Media Roundup 2020

Sakunthala
Jan 1 · 4 min read

Newspapers and blogs changed a lot during the 2010s, some adapting to the internet and world events and capitalizing on it, others seriously losing their way and declining in quality. I realized lately that my mental ranking of information sources was totally off, so here’s my list of media winners and losers of the 2010s, and my favorite things to read in 2020.

Losers

  • The Economist — This one makes me sad, since I have been reading this since I was a tween (yes, really, nerd etc). It started this decade as the quintessential, slightly smug voice of clever neoliberalism, and has been hit hard by the changing political environment. I know it will reinvent itself eventually, find people with expertise to cover the technology without calling it the ‘fourth industrial revolution’, but right now it’s a bit lost in the wilderness, without a clear perspective or editorial position.
  • FT — This paper used to be the gold standard for understanding the intersection of international relations and finance. I would say “I don’t know what happened”, but the steep decline started somewhere around 2016. I think Brexit was such a shock to the pro-globalization worldview, that the paper quickly descended into irrational pessimism and seems really confused as to what to focus on.
  • New York Times — Where to start? This is probably my most disliked paper of the 2010s. I’ve found it quick to jump to shallow moralizing and exaggerate minor incidents into trends that don’t exist. And that’s not just because of tech criticism, which I think is valuable and needed. It’s the focus on irrelevant topics and lack of original, rigorous thought.
  • WSJ — At the start of the 2010s, the financial crisis and debate over the future of the economy was one of the most important things to read about. Now the debate has shifted away from finance, WSJ is not as relevant as it used to be. Unlike the other losers, there hasn’t been much of a decline in quality.

Mixed

  • Twitter — Twitter has been a mix of both, riding the technology wave for the first half of the decade, but by 2019 the #discourse became not only, as they say, toxic, but intellectually bankrupt as well. Overrun with shallow moralizing and self-help gurus, there really isn’t much left on Twitter outside of the snark, but we’re all stuck there because it’s such a great networking tool.
  • Vice — This used to be an edgy, adventurous lifestyle magazine for hard-partying 20-something slimeballs. It has reinvented itself as a semi-ironic, “dirtbag left’ misery rag, mixing tales of unappetizing drug abuse with politicized angst. To be honest, it wasn’t a bad way to adapt, and I’m impressed they survived.
  • Gawker — See below comment about Guido Fawkes. Would have been a winner if still in business.
  • The Guardian — At the start of this decade, the home of the wildly successful social justice movement, showcasing original stories and less heard perspectives. Has evolved successfully to become the home of the climate movement. Has always been a bit silly and precious, and that quality hasn’t changed for the better or worse.
  • Buzzfeed — Another successful reinvention story, evolving over the decade from celebrity gossip to low-grade social justice content to self-improvement porn. Buzzfeed also had a few scoops of serious journalism

Winners

  • Bloomberg View — By far the best new publication of the 2010s. By sourcing high-substance, original writers and paying a lot of money for good talent, BV has built an editorial team with the expertise to understand the world of the 2020s. Perhaps uniquely!
  • Evening Standard — Formerly a low-grade free London regional newspaper, recently taken over by a new, very overqualified editor. This makes a huge difference, since the main problem with print media now is a lack of cohesive worldview or focus. “Socially liberal, pro-business, pro-European” is the premise, but in practice it is a mixture of good news reporting, fantastic cultural curation, and insider political drama.
  • The Information — The only real Silicon Valley reporters! The big tech companies don’t have anyone reporting on them accurately, and that’s actually fairly surprising. Having good sources makes this blog worth the money.
  • Washington Post — Despite the slightly dramatic “Democracy Dies in Darkness” headline, the factual reporting seems really good, in the sense of having good sources and getting to the story before anyone else.
  • Guido Fawkes — The internet has changed the demand for information such that if you want to get exclusives, it has to basically be on-the-ground, heard from a person on the scene within 1 hour. This lowbrow gossip rag was among the first of it’s kind and is now fairly influential

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