Life in Japan, or anywhere overseas for that matter, can quickly distance you from world events (unless you are particularly fluent in Japanese of course) and can really detach you from popular culture. For a while I thought a Khardasian was a Star Trek race, wondered what a Snooki was and alternately confused Justin Bieber with Hanson in his early stages and Vanilla Ice as he is now. Those are all good things of course, but now I arm myself with various internet newspapers and podcasts to keep up to date.
For the news, it is difficult to get facts on a story because of the terrible reporting on the stories. The news is now, mostly a partisan mouthpiece, selectively announcing facts. The news now is mostly editorial in nature (which I despise) and to get an even view I have to look at many sources. I have to wonder, was it always like this and I was too naive to see, or did it happen within the last 10 years. Many times, just looking at the pictures the paper chooses to use will tell you which direction the story is going. Take a look at one paper and President Obama is posed to look like Superman minus the red cape, and take a look at the same story in another paper and President Obama looks like Mr. McGoo
My list generally looks like this:
Huffington post: the only reason this gets looked at is because it plasters itself all over an old email account. The stories are shabby and the headlines are ridiculous. It’s more of a gossip column than a real paper with about as much weight with me as Cat fancy magazine. Awful… Awful… Terrible joke of a paper. I only included it because I just recently began to ignore it completely. If you go to the link provided, the leading title says breaking news and opinion. Yeah… It’s mostly the latter.
Fox News: not as bad as many would have you believe… Then again, I don’t do editorials. They use the same play book as any liberal paper would, but in a conservative way, and I think seeing that pisses off traditionally liberal papers. Things like using unflattering pictures of democrats, and just publishing stories that are of more interest to their base of customers.
CNN: same as FOX really, but with a liberal outlook. What makes CNN different is they are very much about the money. They often try to make the news rather than report it, and will kick the hell out of a dead horse. I lost a lot of respect for CNN when they started to put editorials in places where the real news ought to be.
The Christian Science Monitor: first impressions would be that this is a very right leaning publication, and normally, just by the name I would never touch it. I had a PoliSci professor that had us reading that as part of our curriculum, and to my surprise, it is very well balanced and unaffiliated. Color me surprised!
The BBC: the best content there is. They steer clear of US news partisanship and use of apocalyptic language. If I really want a good picture of the story, I go there.
The Japan times: unless it’s a world event, it’s mostly a aggregate for world stories and magic rays of sunshine about Japan. They have terrible choices in who they aggregate, and the news about Japan is filtered. They have this new system now where you can only read a few stories a month without a subscription. So I read a few stories a month and then look more at their competitors.
The Asahi shimbun: considered far left by the standard of Japan, but that is because it’s self critical about Japan. Something very common in western style journalism, but not at all common for East Asia. Other companies like to bash them when they can.
The Tokyo Reporter: this is actually an internet aggregate of translated Japanese tabloids. Tabloids here are actual news though in comparison with their western neighbors whose stories focus on “Elvis was an alien.” Instead the tabloids here report crimes the papers ignore. I mean, advisor to the imperial court arrested at illegal sex club where the dominatrix throws bottles of pee at them, kind of detracts from the magic rays of sunshine story… By the way, I didn’t make that last bit up.
On my commute I usually listen to a podcast of some kind. Right now my list is:
This American life: I mean come on… It’s the best out there… Although they have been slipping lately…
Serial: a this American life spin off… But honestly I am getting bored of this one after the second episode.
The Moth: a really good story podcast featuring real people telling their life story. It’s number one on my listening list at the moment.
Risk!: it’s the libertine version of the Moth. It’s a great series I just recently discovered, although the music is overplayed, the commercials are obnoxious, and the host is as entertaining as a rusty nail through the foot. The stories are worth enduring with it though.
On point: Tom Ashbrook is an excellent moderator, and when he is out you can really see how good he is as his replacements muddle through. Honestly I only listen to half of his stuff, because there are a lot of topics discussed that I have no interest in.
Fresh air: the same as On point but generally shorter and more of a traditional interview.
Love and radio: it’s really hit or miss with this show. They either have a great story or an awful story. I am either really engaged or I am done with it in 3 minutes. I get the feeling the producers are high most of the time.
Samurai archive, Japanese history: just a Japanese history podcast. It’s really interesting, but lately I haven’t been giving it a lot of play time.
And that’s how I get my information on the world.