How do other people deal with the torrent of information that pours down on us all? Do they have some secret? Perhaps. We are asking various people who seem well-informed to describe their media diets. This is from a conversation with Anna Holmes, creator of Jezebel and author of Hell Hath No Fury: Women's Letter From the End of the Affair and the upcoming The Book of Jezebel.
I wake up at 7:30am when my husband leaves for work. The first thing I do is shuffle into my home office to check email and glance at Twitter to get a sense of what's going on in the world. (I used to use Twitter for Mac but switched over to TweetDeck about a month ago. I'm glad I did. It's easier to use and I prefer the multi-column view.) Then it's time for coffee (for me) and breakfast (for the cats).
I'm relatively new to Twitter--I signed up years ago but only really started using it last July--but it's become an absolutely integral part of my life. I've met dozens of people through the service and discovered dozens more fantastic writers and bloggers, all of whom I trust to keep me updated on the topics--breaking news, politics, pop culture, feminism, media--I care about most. (They're also often really funny, especially during live events like the Oscars or White House press conferences. My faves: @gabedelahaye, @amandamarcotte, @maudnewton, @jamilsmith, @lindsayism, @brianstelter, @antderosa, and everyone's obsession, @pourmecoffee.) Twitter is basically a better curated, more opinionated version of the RSS feeds I used to read while working at Gawker Media. In fact, one of the best decisions I ever made was turning off my RSS software, NetNewsWire, last summer. When I ran Jezebel, I used NetNewsWire almost exclusively to provide material to my writers; I had about 1,400 subscriptions, all of which updated every 30 minutes. (Nick Denton used to tease me about my RSS addiction.) It was a great way to keep up on the news and to discern trends but it was also incredibly exhausting. I don't regret disabling it at all.
As for web pages or blogs I visit directly, thanks to Twitter, they are few and far between. I check the homepages of the NY Times and the Washington Post and sometimes HuffPo, Salon, The American Prospect, various Gawker Media sites, The Daily Beast, Slate, CNN, The Guardian, Talking Points Memo and NYMag, but all of them are great about sending out links via Twitter. I have a Tumblr but I'm awful about posting on it or checking it regularly; if and when I do, it's usually at night. (Same with Facebook, which I've never fully embraced.) I also regularly read the blogs on The Atlantic, particularly those of Andrew Sullivan and Ta-Nehisi Coates. (I wish James Fallows posted more often. ) Ta-Nehisi is really a national treasure: Unlike so many bloggers, he's is less interested in intellectual dick-swinging than putting forth and then interrogating his own ideas. His thoughtfulness, versatility and respect for language is really admirable. He also has the best commenters on the internet. I usually read his posts on my laptop during the day and then return to them at night on my iPad to read all the comments that have come in.
Speaking of my iPad: I'm obsessed with it. It's exactly what I always wanted, which is to say, something I can easily bring on my travels or take to bed. (I usually use it at night.) I have a number of news apps on my iPhone and iPad--including Slate and the Daily--but I don't tend to use them very often, if at all. I've found that the iPad is good for two things: mindless entertainment (Angry Birds, TV shows on Hulu and movies on iTunes, etc.) or web sites and stories that require significant amounts of my attention. (Instapaper has been both a blessing and a curse--I send about 10-15 stories a day to the app, and rarely get through them all, despite my best intentions.)
I'm also loving the NASA app, which a friend introduced me to; it's been fantastic in terms of supplementing the experience of the agency's recent launches and re-watching footage from certain camera mounts. There's also a function where you can hold your iPad up to the sky and the app, using GPS, shows you the corresponding constellations and galaxies. This is especially revealing in a place like New York, where, due to light pollution, you can see maybe a dozen stars.
I've also started reading books on my iPad, through the iBooks and Kindle apps. I'm re-reading Jane Eyre right now, and have used my iPad to read Jonathan Franzen's Freedom, Jennifer Egan's A Visit From the Goon Squad, and Rick Perlstein's Nixonland (I really love the enhanced e-book that Simon & Schuster released). Up next: Colum McCann's Let the Great World Spin.
I haven't given up on print books entirely, although I am more likely to abandon them on my nightstand now that I have the iPad. (Right now, a biography of Margaret Wise Brown is languishing beneath a copy of David Michaelis' Schulz: A Biography that I swear I will finish before the end of April. Or May.) I still subscribe to a fair amount of magazines, including the New Yorker, The Atlantic, Harper's, and Vanity Fair. I also get the print version of the Times delivered Friday through Sunday. I take these--and the copious amount of apparel and home design catalogs I receive--with me on the subway or during my travels.
I like radio, but mostly as background noise in the house or car. In the evenings and on weekends I turn on the local NPR station, WNYC-FM; I think my cats enjoy it, particularly John Schaefer and Jonathan Schwartz. During baseball season, I'll listen to Mets games on WFAN; sometimes I prefer listening to the play-by-play over radio than watching the games on television. I've also been known to take my noise-cancelling headphones and iPhone to Citi Field/Shea Stadium to listen to the game while I watch it in person. This is geeky and I don't much care.
Guilty pleasures? Television, I guess. I have my home office TV tuned to cable news most of the day, but the volume is low enough that it doesn't become too much of a distraction. I don't watch much network TV--at least as it airs--but, if I'm up late enough, I check out the Daily Show and Colbert. I watch Mad Men every season, and a lot of HBO (mostly documentaries and original series) but I tend to enjoy DVD box sets of shows I missed the first time around.
Lastly, I've long been in love with photojournalism and candid photography and the internet has made it much easier to indulge. I regularly peruse the latest photos on Getty Images' site, and I love the iPhone Instagram app. It's a great way to experience the world through the eyes of my friends, both near and far, and to learn more about the lives of people I know of and/or admire. I don't follow that many people at this point, so the feed never feels overwhelming, and scanning through the day's pictures is a great way to unwind before I go to bed. And, like other social media apps, Instagram tells you a lot about what a person deems important. Some of my friends take tons of pictures of their pets and their meals; others prefer landscapes or signs and other details they encounter on their travels. These I like. What I don't like: People who take too many pictures of themselves. I know what you look like and if I want to suffer through your incessant self-promotional bullshit, I can get enough of that on Twitter, thank you very much.