A collection of thoughts on just about everything ...
You don't have to agree, but I don't have to care whether you do or not.
I’ve been increasingly frustrated with the lack of separation between news and editorialism/spin from the major news networks. I knew from experience with trial subscriptions of newspapers that actual newspapers tend to have a pretty clear separation between editorial sections and actual facts. But, I HATE holding a newspaper. I find them unwieldy and annoying - not to mention a waste of paper.
I decided to try out the Kindle versions. I signed up for the 30 day trial offers of the Wall Street Journal, New York Times, and USA Today. After about a week of getting all three delivered to my Kindle every morning - and then subsequently finding the time to read each one every day, I’m ready to draw some conclusions.
Diversity of Content (with regard to news, culture, etc):
For the main news pieces, 90% of the stories are simply paraphrased versions of each other. Approximately 1-2 stories per day appear in one that do not appear in at least one of the other two. The focus of the different versions of the stories that do repeat, however, is slightly different. NYT and USA Today both focus on facts, with NYT tending to take a more detailed view and USA Today offering a summary. WSJ predictably throws in a financial aspect - hinting at how the story may affect markets and occasionally throwing in stock symbols for companies affected. It’s in the other sections of the paper that the differences emerge. NYT definitely caters to a more “cultured” audience - covering books, art, movies, fashion etc. WSJ emphasizes its financial readership - they cover some of the culture stuff too, but rather than covering the impact of an artist, they’ll talk about auction prices for the pieces. USA Today tends to pick and choose their coverage, but their Money section has some surprising insights that even WSJ doesn’t tend to pick up. Today, for example, they had an Internet 50 index report - like the Dow, but made up of entirely internet companies. It was interesting. The other thing that USA today does is give you an overall snapshot of the country - I really enjoy their “Across the Nation” section which is just one or two sentence random stories grabbed from every state. They can be on anything, but they seem to do a good job of capturing the personalities of the states. World Briefs is similar, but only covers 2-3 stories.
Adequacy of Coverage:
All 3 do a great job of covering the main points. NYT and WSJ go into greater detail, but it’s mostly about minor points. Again, the differences emerge on the periphery.
Quality of Writing (stylistically):
NYT and USA Today are standouts here, for me. WSJ reads very dryly. I honestly have a hard time reading their stories - it’s not that they only focus on the facts, the NYT and USA Today do that as well, it’s that the tone is very academic. It’s very much like the law. For any given legal concept, you can come up with at least 3 entirely accurate ways to explain it. 1 of those ways will be entirely uninteresting - that would be the one the WSJ uses. NYT is the best written. USA Today is a distant 2nd.
Ease/Accessibility (difficulty level):
It’s clear to me that NYT and WSJ are written to a higher grade level. With USA Today emphasizing accessibility without seeming “dumbed down.”
In the main sections, I saw very little. They all covered the stories pretty even-handedly. NYT has a clear liberal bias in the editorial sections and WSJ has a clear conservative bias in theirs. USA Today seems to be pretty even-handed. Even in the election sections of the papers, the coverage seemed pretty fair across the board. If there is a bias outside of the editorial sections, it’s most likely found in the frequency of coverage and not in the tone, but I haven’t done that analysis.
Price (after 30 day free trial):
USA Today: about $11/mo, M-F.
NYT: about $20/mo - M-Saturday.
WSJ: about $19/mo - 7 days a week.
The reason I’m even looking is that I’ve become increasingly frustrated with the lack of division between editorialism and news of the major news networks, including more and more their websites. I know that newspapers traditionally tend to have a stronger divide between editorial and news. I wanted something in an easy to access format that would give me a 10-15 factual snapshot of the world before I set foot outside, but that is also somewhat interesting to read.
Given those goals, I have no use for the WSJ. If I’m going to devote a portion of my day to reading a newspaper, I don’t want it to feel like a chore. If there’s a business thing that I want more info on, I can get it from their website. Plus, it takes at least 30 minutes to really digest WSJ.
I really enjoy, but don’t have the time for NYT. It’s a lot like NPR for newspapers. If I had an hour to spend every morning reading a paper, I would do NYT in a heartbeat. If I can find a way to get only the NYT Sunday edition on my Kindle, I may still do that (depending entirely on price).
USA Today comes out as the winner, which surprised me because I’ve always scorned the paper in the past. They gave it to us for free in the Army and no one ever read it. They hand it out at hotels and I never bother with it. But, it turns out, that I’ve been missing out. It’s absolutely perfect for a quick snapshot of the world. If I want more info on something, I know what avenues to pursue to find out that info - but for 95% or more of the stories out there, USA Today gives me exactly what I need: what’s happening and what are the primary implications that may affect the world (and me). Finally, I hate to say it, but I appreciate the lower grade level writing in the morning. I’m not a morning person. I can read USA Today while I drink my coffee and be done in 10-15 minutes easily.