Thursday, September 15, 2016

Logistics, Time Off, and Paying for What I Read

I'm taking tomorrow off, and I'm very excited about that. I'll take care of a couple of small tasks first thing in the morning, and then after that, my plan is to not work all day.

Of course, it isn't a completely free day. We have our back to school BBQ tomorrow evening, and I'll need to drop by the grocery store and get the things we need to take to that. It could be worse: my local grocery store, the one that is just a few blocks away, is closing at the end of October. After that, it won't be a "drop by" the grocery store situation, it will be a "drive out of my way to the store" situation. A new store is going in the space, but there is going to be a major remodel in the interim, so I'll have a year of shopping some place further away. The next closest grocery store is about 10 minutes away by car, so it isn't terrible... but it will be an adjustment.

I'm also going to go meet with a personal stylist at Nordstrom. I decided to make that my first step in my "solve the what to wear to client meetings and presentations" project, because I need to try some things on to get a better feel for what styles are more likely to be flattering. If the stylist manages to turn up items that I want, so much the better.

Still, it is mostly a day off, and I'm excited. I need one. I don't know if I'll make it back to put up my weekend reading post or not. I suspect I will, but if I don't, you can assume I rollerbladed a bit too long.

It feels a little strange to be heading to Nordstrom to drop what could be a large sum of money on clothing this week, since as luck would have it we also repaired our refrigerator and replaced our water heater. But, I have the money: I'm transferring some extra profit over from my business specifically for the purpose. So I'll do it.

In amongst all the chaos caused by failure of household appliances, I also managed to do something I've meant to do for a long time: sit down and audit my online reading preferences, and make a plan to provide financial support to the site I read regularly. I'll walk you through my thinking below, because it is my blog so why not. Also, since I get a lot of my news from Twitter, who I follow influences what I read, and therefore which publications I want to send money to. So I'll note who I follow from each publication I decide to support.

The first thing I wanted to do was pick a major daily newspaper whose reporting I read regularly. In thinking back over the reporting I've appreciated (and the reporting I haven't appreciated: I'm looking at you, NY Times and your weird reporting priorities this election season), I found that The Washington Post is the newspaper site I should support. I'm constantly bumping up against their free article limit, so if I support them I'm likely to get actual value beyond the warm fuzzy of "doing the right thing." I appreciate that they have published David Farenthold's deep look at the Trump Foundation and that they are continuing to follow that story. Looking back farther, their reporter Wesley Lowery has been excellent on the police brutality story.  Also, I often find Alexandra Petri's writing really funny.

So, decision #1: The Washington Post gets $100 per year from me for a digital subscription.

I follow Alexandra Petri, because how could you not follow someone with the handle @petridishes?

I feel bad that I'm not supporting a newspaper likely to do any reporting on my home town. My own local paper isn't really a good source, although they do have an excellent reporter on the biotech beat. So instead, I've decided to support the Voice of San Diego, whose "explainers" on local politics I often find useful, particularly near local elections. (I already support my local PBS/NPR station, and hey, did you know that if you are a PBS member above a certain level you can get some of their shows streaming on demand? It is called PBS Passport and it made me so happy when I found it.)

Voice of San Diego has a membership deal, but none of the benefits matter to me, and I don't read it all that often. I thought about it and decided I get about a hardcover book's worth of value from it each year.

Decision #2: $15 per year to the Voice of San Diego.

I follow their managing editor, @SaraLibby.

Then I looked at the commentary sites I frequently visit. There are three: Vox, Slate, and Talking Points Memo. Vox is entirely ad supported. Their ads are not obtrusive, and I don't block them, so I guess that's my contribution there. That and frequently sharing out their articles. Slate has ads and also Slate+. I've been on the fence about joining Slate+ for a long time. I really like Jamelle Bouie's politcal analysis and Dear Prudence is one of my favorite short breaks. Joining Slate+ gets me extra Dear Prudence, and also access to a podcast on the history of slavery that Jamelle Bouie and Rebecca Onion did, so again, I get some value beyond fewer ads and more warm fuzzies.

Decision #3: $50 per year to join Slate+.

I follow Jamelle Bouie (@jbouie).

(I also follow people from Vox: @mattyglesias and @libbyanelson.)

Talking Points Memo also has a "plus" option. It is called Prime, and it is also $50 per year. I had to think about this one a bit more, because I tend to gravitate away from TPM in non-election years. But during election years, I really value it, particularly the editor/founder Josh Marshall's insights.

So decision #4: $50 per year to TPM.

I follow @joshtpm, their editor and publisher.

Finally, I really appreciate Mother Jones' in depth investigations. Their big one on private prisons this year was really important, but before that I found their look at stopping mass shootings and their article about the possible link between lead poisoning and crime really informative.

So decision #5: a digital subscription to Mother Jones, at $12 per year.

I follow @ClaraJeffery, their editor-in-chief.

Total cost of my planned donations and subscriptions: $227 (not counting my KPBS membership, which I think of more as supporting the entertainment I like, but also supports their reporting). That seems like a reasonable yearly expense to me. Our household total is actually a little higher, because Mr. Snarky is a devoted subscriber to The Economist, old school print edition style. I read it quite a bit, too

There are many people I follow whose publications I didn't decide to fund (e.g., @HeerJeet, whose election tweets are often really insightful), and many more fine writers and journalists who come across my feed, too. I wish I could support them all, but I'm not that wealthy.

I am not happy with the current state of how we pay for news. The model of individually subscribing/donating to a bunch of different publications seems unwieldy to me, and I don't think it will ultimately be sustainable. I actually have a bona fide business idea for a different method, but it would involve becoming a different type of entrepreneur than what I want to be, so it will stay just an idea I guess. Unless y'all buy truckloads of books so that I become wealthy enough to self-fund my idea. (This seems unlikely, but feel free to try to make it happen.)

When I started in on this audit, I planned to subscribe this month. But then the fridge broke, and the water heater started leaking, and I still had to pay my estimated taxes, and I am finally getting off my butt about the clothing situation... so now the plan is to start subscribing and donating next month. Although WashPo might get my money sooner. I think I've already hit my free article limit.


  1. WaPo has been on fire, and not the dumpster kind that seems to be consuming NYT and my formerly beloved NPR. I've been considering getting a subscription too but not until I've hit my two deadlines. I'm on a media diet for a bit-- definitely not following tpm until my book chapters are in.

  2. I have decided I would fund the artists whose work I enjoy online. I have contributed to quite a few kickstarters for collections of comics and I have more recently committed to funding several people whose work I follow regularly on Patreon. There is the MWF update crowd and the TRS crowd and the Sunday update crowd, and I excitedly wait for every update, so I figured I should support these people to continue bringing people joy.

  3. I started paying for the Washington Post this year, too. Their paywall model changed, which meant I would have trouble reading Carolyn Hax's chats (I love those chats), and I really like the way they've been covering candidates and the election.

    I would like to pay for the New York Times, but for now will continue to butt up against their monthly limit. I'd like to pay for the L.A. Times, but first I'd like it to be a better newspaper.

    We donate to Wikipedia every year. Both of us use that a lot, and are fans of accessible knowledge. Is it perfect? No. But I use it, and I want to keep it available.

    Right now my clothes-purchasing focus is on Baguette. She just keeps growing.


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