Which Media Outlets Are Worthwhile?

I often discuss current events and geopolitics on the DavosMan.org forum, a small but interesting set of people who range all over the ideological map, and who hail from North America, Europe, Australia, and Asia. Recently one of the people there listed the set of news media he follows, and it made me think about which ones I follow. I was going to respond in kind there, but I realized the answer might be more general interest, so I’m answering here instead.

For starters, I don’t watch TV other than occasional entertainment shows. TV news is a wasteland. The 20th century newspaper columnist H.L. Mencken once wrote, “The whole aim of practical politics is to keep the populace alarmed (and hence clamorous to be led to safety) by an endless series of hobgoblins, most of them imaginary.” Nowadays that phrase would seem as appropriate for 24 hour news channels, the revenue model for which is to sell ads by promoting a pernicious adrenaline high of outrage and fear so that people will keep watching. For some reason CNN seems to be the default telescreen braying in public spaces in the U.S., and every time I see it I’m reminded just how empty it really is, an endless barrage of false urgency coupled with flashy imagery designed to mesmerize. And its competitors are no better.

Some print media are a little more useful, and while I don’t set out to stay current with any specific periodical, although I’ll often read articles from the Washington Post, The Guardian, The Intercept, Reason, FEE, Asia Times, PanAm Post, and Fair Observer (long form journalism that leans centre-left). For specialty media I’ll read Dominica News Online, University World News, and InsideHigherEd.

Like many people nowadays, typically I read an article not because it’s in a particular publication but because it’s recommended on social media by someone who I know is thoughtful. Some of those people mostly share my perspectives, but others do not.

I occasionally run into articles from RT, CGTN, Granma, teleSUR, etc., but do not take them seriously. They are not an “alternative perspective”, they are just press releases from dictators worthy of no more attention than a missive from Sarah Sanders. RT in particular is an interesting study in propaganda, however, not because the news it delivers is untrue, but because its editorial approach is deliberately to report on events in a way designed to sow mistrust in Americans of every societal institution in their lives, especially governmental, media, and financial. The sad thing is that these societal institutions deserve that mistrust, which is why RT doesn’t typically have to lie, so in that sense perhaps RT is performing a backhanded service, and I can see why some libertarians actually find it appealing. But it’s still not something one could actually trust.

Instead of any of those, I’ve come to prefer spending that time on podcasts that cover new ideas in my specialization. Especially if you’re someone who spends a fair bit of time in the car, finding worthwhile podcasts is something I strongly recommend. There is definitely something for everyone out there, from the ridiculous to the sublime, a cornucopia of unfiltered experts sharing what they know.

And I don’t feel bad about spending less and less time on news media. Other than weather reports, I can’t remember the last time a news article from general interest media actually gave me information that I could use to help me reach my goals. Can you?

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