Growing up, endeavoring to start a neighborhood newspaper was a fairly common pastime for me and my sisters. Struck by an urgent need to report on bunny rabbit sightings or baby squirrel nests, we’d pull sheets of paper out of the legal-sized tray in the enormous photocopying machine in my dad’s home office. In between wasting toner making copies of our grubby handprints, we’d get scissors and rulers and rolls of Scotch tape to cobble together a masthead. It was rare that we had more news than would fill the front page and so stories were mostly given equal weight: there were investigations of the builders digging foundations at the old farm across the street next to reports of daffodil blooms astride birthday party announcements. Our delivery route was stymied by the fact that we lived on the busy main thoroughfare through town and so we mostly made deliveries to our immediate neighbors, or stuffed animals, or our obedient parents. Everyone was expected to pay a penny per paper. All sentient beings complied.
When you are not a seven-year-old, convincing someone to pay for something they think they should get for free becomes more difficult. And changing your own mindset regarding doling out additional pennies might be even tougher. But this year, I’ve embraced paying for the news I read, more than ever.
Living in the United States at this particular moment means having at least a cursory familiarity with the term ‘fake news’. Originally used predominately to describe the preponderance of false news stories disseminated—wittingly or unwittingly, with effect on the election, or not—on the internet during the presidential campaign, the term has been lobbed back and forth by people calling all manner of news fake, whether or not it is.
As we have in the past, and as we likely will in the future, we currently face an administration that casts doubt on the work of journalists. Saddled with a government that’s demonstrated in just a few weeks that they’re willing to weave lies about any manner of topics, we need to rely more than ever on the brave folks whose job it is to seek out the truth and tell us about it. Without real news, and with accusations that all news is fake news, our compass gets thrown out of whack. We become suspicious. We begin to doubt everything we hear. We become vulnerable and, without being even slightly hyperbolic, so does our democracy.
We need the work of journalists who have decided that rather than just digest the news over their morning coffee, they’re going to seek it out at the source. We count on them to dig deep, to show up, to investigate goings-on from smack dab in the thick of them so that the rest of can burn our tongues on coffee and sputter through the offending bits of reportage from the relative comfort of our breakfast tables, or beds.
We need a free press, but that press isn’t free. It needs resources and to put it quite bluntly, we need to pay for it. I’ve had a paper or digital subscription to the New York Times from the moment I had my own apartment, but this year I’m also paying for subscriptions to The Washington Post and The New Yorker. I’ve made donations to my local NPR station. Supporting sites that are predominately reader-supported instead of ad-supported means ensuring the survival of publications striving to avoid commercial conflicts of interest. Democracy Now, and Bitch are both ad-free, not to mention the not-exactly-newsy, but nevertheless soul-affirming, Brain Pickings.
Here’s my bit of encouragement that some of you might also be able to also support the news in this way. Whether it’s paying for a digital or print subscription to a paper, buying movie tickets to a documentary film, pledging a donation to a local radio or television station, throwing a few pennies the way of your favorite podcast or newsletter, helping to support the folks making great media is the surest way to ensure that we stay informed and stay engaged, and not just about neighborhood bunny sightings. Though those are nice to know about, too.
What about you guys? What news sources do you subscribe to?
(PS. If you’d rather spend Valentine’s Day thinking about love stuff, here’s some newsprint used for a different kind of message.)
Love this! I’m subscribing to New York Times, Washington Post, New Yorker, Teen Vogue (just last month!). I also gave to NPR and became a PBS member (you get to stream all their content, including British Bake Off seasons with a membership, so it’s double duty good). I’m thinking of subscribing to New York Magazine and Pro Publica too.
You had me at “British Bake Off”. 🙂
This is great encouragement! Thank you! Also, I know you mentioned paper or digital but I’m really curious on your thoughts on the paper print being waste. Is it? I’ve always preferred the paper print to digital but haven’t gotten it because of the waste thing. I would love to have you tell me it’s not 😉
Oh man, I know it. Can’t tell you that paper’s not a waste, alas. But I do understand that old habits die hard!
