Newspapers : what to choose?

I’ve always found it tough to remain informed about what’s going on in the world. Sometimes, I even wonder if there’s a point in it. Then, I realize how little I know about important and often controversial issues. Worse: even if I do have an opinion on it, I find myself struggling at finding relevant arguments in support of it. This is very frustrating. Hopefully, I’ll eventually be able to look at the world and see connections between events more clearly than now. I’m sure it’ll still be a huge mess, but perhaps I’ll be able to navigate in it nonetheless.

I think it’s important to subscribe to different newspapers in order to develop sane, well-grounded opinions. Free news coverage is often at best poor in terms of content (a few facts and that’s all), and at worse misleading plain propaganda. In France, people tend to see the political spectrum in one dimension: from communism at the far-left to strong nationalism at the far-right. This is, in my opinion, simplistic. There are at least two major axes which may not be confounded: the social axis and the economic axis. For example, the French left embodied by the Parti Socialiste is socially liberal but economically conservative. Indeed, they support a lot of individual liberties (gay marriage, immigration…) but want more intervention from the state in economic matters, for instance to give more rights to workers and employees. On the contrary, the French right is socially conservative (less open to change) but economically liberal, since they ask for fewer taxes and fewer regulations of the market. The curious reader might want to visit The Political Compass to know more about his own political leanings.

I consider myself to be liberal, in both social and economic topics. However, that’s no reason not to hear about conservative pieces of opinion, and I’d even argue it’s even more important to know what the other side thinks, so as to remain open-minded. Below, I’ll talk about the few newspapers I know about personally. In other words, I won’t talk about Fox News being Trump’s bastion although everyone says it, because quite honestly I’ve never watched it.

  • Le Monde is arguably the most influent French newspaper. I’ve been subscribed to it for a couple years before cancelling it (because they increased the subscription price), and now I’ve subscribed again, just to see. Le Monde is generally very neutral, even in its opinion pieces. It provides very accurate articles but its analyses are somewhat lackluster.

  • Courrier International is a unique weekly magazine: it consists in various translated articles from all around the world, and I find this concept very interesting. It gives me access to articles from Russia, China, the Middle East, and to a wide-ranging array of viewpoints, which can be quite different from Western opinions. The digital subscription is also quite affordable, at €4.90 per month.

  • The New York Times is held by many as the best newspaper worldwide. It has earned an impressive number of Pullitzer prizes for its reporting. I’ve recently subscribed to it, but, to my surprise, I find its articles somewhat disappointing. It’s a bit like Le Monde: accurate facts but poor analysis. The articles are also often either about issues that do not appeal to me, or they focus too much on reporting, or they are about American politics, but I already have my hands full with French politics. The Times is reportedly liberal (in the American sense of the term, that is aligned with the Democratic Party), and a bit too adamant about opposing Trump to my taste. I do not support Trump either, but the Times is at a whole other level. I have to acknowledge, though, that the New York Times visualizations are the best I’ve ever seen. Just look at this article on Notre-Dame’s fire or this calculator on renting versus buying. Also, the digital subscription is dirt cheap right now: €2 per week, and €1 per week if you’re a student. You may want to give it a try.

  • The Financial Times is also a newspaper with excellent reputation, especially in the financial sphere. I’ve been subscribed to it since December 2018 and I must say I hadn’t realized how well-written it is, until now. Only by comparing it to the New York Times can I now say that it’s the real deal. It provides impressive in-depth analysis of many economic and social current issues, from research on malaria to China’s economic policy, from AI’s impact on jobs to Europe law firms. It consistently highlights the underlying context of the events at stake and it baffles me that I failed to reckon how much high-quality insight it provides to its readers. Only weak point: it’s awfully expensive. The digital subscription costs a whopping €5.90 per week, or about €300 per year, and it does not include the Lex articles, which are aimed at providing advice to financial decision-makers. To be fair, normal people like me arguably do not need it. The student subscription is half that price, but it’s still a non-negligible budget.

  • The Economist is a weekly newspaper which also benefits from critical acclaim, for its consistently detailed analysis of global economic matters. It’s also famous for its strong liberal stance on both social and economic topics. I’ve read some of its editions at my school’s library when I had some time a few years ago, and while I was impressed by the depth of the articles, I lacked the economic knowledge to grasp most of its predictions. Maybe I’ll give it a try again someday.

So that’s mostly it. A few other French newspapers have sparked my interest:

  • Le Canard enchaîné, a satirical and independent weekly newspaper famous for its investigations which have led to a few scandals in France.
  • Mediapart, a digital and independent newspaper, also famous in France for its investigations.
  • Le Monde diplomatique, a monthly newspaper known for its antiliberal stance and its thorough analyses of geopolitical topics.

I’ll write another article after I have given them a try.