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 an email exchange with Megan McCarthy, founding editor of Mediagazer, an algorithm-based aggregator of media news and sister site of Memeorandum and Techmeme. Yesterday was Mediagazer's one-year anniversary.
My cell phone doubles as my alarm clock, so that's the first thing I pick up in the morning. Once I have it in my hand, I log into Mediagazer to see if any news broke overnight or if I can snooze for a bit. Then I check my email inboxes (personal and work), then my Twitter account to see if there are any stories that haven't yet been picked up by our algorithm. Then I check Foursquare, to spy on where my friends were the night before. After that, assuming I haven't had to switch to my laptop to deal with something urgent, I stumble out of bed and to the closest coffee.
Because of my job, my news consumption is very online-oriented. The homepage on my browser is Mediagazer's internal dashboard. I spend my day tracking Twitter accounts, reading emails and IMs, checking RSS feeds, and listening to a cacophony of alerts I've set up on my laptop. Mediagazer, the site I run, is an online aggregator of media industry news. We highlight the top media stories of the day from around the web and show them from multiple points of view, so you get the full context. Both Techmeme and Mediagazer (and our other sites Memeorandum, WeSmirch, and BallBug) run on a pretty sophisticated algorithm developed by our CEO, Gabe Rivera. That algorithm does most of the heavy lifting in terms of finding and grouping related stories about the same subject.
Next to our internal algorithm, Twitter is my main source of real-time news. I have Tweetdeck set up on my laptop which allows me to separate out the accounts I follow into different groups--one for publications (like @niemanlab, @paidcontent, @adage, @mediaite), one for media reporters (@brianstelter, @jvascellaro, @LATimesrainey, @koblin), one for 140-character pundits (@jayrosen_nyu, @rachelsklar, @felixsalmon, @antderosa), etc. It's a good way to keep things organized and, since a lot of reporters tend to brag about breaking news as soon as they find a nugget (an attitude I encourage!), a great way to get links to stories that are breaking before our algorithm can spot them. Twitter is great because it is the closest I can get to being omniscient--iin one quick glance, I can read the thoughts and know more about what ~700 people are doing at that very moment. It's is a good substitute until I finally master telepathy.
I've set my computer up to make a variety of noises when certain events happen. Knowing that I have these alerts help me concentrate on the task at hand--evaluating a story, perhaps, or sending out emails--instead of having, inefficiently, to refresh pages or proactively check an empty inbox. But it can make things kind of noisy, and my choice of sounds, while familiar and amusing to me, can seem odd to outsiders--I've gotten some strange stares when I'm in a cafe and my laptop starts meowing like a lost kitten.
The New York Times, PaidContent, Nieman Journalism Lab are currently my top three sources for media news. For smaller sites with high-quality content, Beet.tv has great video interviews with media people and Monday Note is always thought-provoking.
As to which outlets I couldn't live without? Individual people matter more than outlets nowadays. I care more about what, say, David Carr says about the media industry than the general "New York Times." Michael Calderone wrote great things at Politico, kept it up at Yahoo, and he'll continue to be noteworthy at AOL/HuffPo. Outlets become less and less important than the voices they showcase.
What I can't live without is access to these writers. I can't live without the tools needed to read their words. I can't live without technology that disseminates their information, and I can't live without getting it delivered to me immediately. I want to know it all, I want to know it now, and I want to know what you people think about it.
I don't currently have a television. Whenever there's something on TV that I do want to see, I'll either head to a friend's house or bar to catch it. Otherwise, I can usually watch everything online. The last "TV" news channel I watched was Al Jazeera English, before and during Hosni Mubarak's resignation, which is something I can't get on cable anyway..
No current subscriptions, though I used to subscribe to The Atlantic, The New Yorker, Vanity Fair, 7x7, and Jane.
Growing up, my family subscribed to the Barrington Times (our hometown paper), The Providence Journal, the Wall Street Journal, and the Sunday New York Times, which I would read while laying in a giant sunbeam on our family room floor after church (Styles, Arts, and Magazine). Now I read all my newspaper stories online. I've bought newspapers three times in the past year--twice for egocentric there's-an-article-that-mentions-me purchases, once because I was painting a dresser and needed something to keep the paint off the floor.
In the evening, before I go to bed, it's pretty much a reverse process from my morning. I'm on my phone, checking Foursquare to see where everyone is, Twitter to make sure I'm not missing anything, email for more personal messages, then Mediagazer to make sure the site is adequately prepared for the hours I'm offline. Then set the alarm and put the phone back in its charger.
On the topic of pleasure reading, I find a lot of the stuff I read for work to be fun. This job is difficult if you're not somewhat obsessed with the subject, and I definitely fall into that category.
That being said, there are a few sites I visit that are mostly amusement instead of work. I tend to like sites with strong communities and smart commenters. The Awl and its spin-offs--Splitsider and The Hairpin--are consistently great. Jezebel, too.
For books: hard copies, please. I spend all day looking at a screen, so, when things require a lot of focused attention, I try to take things analog.
I recently reread my high school copy of The Great Gatsby, and it was interesting to look at the story from the same age as the characters instead of half a lifetime younger. (I mean, Nick Carraway is really kind of a dick, isn't he? That went over my head sophomore year.) This winter, I moved from San Francisco to Brooklyn, so my parents gave me a copy of Edward Rutherfurd's New York for Christmas. That's next on the list.