing or encouraging newspapers to start to destroy the aesthetic and "virtual physical" distinctions between the works of actual journalism and the editorials and sponsored content. It's been going on for a while now, I know, and I've always read, for instance, the New York Times, with an awareness of the external factors which inform their aspirations to objectivity, but, somehow, and maybe it's just me, I'm starting to feel that those external factors have totally undermined the journalism. Some line has been crossed, and what was merely before a preponderance of wind and rain has become a hurricane.

Regardless: maybe it seems selfish to pursue patience and even silence, but, then again, I can't help but feel that most of my reactions to present events would be predictable and would inadvertently perpetuate a cycle that needs to be broken. It's not a crisis of confidence, but a crisis of confidence.

mistah charley, ph.d. said...

i recommend against the economist - most of it is written by people just out of college - and suggest, as a print newspaper with a focus on what really matters - i.e. money - the financial times - spouse and self seldom delve into the second section with the details on the various companies, but the news coverage in the first section seems to me to be relatively fact-based, and the editorial and op-ed material seldom goes psychotic, the way the wall street journal does

also in print - i believe the nation is pretty good from a whatmightpassforleftist perspective

on the web nakedcapitalism.com is good, in my opinion

may the creative forces of the universe smile in your general direction

davidly said...

I don't know about newspapers or periodicals any more if I ever really did, especially something one'd want to subscribe to, but this entry is rife with commendably quote-worthy interpretations that summarize current events pretty well. It would seem your instinct to keep a distance hasn't hurt your being informed as much as the next person, all while you strive for the reaches of emotional intelligence that elude those mired in the news in this social sphere of human existence. I wonder how much someone could get out of the occasional news-stand purchase. Maybe even in the material world less would be more.

:-p said...

Thanks for the comments!

mistah charley...
Good call on the FT. It's always been in the back of my mind to try it out.

I haven't read The Economist in a million years, but I do remember appreciating the extent of their coverage of the global South, and I would have justified reading it under the assumption that actual, real capitalists who make their money off of investments, off of moving capital around internationally, don't need to see their ideologies reflected back to them as much as they need actual, real information on how the political circumstances of various nations will impact their prospective investments. Maybe the FT approaches that ideal?

I may flip through The Nation again. It's been a while. I think, at one point, I wrote it off as being too progressive, i.e. filled with moral outrage at the excesses of capitalism in a way that allows for the inference that capitalism could be moral, that, if only we had better people in charge of us, everything would be fine. I might be wrong, though.

I do hope the creative forces smile in my direction, and I send my best wishes to you and yours!

Thanks for the kind words.

Maybe I'm not doing as bad as I think, but it feels like such a slog. I think I miss the way the newspaper is self-contained, how it's so easy to read the articles from start to finish, to ignore some completely, to save some for later. Reading the paper seems to allow for so much more autonomy.

I am looking for distance and not at the same time, now that I think on it more. I think I want to distance myself from the mediating force of the Internet to be more engaged with reality. Maybe, though, what I am missing is my youthful ability to read the news as reality, though.

Then again, there must be, out there somewhere: tight, declarative, descriptive sentences written in proper order with the necessary context to understand them provided in the same manner.

Thanks again, best to you and your as well.