Aw, rats! I was really hoping you would give me permission but I wouldn’t feel good about it anyway. Digital it shall remain…
I don’t know if it helps much, but I recently read that when we read online/digital information, we actually absorb 25% less information. It has to do with how our brain engages with the pages of a book because there are, well, pages. You know how you can remember which side of the page a quote or reference was on, even chapters or days later? That is your brain doing some fancy footwork that gets lost on a digital screen. I like to think of this when I pick up my books and magazines. 🙂
Perhaps you can simply use the newspapers when you are done for other purposes??
Yes, definitely! (But not creating the product in the first place still probably trumps reuse!)
Ugh… yes!! that’s the tricky part!! Maybe a compromise for your reader such as only getting the Sunday paper and read the rest online? I know some people only like to read a “real” paper. And, I want to keep great journalists writing. Hmmmph.
I am a NPR/PBS sustainer: $5 a month, automatically withdrawn from my checking. So simple.
I was already a New York Times subscriber, but during the election I added The Washington Post and I’m maintaining both subscriptions going forward (digital only!).
Bitch and Modern Farmer magazines. Just this month I became a sustaining member of my local NPR station AND my local music station that I listen to all the time. The music is helping me through the tough times and their DJs are playing music for the resistance.
Oddly enough, the public library here in Los Angeles offers free NY Times online access, so I’ve been taking full advantage of that. I also have a paper/digital New Yorker subscription. I’ve considered subscribing to the Los Angeles Times but I just find the quality incredibly lacking, most of the time – I’d really love a local news source on par with the NYT, but that’s clearly not happening any time soon.
I’d have to agree with you on the LA Times. The decline in quality seems to be linked with the sale of the paper in 2007. Their web presence continues to be atrocious. That said, there are stories that matter to Californians that The NY Times will never cover and I continued to use their voting recommendations as a guideline through the last election.
It’s really too bad because they have been known to publish some good content. Here’s a great series on the world’s oceans from 2006. I can’t believe it’s a decade old. I remember being so enthralled with the series as it was being published.
Now that I’m in Seattle I’ll be subscribing to the Seattle Times. It’s a good local paper and nowhere near The NY Times in scale. However, they do good work too.
Query whether the LA Times would get better if it had more subscribers. The NYT makes money and is one of a few papers that is doing well in this so-called digital age. Be part of the change you want to see in the world!
Never hurts to try to get news from the other side. I’m relatively conservative and I make an effort to always read the publications you mentioned (which are, IMO, all left-leaning), so I can understand the differing point of view. Try the WSJ online! Subscriptions are cheap. Know the other argument and remember that there are a lot of peace-loving, equality-loving, calm and rational folks out here on the right. xx
This 100 times! Katherine is so correct. 🙂
I would happily pay for a paper that I thought was truly bipartisan but I can’t seem to find one. However, I do make an effort to balance everything I read.
I did however, get my husband to finally agree to me becoming a member of my local public radio station, WXPN (out of Philadelphia) that I simply adore listening to everyday and want to contribute to.
Agreed Katherine! Other than WSJ what are some other publications that you recommend that are more conservative? I often go to BBC or CBC (being an ex-pat who lives in Canada) to try to get another point of view.
Honestly, there just aren’t that many. The left really does seem to dominate a lot of the news in general. I would very much encourage all people to get involved locally. All politics is local politics, so keeping those who you elect locally accountable, and who report on them accountable, really has a big impact. I look at a lot of online sources. Drudge Report, and Newsmax. I see bias there as well, and I know when I read an article from Breitbart, it’s just as unreliable by itself as something from HuffPost is, but getting the two viewpoints can help me make a better opinion.
I would also suggest The Economist alongside WSJ for a more conservative view.
The National Review and New Republic are also good for classically conservative journalism.
Katherine, thank you for your comment! I don’t know if you will return here, or even if you’ll want to engage if you do, but I have a follow up question. Would you be willing to say more about what you find to be left-leaning in these news sources? I ask whole-heartedly and without agenda, because I can’t answer the question for myself. I feel I’ve read them so long that it’s impossible for me to locate their own biases anymore. (It’s like the joke about the two fish swimming through the ocean, when an older fish swims by and says, “Enjoying the water, boys?” And the one turns to the other and says, “What the heck is water?”)
Anyway, I again thank you for your commend and invite further discussion, if you’re willing.
I am conservative, so I see liberal bias all. the. time.
But I also see it in conservative journalism all. the. time.
