Sep 2021 Week 5 – My Newspaper Saga

I changed my job earlier this year and with that, I wanted to make some changes in my routine. I  specially wanted to change my morning habits. Earlier I used to rush into work after getting up but now I wanted to start my mornings with something that I enjoyed and looked forward to. Reading a newspaper is one of those things. I heard someone say this in a podcast interview and I couldn’t agree more – it feels amazing to wake up and get inspired by the happenings around the world.

Being the detail-oriented and picky person that I am, a lot of thought has gone behind reading a newspaper šŸ˜€ I try to be selective in what I read, and wrote about it in a prior blog post. Figuring out the best sources to consume news has been an ongoing trial and error for me. It was rather interesting after I moved to the US, a foreign land for me. In my initial years in the US, I witnessed the Trump election and found myself lost as I tried to understand the American politics. So began my quest for a ‘good’ source of news. Surprisingly, it was not very easy. First challenge was that there are many English newspapers in the US compared to what I was used to in India. Excessive choice is a very real problem here!

Luckily, my employer provides complimentary digital subscriptions to several renowned newspapers as an employee benefit. This helped me filter the choices automatically. Then, I asked my work colleagues regarding their preferred news sources and I started experimenting. Over time, I found my comfort and interest in a few: New York Times (NYT), Wall Street Journal (WSJ) and The Hindu (for Indian news).

A basic observation is that primary sources trump secondary sources when it comes to news. Primary sources are well-known news agencies that employ professional journalists to obtain first hand information. Paid journalism ensures a certain degree of quality. Secondary sources are web content, online platforms, apps and social media that borrow content or build on the primary sources. However, even the established newspapers are politically aligned one way or the other. That brought up another question – are there any neutral sources at all? Gradually, I learnt that is a wrong question to ask. It is better to be cognizant of the biases/orientation/affiliations of newspapers and columnists. Growing up meant coming around to the fact that humans are judgmental and opinionated creatures. Also, not having an opinion on certain matters might signal indifference towards social issues. However, there can be enough space for acknowledging other views.

Even with the newspapers that I liked, I felt something was amiss after a while. What I realized is that these national newspapers cater to a very narrow group of reader base. Nothing wrong with that. Afterall, it is a business. And in all honesty, I really love reading them. However, I wanted to get a better feel of the local community that I live in. I realized this when I moved to a suburb that has its own neighborhood newspaper. Reading that brought me a different kind of joy. I felt more connected to what was reported. It took me back to my childhood where we had a local newspaper called The City Line (by The Hitavada Group, a local publisher). I would get involved in activities promoted in it. I would read articles written by or about people I personally knew. In fact, I also got featured in it several times. That local pulse was missing in NYT or WSJ. That is what led me to The Seattle Times (ST), another newspaper that I love.

You might be wondering – aren’t three newspapers a lot to read? YES of course! Frankly, I am using three (or four) of them because I have complimentary access to digital editions through my employer. Maybe a time will come when I don’t get that benefit and then there will be another round of decision making for prioritization. Even with the complimentary subscriptions, there is an overload of information and often, repetitive news. To solve this problem, I signed up for specific NYT and WSJ newsletters that are delivered to my email and give me a great roundup of the most significant news/essays on topics that I care about. I highly recommend the newsletters for their curated content. One of my favorites is The Intelligent Investor from WSJ (by Jason Zweig).

Over the last two years during the pandemic, I got immense fatigue from screen time. Sooner or later, the print versus digital newspaper dilemma was bound to come up. My user experience with digital newspapers is not as satisfactory as print. News websites/apps can lead me down a rabbit hole with their embedded links and visual distractions. Plus I don’t enjoy the organization and layout online. However, print editions are significantly more expensive than digital editions. Employee benefits don’t cover the print editions. Additionally, digital editions are more accessible. I am quite comfortable with e-books, but there is lot of scrolling with digital newspapers and it hurts my head sometimes. I manage reading online but wanted to try a print version to get away from screens and revel in the classic feel.

The next question was which newspaper out of the three (WSJ, NYT, ST) to get in print. All three of them or all days of the week would be too much. Optimizing all factors, I decided to go with Sunday print edition of Seattle Times. I am loving it so far except that it comes only on a Sunday and a bit late in the morning – by that time, majority of my weekend is already over. Ideally, I would love to read something in print on Saturday/Friday mornings but currently, ST does not offer that specific subscription option. Maybe I will try WSJ or NYT in print.

So the newspaper experimentation continuesā€¦Another choice is whether to read the digital newspaper through an app or browser, on phone or computer. I’ll make it short and share that I prefer the browser on a computer. I like reading on large screens. But my hubby prefers it on the phone.

Like any decision making, it depends! My newspaper strategy may or may not work for you. Ultimately, the choice depends on why you want to read news in the first place. You may not even need a newspaper and you could just watch or listen to news instead. I first got into newspapers because my school and parents encouraged that, then in college because everyone said reading newspapers would help with acing interviews and career. After that, the motivation was to feel well-read, knowledgeable, smart; to fit in the intelligentsia. But now, the newspaper has basically turned into a respite from burning out; a window to the world beyond what we have been holed into for the last two years.

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