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I Started Paying For News. Why and Which Ones.


Jerry's Weekly Newsletter

April 18 · Issue #15 · View online

I'm Jerry, a software engineer, YouTuber, and blogger. Every weekend I write about some thoughts, life lessons, and interesting things I came by for the week. I'd love for you to join.

Hi friends,
I’m happy to report that I got my first shot of the Pfizer vaccine on Saturday! Not too many side effects yet, other than my left arm being a little sore. However, today I did feel completely useless and unmotivated to do anything at all, so I guess that would be the most detrimental side effect that I’ve experienced.
This week, along with my journey to go from “How” to “What”, I re-examined how I consume information, specifically the news. Since this has such a big impact on the quality of my judgment, I realized I had to completely overhaul my information consumption patterns in order to become a better opportunity-identifier.
Why Free News Isn't Cutting It Anymore For Me
We live in the information age where information is dripping off of our pocket devices. There’s literally so much information that we cannot possibly hope to understand it all. So why pay for information when it’s free?
I mean, if it’s news that we want, shouldn’t I just continue using a news aggregator like Google News or Flipboard? Other than the few paywall-ed articles that they might recommend us, we’re still able to get information, right?
Re-examine what I said, and you’ll find the one word at the root of the problem: recommend. These platforms–be it news aggregators or social media feeds–are collecting our data, figuring out our preferences, feeding us only what we want and nothing else.
This causes us to be stuck in an echo chamber where we are only fed what we want to hear and consistently reinforced with those ideas. This is extremely dangerous because we lose the ability to see other perspectives. That’s how there can be two starkly different opinions on Donald Trump.
Such platforms are incentivized to do this because the more time we spend on their platform, the more they’re able to monetize off of us with ads. Welcome to the attention economy.
Now that I have your attention (not sorry for this bad joke), here are some of my motivations:
  • To break out of my echo chamber
  • To be more informed about the state of the world in general
  • To identify patterns where history rhymes (even if it doesn’t repeat)
  • To know how to verify claims made by people I know and be able to discern how biased it is
What I Look For In News
Since my time is limited, I want to get the best bang for my buck. I’m willing to spend time and money in order to get the most value, but I prefer to spend less time on the same quality of news, even if it means it costs more money (as long as it’s not unreasonable).
Factual & Unbiased
I’m looking to stay informed about the state of the world and know what’s going on. I don’t want to read narratives because that would just mean succumbing to marketing. I want factual reporting that is as unbiased as possible. Good reporting should keep opinions to a minimum since I can form my own.
I need my news sources to cover topics that I’m interested in keeping up with. For now, the list is as follows:
World News – anything big going on in the world that has global impact, like the blocking of the Suez Canal
Geopolitics – anything going on in the international community that affects relationships between countries, such as US imposing sanctions on Russia or Biden sending US delegates to Taiwan
Economy – how the markets are moving based on supply and demand, such as how serious the computer chip shortage is or the fact that the US economy brought back more than expected jobs in March
Tech – the latest and greatest that goes on in the high tech sector, such as Coinbase going public or how Amazon warehouse workers in Alabama chose not to unionize
I feel like this list might change, but for now, I think this will give me a good balance of information dosage that will benefit me in the long run.
What Journals I Chose To Pay For And Why
Let me first start by saying that it was not easy at all to narrow which journals I wanted to subscribe to. I chose to limit myself to 3 since any more than that would lead to diminishing returns. I had to find a good mix and balance it out appropriately as well.
Financial Times
This is one of the most impressive journals that I found, with the least amount of bias and high factual reporting. The Financial Times is based in the UK and owned by a Japanese media conglomerate. The quality of their articles is really high, and I’ve been nothing short of amazed. Unfortunately, this is also quite expensive, but I do believe it’s worth it for me.
I’ll be looking to the FT for their global news around the western hemisphere along with world news without a US-centric view.
Wall Street Journal
The WSJ holds a strong reputation for its award-winning journalists. They lean slightly toward the right but have high factual reporting.
I’ll be looking to the WSJ to know what’s going on in the US market as well as to know what Americans think about the US’s role in geopolitics.
South China Morning Post
The SCMP is a HongKong-based newspaper with journalists in HK, China, Taiwan, Singapore, India, even New Zealand and Australia. There aren’t many big publishers around the area, and this is one of the better ones I could find. They lean slightly left and have good (but not high) factual reporting.
I’ll be looking to the SCMP to know what’s going on with China, southeast Asia, and how those activities impact the rest of the world.
3 journals overall, one unbiased, one slightly left, and one slightly left. One global western hemisphere, one US, and one southeast Asia.
Unfortunately, I am lacking coverage on Russia, the middle east, Africa, and South America. But I’m hoping that FT will give me enough peripheral vision on those regions.
Since life is a journey (almost typed journal!) and not a destination, everything I said above is subject to change. I’m only beginning the experimentation this week, and I hope it will be fruitful. If not, I will most certainly change this.
Hopefully a year from now, my carefully curated sources of information can fill in the gaps of context that I’m currently missing.
Okay, that’s all for now! I’ll see you all next week!
Weekly Content
5 Practical Ways To Increase Your Savings, Based On Psychology | by Jerry Zhang | Apr, 2021 | Making of a Millionaire
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