-I think knowing how to spot bias means knowing the real true core beliefs of those who you disagree with (and not just the outrageous and bombastic 140 character rants of a certain orange gentleman, ha!)
– I think spotting bias is more about what is not being reported versus what is being reported.
-I also think that media bias can be found in a mild amount of self-reflection about whether or not xyz scandal would be a scandal or not if it was on the other side.
I would encourage you to simply question everything, even those publications you have been reading for a long time, and the conservative ones too. I’m not trying to change anyone’s opinion, but having your opinions reinforced when there is a whole other body of facts not being reported on would be a shame to those who are looking for all the facts. Study after study shows are media is left wing as a whole, and that the vast majority of journalists are left-leaning, and just googling “how to spot liberal bias in the media” produces a plethora of articles from many different legitimate sources.
Additionally, it’s not just the news (NYT, Post, CNN, ABC, NBC and ESPECIALLY MSNBC), but it is programming. Try watching the Grammy’s, the Golden Globes, the Oscars, the Super Bowl, or basically any television show as a conservative, and I bet you can’t get through it without being told your opinions are wrong. Now I’m beginning to rant which is not my intention. Happy to comment a bit further though. Cheers!
Thanks for your reply, Katherine! Your comments have been helpful to me.
A good example of the way bias slips into the news in ways we might not notice if we don’t read multiple sources can be seen in the headlines today: the NYT is running this headline: “trump plans to have ally review u.s. Spy agencies”. The WSJ is leading with, “spies keep intelligence from trump.” Both are important angles on this story, both legitimate, but you won’t get both from either paper.
Historically, newspapers have never been unbiased, they were always associated with a certain party or position. If we recognize that our papers today aren’t really “unbiased” and read with that in mind, we’re likely to be better informed.
Thanks for this, Katherine! Always important to look at all sides in the media we consume. 🙂 I’m sure there are many “peace-loving, equality-loving, rational” conservatives. I hope they–especially the ones in Congress–start speaking out and making their voices heard against the un-peaceful, unequal, irrational acts the current administration is acting on. We need you!
I support NPR and PBS. For me, The New York Times, The Washington Post, The New Yorker, and The Atlantic are were it’s at. And some WSJ, for balance. This year, I’m going science-y and resubscribing to National Geographic and adding Scientific American (my kids love to page through these!).
Also, love Modern Farmer!
Don’t forget to subscribe to your local papers too! Accountability for our leaders is very much at risk on the local level, those journalists desperately need our support.
On a more encouraging note, applications for journalism schools reached all-time highs during the Watergate Scandal – while Nixon was repeatedly trying to sow distrust of the media. I think we can expect to see the same – a resurgence of true journalism, where the people are going to seek out the truth and will be willing to support it in any way they can.
I’d also add podcasts to the mix – especially those giving voice to stories from minorities and other oppressed peoples, and those carrying out important investigative journalism. I love Latino USA, for example, and also On Being (less investigative journalism but still entirely relevant conversations.) I also want to support progressive magazines like Yes! Magazine, Mother Jones, and the like. Great post, thanks for initiating the conversation!!
On there! But great reminder and thanks for the recommendations! I love On Being, too, but haven’t listened to Latino USA!
I can’t recommend Latino USA enough 🙂
While not so much “news” per se, it’s also worth following and supporting reputable policy think-tank organizations that offer a more thorough and in-depth exploration of various issues and policies that is based on analysis and research. Again, these organizations have a different function and role than journalists, but are a great complement for anyone looking to read about policy and world news with a more educated and informed eye. There are great think tanks that run the political gamut: Brookings Institute (left leaning), the American Enterprise Institute (conservative), CATO (libertarian).
First time reader, now a follower. New Yorker and public media subscriber. Paying for and supporting a news source gives legitimacy to my claim of expecting reliable, regular, factual news. Objectivity may have died in the last century, but if the news has a slant, it should be an informed slant. Also, news ought to be about the story, not the jounalist, unless they are the story. In that case, except as entertainment, alternate sources seem necessary. Thanks for you thoughts.
