Media Diary (December 2017)

I’ve spent years obsessively “checking in” to movies and TV shows on Facebook, and while that’s been helpful for reference when writing up “Best of The Year” posts, it’s also full-on insane. Since I’m throttling down my Facebook presence, I’m going to start doing an infrequent “media diet” roundup, which is a concept I’ve shamelessly stolen from the great Jason Kottke.

Anyway, for those interested, here’s the first in an ongoing series that will spotlight a few things I’ve been into recently (in no particular order and not necessarily just recent stuff):

Mindhunter (TV): I’d probably rank this in my all-time top ten shows

Curb Your Enthusiasm (TV): It didn’t miss a beat after so much time off

‘Til Death Do Us Blart (Podcast): A bunch of guys (including the McElroy brothers) that hate-watch Paul Blart: Mall Cop 2 once a year until the heat death of the universe

Lady Bird (Movie): From the performances to the overall vibe/early-2000s setting, I enjoyed this tremendously

Alias Grace (TV): Haven’t finished it yet, but loving what I’ve seen so far

The Good Place (TV): One of my favorite comedies of the past few years

Dirty John (Podcast): An amazing/horrifying story of deception

The Room (Movie): I finally watched this (in anticipation of The Disaster Artist), and I’m now reevaluating reality

Mr. Robot (TV): Really picking up steam as the series progresses

Slow Burn (Podcast): A fascinating look at what it felt like to live through the events surrounding Watergate

Thor: Ragnarok (Movie): Loved the tone, reminded me of Guardians

Godless (TV): I’m only a few episodes in, but it’s stellar

On News

When it comes to dietary health, it’s important not only to develop a healthy eating schedule, but also to stay on top of what you’re eating and where it came from. While many go out of their way to improve their physical bodies, the same often can’t be said for their information consumption.

Though it’s been building for decades, distrust of the media (combined with the rise of both internal and external propaganda) has really come to a head in the past two years. The result has been that a fair portion of otherwise-well-meaning Americans have developed a “trust no one” attitude, and in some cases have begun to actively discredit legitimate journalists.

As a former journalism student that’s observed the situation for a while now, I’ve noticed a couple major contributing factors:

  • FOX News: Their devastating impact on our culture really can’t be overstated, especially among the older population (their average viewer is about 70). Much ink has been spilled about Roger Ailes’ effect on America, but for many seniors not using the Internet, FOX News is handing out the daily marching orders, making sure to “clarify” that they’re the only ones speaking the truth in a corrupt media landscape. If you really want to depress yourself, check out this indie doc.
  • Cord-Cutting/Smartphones: The meteoric rise of cord-cutting and mobile news consumption has conditioned people (many of them young adults) to place all incoming news sources on a level playing field, and therefore all equally untrustworthy. It’s understandable. If you didn’t grow up in a world of legitimate print and television journalism, how are you supposed to know the difference between The Washington Post and Infowars? It’s all just content, and after all, anyone can publish. Why trust the “mainstream media” when a compelling blogger raises some great points as well? Sure that blogger might be intentionally spreading disinformation for personal or governmental purposes, but yolo, right?

So where do we go from here? Is it all Facebook comment sniping and cries of “fake news” while the world burns? I sincerely hope not. To me, as always, education is the answer. Many large social platforms are already rolling out their own “fake news” detection systems (a good, albeit rocky start), but it’s far more important that people of all ages take the time to learn about:

  • The history of journalism, journalistic methods and integrity
  • How to properly source an article and understand if a publication has a specific political bias
  • The importance of reading/watching a variety of sources and viewpoints
  • The importance of paying for quality content and reporting

The news business may not be as exciting as Mario Lopez hosting “Candy Crush,” but I have faith that a new generation has been inspired by what’s happened, and we’ll see journalism get a healthy second wind. After all, it’s already looking slightly promising for newspaper subscriptions.

In this spirit of optimism, I thought I’d share my current work-in-progress personal source list. It’s by no means perfect, but it’s been a great help to me in navigating this point in our country’s history. I hope it’s helpful:

Digital Newspapers

Apps/Sites/Services

  • Twitter (I’d be missing a limb without Twitter. My follow list is here if you’re interested. My wife is also fantastic at sharing tweets from all across the political spectrum.)
  • RSS (I’m basically the cryptkeeper at this point, so I still use/love following RSS feeds for a variety of sources. Reeder is my favorite client, running on top of Feed Wrangler.)
  • Apple News (Apple’s built-in news aggregator has gotten much better since its initial launch, and I follow a decent number of sources. It even provides me with healthy exposure to FOX News pieces from time to time…shudder.)
  • Instapaper (Absolutely essential for “save and read later” functionality. It’s my DVR for articles.)
  • NextDraft (Dave Pell’s outstanding daily roundup)
  • Reddit (More for entertainment than news, as it can get real questionable real fast in various subreddits)
  • Politico (Great politics-specific content)
  • Slate (Definitely left-leaning, but a lot of great pieces)
  • BuzzFeed News (I know, BuzzFeed?!? They’re putting out some great news content these days.)
  • CNN (Primarily for watching video highlights after events)
  • Medium (Consistent stream of interesting pieces/viewpoints)

Digital Magazines

I also listen to a fair amount of podcasts (Overcast is my favorite client). If interested, here are a few of them.

Best of 2016

Here are some personal favorites from the past year. There are many more, but I tried to prune to only my top five (roughly in order with my favorite at the top). I also split TV into drama and comedy given that there are just *way* too many amazing shows these days.

Movies:
La La Land
Hell or High Water
Rogue One
Snowden
Doctor Strange

TV (Drama):
Westworld
The People v. O.J. Simpson: American Crime Story
Better Call Saul
Black Mirror
Mr. Robot

TV (Comedy):
Silicon Valley
Baskets
Lady Dynamite
Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt
Atlanta

Podcasts:
Trumpcast
Homecoming
Crimetown
Oh No, Ross and Carrie!
The Run-Up