The News Feed

For the last 40 years I have regarded The International Herald Tribune (IHT)as my paper of choice when traveling. If I could get a hard copy at home in the States I wouldn’t hesitate to subscribe. In 16-18 pages they pack in serious international news, arts, sports, and opinion. The paper has an interesting history but now it is a joint enterprise of the New York Times and the Washington Post, which probably doesn’t endear it to the American right wing although I see people of every stripe reading it in cafe’s around the world. It’s really the only game in town.

Here, in Saigon, I only buy the weekend edition of the IHT. I don’t have time to read the daily. I get lost in it and read it cover to cover, and there isn’t that much time in my day. I do need daily news however and I get it in various ways. There are two English-language papers published here, Vietnam News and The Saigon Times. I read both at the local espresso joint in the morning. They both reflect the government approved news, but they are indispensable in understanding the business side of this rapidly expanding economy. Like the IHT they include some arts and sports news, but they are pretty thin in those departments.

Another source for us, God bless the internet, is live streaming of NPR. During the week it’s hard to time the 14 hour difference to the West Coast, but on weekends I tune in to KPLU or KUOW at 6am Saigon time and catch All Things Considered as we’re getting up and eating breakfast. It helps keep us in touch with Seattle area news, as does the online edition of The Seattle Times which Marilynn checks out on a daily basis. I confess to being relatively uninterested in the Seattle “process” which consumes way too much time, but she fills me in if she thinks there is something I “need” to know.

We watch relatively little TV, because there is relatively little to watch but we usually tune into CNBC in the evening for an update on the world markets, and we catch the sound bites on CNN International at the gym in the morning. The truth is it is hard to get away from the news with newspapers at work and in the coffee shops, TV in our living room, online editions of every news source, live streaming of broadcast media, and blogs to give us opinion and advice on just about everything.

One thing I thought I would miss is magazines. We subscribe to half a dozen or more in the States. It’s funny but I don’t miss them at all. Here, in Saigon, there are two excellent English-language magazines – The Word and Asia Life. Both are well written and include serious journalism as well as extensive food and entertainment sections. At month’s end I can hardly wait for the next edition, and I find myself reading both of them cover to cover. Last month Asia Life devoted most of the issue to articles on climate change. Vietnam is especially vulnerable to changes in climate since a rise in the level could place 10% of the country under water. Most of the southern part of the country is at sea level already. Asia Life did an excellent job of reporting on the problem.

Many of us have a love-hate relationship with media, but I am keenly aware of my own need to stay connected to the world at large and to what is happening where I live. I just hope that in the changing world of media, where newspapers are disappearing and bloggers are exerting a big influence on opinion that we all can learn to sort and select the responsible voices from those that are not. And, in that regard living here has another advantage; I never have to hear the voices of Rush Limbaugh and Bill O’Reilly, even by accident.

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