I’ve been a New York Times web subscriber for going on 5 years now; added in Washington Post (also online) last year once they started requiring a subscription. Because it helps for work (and the fact that I’m not home in America), I also have web subscriptions to Foreign Policy and Foreign Affairs. As for local(-ish) news, I follow Cambridge News (UK) on twitter for what’s going on where I live. 🙂
Great post! x
Such a good reminder. After the election I totally withdrew from all news sources, because I just couldn’t handle it. Now, I want to stay involved, so I want to stay informed. We get the New Yorker, and just subscribed digitally to The New York Times. I also set up a monthly membership with our local public radio. Thanks for keeping it real, Erin, as always.
I strongly second Bitch Media’s magazine, podcasts, and website. They are independent, non-profit, and feminist. That means they are completely reader-funded and not reliant on corporate sponsors.
Yes, to all of it. I’ve subscribed to the NYT for a long time but the holidays had me asking for and receiving subscriptions to other sources I’ve come to trust. It seems like a no brainer – if we want these sources to survive we must contribute to them financially. I gave up having coffee out so that I can support NPR and I’ve had zero regrets. It sounds silly, but it really does me feel like I’m contributing in a positive way. XO
I loved this post and completely agree. My husband and I need a lot of publications for our jobs so were already subscribed to our local paper, The WSJ, Texture (digital app that includes The Atlantic and New Yorker) and the Economist. Since the election, we added the paper Sunday edition of The NYT, and The Washington Post (6 months free for Prime members!). It is getting a little out of hand but we’re still reading a good bit of all of them. I also love The Monocle for indepth stories that aren’t covered elsewhere. For example, they did a piece on the Norwegian peacekeeping team last year. Plus it also covers design and travel. At this point, I probably sound like a crazy news junkie but I’m willing to live with it 🙂
An ad-free environmental magazine, orionmagazine.org, “Orion’s mission is to inform, inspire, and engage individuals and grassroots organizations in becoming a significant cultural force for healing nature and community.” (From their Mission and History page…)
Forgot this one! James subscribes!
Christian Science Monitor hard copy. Always in my tote for inroute reading.
Erin, I’ve loved your blog since I found it a year or so ago, but I love it, and you, even more now for the regular reminders of ways we can be responsible and active citizens. It’s so past time I donated to some of my favorite news sources. Keep up the good work!!
Love this post Erin. Your point is excellent. People can’t do the journalism we need if they are not paid. I’m a longtime NYT digital subscriber (I live in France), and took out a New Yorker subscription right after the election (I had been a subscriber for years but had let it lapse). I also donated to ProPublica by buying one of their “We’re Not Shutting Up” t-shirts but I think that closed literally just a day or two ago. Also thinking right now about The Atlantic, the Washington Post, and Mother Jones. I lived in Washington for a long time, and it seemed that the Post had kind of gone downhill, but it has become must-read again. However I think as a federal employee I may have some kind of special access to the Post, so I will have to check that out!
Anyway, as a journalism lover, I thank you for raising this very important topic!! And I love your story about your own efforts. I loved it all, but especially this felicitous phrase: “In between wasting toner making copies of our grubby handprints, we’d get scissors and rulers and rolls of Scotch tape to cobble together a masthead.”
We do NYTimes, New Yorker, The Atlantic, The Economist, and WNYC. Our house has had the same subscriptions for years, couldn’t live without them.
Love the story about your childhood paper, unfortunately our soon to be born son will not find many supportive neighbors for a similar tome in Midwood, Brooklyn. At least we can garden together.
Oh, you never know! I’ve found that once there’s a little guy in the picture supportive neighbors come out of the woodwork!
I have to admit, I got lazy and complacent under Obama (also, I had two kids during his administration) but the day after Trump was elected I resubscribed to my long ago lapsed Atlantic subscription, gave a donation to WQXR (NYC’s lovely classical music station) and NPR, and subscribed to the NYT weekend section. I think based on the comments above I will try the Wa Post online even though I much prefer to read/hold the actual paper, but easier to read stuff online while at work. If there’s one thing the past couple of months have taught me is how crucial the press is in a democracy.
The situation is just the same here in the UK, and many newspapers are really struggling to keep producing content.
I know that I’m part of the problem because I consume it for free online during the week, and only buy a printed copy at the weekend.
So, as soon as I can do a bit of re-organising with my budget, I’ll be subscribing to some newspapers and magazines over here, and at least one or two in paper version – there’s nothing better than reading something held between your hands during breakfast on a Sunday morning! Thank you for the nudge.
