Tuesday, October 11, 2016

Keeping up with news and ideas

DSC03035The UK and Netherlands are both fortunate to have strong public broadcast news services in the BBC and the NOS (Nederlandse Omroep Stichting).  Both are chartered to produce regular and frequent pregular and frequent public service programming, including, full and impartial news service and coverage of parliamentary debates and other national events.  Both are criticized for somewhat right-of-center coverage, and for giving legitimacy to fringe points of view in their efforts to remain unbiased.  But in general, they are my go-to sources for news and commentary when in the country.

Newspapers in both countries are private and varied: I am a Volkskrant / Guardian sort of reader, and keep up with both, each day.  While the coverage is free online and through their app, I do agree that quality independent journalism requires financial support, and so make a monthly subscriber’s contribution to each.  There’s little in the way of premium content that comes back, but I appreciate the International and cultural content that a robust newspaper provides.

Most papers are retreating behind paywalls now, a pay-to-read scheme that has gotten more difficult in the past year.  My subscription to the British news weekly The Economist is the best,providing full access to current and historical content.  My New York Times subscription gives full and historical access online or via my tablet, but requires an additional fee if I want to read on my smartphone, a pointless distinction.  The Financial Times went further, a £1/day subscription gives only limited access to the day’s contents: tiers of higher, premium subscription are needed for access to popular articles, business commentary, and more.  At the same time, they have dropped weekend columnists who I really enjoyed, and their app is  burdensome and slow.  I dropped my subscription over the summer.

The Wall Street Journal has long been pay-to-view, but made their blog pages, including the wonderful WSJExpat, free to read.  In a double hit, they have now ended publication of the blog, moving it to Facebook, and have moved the archive of posts and advice behind their paywall.  Its a senseless loss.

DSC03038Beyond these  go-to publications, I try to read across a spectrum of news and opinion.  I look in on Rush and Andrew just to see how the other side is thinking (and Brietbart has been ahead on several stories that were late in getting to the Guardian or the Times).  I like the World Edition of the Atlantic and the New Yorker, and occasionally Slate, for their essays and commentary.  For thoughtful pieces, I really like Aeon and Brain Pickings: they challenge me with insights, ideas, and pointers to authors that I might otherwise miss.

Finally, when I’m in the car and n the air as much as I am, it’s hard to keep up with the written word.   Podcast fill the gap: I tend towards more conversational formats covering politics and lifestyle.  Current favorites include:

  • Sinica:  Recently moved to join the SupChina news site, Kaiser and Jeremy bring wonderful interviews about China that also speak to the expat experience more generally.  A recent episode with an expat’s months in a Chinese jail was wonderful.
  • On Taking Pictures:  Part of the 5by5 network, Bill and Jeffrey talk about the creative process with nods to photography.  Good natured and wide ranging, it’s like having a beer with college friends, discussing ideas like which phases of life produce best creative work, or whether better tools make for better art.
  • Petapixel:  Sharky brings twice-weekly updates on photography gear and techniques.  ‘sounds dull, but his running commentary is a lot of fun and he’s ahead of many stories about photojournalism and copyright issues.
  • On the Media:  A seriously lefty  and political spin on the US media landscape.  Bob and Brooke trade a lot of solid truths during their interview segments with academics and journalists.  They’ve been relentlessly hard on coverage of Trump, a nice tonic in a toxic election.
  • Here’s the Thing: Alec Baldwin spends a 1-1 hour with a leading actor, politician, or journalist.  People complain that there is too much Alec in the conversations, but it think that it gives his guests something to play off of, yielding a fun and relaxing talk.
  • Big Ideas:  An Australian podcast, this show spends an hour exploring single issues drawn from politics and science.  Although half the shows are of primarily local interest, occasional gems like Is Love an Illusion? keep this at the top of my playlist.

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