I adore The Economist. They do not always sound like our beloved NPR or PBS, but their stories are always well considered and data/research based whenever possible.
I subscribe to Civil Eats- great food journalism!
I’m all about this! 🙂 We subscribe and donate to multiple news papers and organizations from both sides of the aisle since my husband and I feel it’s important to read from multiple sources coming from different sides of opinion even though we both lean rather liberally. However, I thought it would be good to mention that if you have an audible account, you get a free subscription to either the Wall Street Journal or the New York Times. I find it helpful having an audio news option in addition to paper news and I didn’t know this was an added account perk until I was multiple months into my subscription!
Great post. It’s really important to spread the news and remind people to support journalism with their wallets. We share a subscription to the NYT with our in-laws, we’ve subscribed to the Washington Post ourselves and are contributing to The Guardian. Also, we have been members of our local public radio, VPR, for many years.
I recently bought a subscription to the weekend Globe & Mail, one of Canada’s national newspapers. The first paper that landed at my door included a front page investigation into how sexual assaults are handled by police in my country and the second paper, the following weekend, showed that the Government and Law Enforcement were responding to it. There is power in the press and I will pay for it. Thank you Erin.
Hi Erin, my protest vote (as I’m not an American) was to subscribe the Guardian and to the New York Times. As a journalist I obviously support good journalism – but it’s also important to have facts – rather than just emotions. Fake news, when its well done, can be awfully convincing and in the era of FB and Twiter people are more casual about where the information is coming from. This is an ongoing issue for serious media – and for any thoughtful citizen. I appreciate your post.
This is absolutely refreshing. Yes! I love The Times as well. The story is especially effective for me because you opened it in such a personal manner.
I subscribed to the New Yorker and the Washington Post this week. I also donate to my local NPR station wherever I am living because it’s the best.
I also use the Feedly reader to help me stay away from Facebook-friend news! I load up my favorite/preferred sites and go straight there. No distractions.
To answer the question: New York Times and New Yorker subscriptions for many years (we don’t live in NY), donations to NPR wherever we’ve lived, and I just subscribed to the Washington Post. I think ProPublica is next on the list.
Question for others: do you share a household subscription? That’s what we’ve done with the NY Times, but I value them so much that I’m thinking of getting my own subscription (the current one is in my husband’s name) as almost a donation.
I became sustaining member of the public classical music station (KDFC.) that I listen to every evening when I prepare dinner. I live rurally and it’s my way of helping support the arts.
For non-mainstream journalism, I’ve really been liking The Intercept, Glenn Greenwald’s new-ish site. They just added Naomi Klein (author of The Shock Doctrine) to the team. I also love Democracy Now for in-depth reporting, and Matt Taibbi of Rolling Stone does some fantastic investigative journalism, too . Abby Martin’s The Empire Files is great for long form video interviews- I’m learning so much from it!
For mainstream news, I tend to go with The Guardian and often watch BBC America on PBS. Somehow, hearing the news reported with a bit of British distance feels calming.
I love Brain Pickings so much. It always restores my faith in humanity!
Yes yes yes! Couldn’t agree more. I live in London but subscribe to the NYT and most recently The New Yorker. Considering also the Atlantic if I can find some time for this great publication too 🙂
Good on you for supporting the media that matters to you! I’m trying to do the same. While Canadian, I rely on NY Times and New Yorker for intelligent and quality reporting. In these times, their work is so important to support. Glad to hear others feel the same way.
Hi, since press in Argentina is not so reliable, I try to read a little bit of everything. Also, I follow Brain Pickings which I love.
Regards from Buenos Aires!
I love this, Erin, and as a magazine editor myself, I echo and support your sentiments. Right now, I subscribe to the New York Times, Washington Post and the New Yorker, and donate every month to PBS. Thinking The Atlantic will be next.
When we moved from Germany to the Greek countryside, I decided that I mght as well bring the world to us – I subscribe to the New Yorker. It is amazing! I used to buy random issues here and there and it always cost around 10-12 euro, so I only did it as a small luxury. And my corner store always put stickers on the covers and ruined them, though I tried to explain that they are sort of collectible. And then I realised how much of a bargain the subscription is, so I’ve been a subscriber for three years now and never looked back. It is such a luxury to hike to the mailbox everyweek and have stuff to read delivered to the middle of nowhere. I love it.
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