How do other people deal with the torrent of information that pours down on us all? What sources can't they live without? We're reaching out to well-informed people to learn more about their media diets. This is drawn from a conversation with Don Lemon, who anchors CNN Newsroom during weekend prime-time.
The first thing I do in the morning is put Morning Joe on in the background. It's a very well-produced show and I like that they have a conversation about news events. It's like I'm sitting having coffee and eating breakfast with them and I'm not bombarded with news and events that I don't care about. Then I grab my iPad and go into my New York Times app and Twitter. I try to read the Times cover to cover and, if not, the Sunday Times is my week-long reading. I'm a notorious insomniac and I usually go to bed pretty late, so sometimes I go back to bed after I do all that reading if I'm off. But if I'm anchoring that day I have to do it all really quickly.
On weekends, I usually go into work later because the show's not starting until 5 or 6 p.m., so I have more time to lounge and read more of the paper. I watch Sunday Morning on CBS and I DVR every morning news program from State of the Union to Reliable Sources to Meet the Press to Fox News Sunday to This Week with Christiane Amanpour. I watch every single one each weekend. I'll start with whatever is live and go back and forth between commercial breaks. You get to hear the talking points--a lot of the time they'll say the same things over and over--and I try to read in between the lines so that when I have guests on or we discuss those topics I can go beyond the talking points.
I listen to Howard Stern on Sirius as I'm going into work. For all of Howard's faults it's a true reality show. He's able to say and be and do whatever he wants to in that venue that Sirius has given him and anyone would be envious of that. And Howard tells it how it is. He calls people out on their you-know-what.
Twitter is a great resource because it's people who have checked in and are writing about the day's events and what they find interesting. At work I keep TweetDeck up and I have a monitor at my desk where I can get any channel available in the U.S. and have four or five different sources up. I have a desk in the newsroom and an office but I can count on my hand the number of times that I've been in the office. I'm usually in the newsroom or on set or walking around taping interviews.
During the show, I'm tweeting and seeing what's trending on Twitter and what people are talking about. I'm not necessarily getting news but it's just a good tool to be aware and find things that no one has picked up on. I have a laptop and my iPad at the anchor desk and my iPad has TweetDeck up or other sources I need to read when I have guests on. I'll also have my email up and the rundown, which says, for example, 'page one: floods, page two: Libya, page three, this reporter here,' etc. I love the instant feedback you get from Twitter during the show, whether the message is 'I hate Don Lemon's haircut' or 'I can't believe you said this about this story.' You can see what people are interested in. Not that every single thing is credible--I don't hang on every word of every comment--but it's an interesting synopsis.
There are a lot of people that I follow on Twitter but no one person I can't live without. It's more that I can look at everything. I can follow design, politics, tech, pop culture. The most important thing on Twitter are the followers. I have almost 98,000 and I guard them and respect them and try not to tweet out things that don't matter. I'll write, "If you're interested, tune in to my appearance on Dr. Drew tonight" because I want them to watch. I'm not going to tweet out press releases. I'm also a total foodie and, after the whole coming out thing, I wrote, "Can I go back to tweeting about my meals now?" I'll say I had dinner at a great restaurant or post pictures of the things I make. In fact, I just ate In-N-Out Burger and I'll probably say, "I just had In-N-Out--Yum!" I'll actually tweet that right now. [He did, explaining how he inhaled his single with fries.]
I have Facebook, but because of how busy I am and because I have ADD, which is self-diagnosed, Twitter works better for me. I'll answer people on Facebook but, for the most part, the feeds come to my BlackBerry. Twitter is easier and faster and you have to be frugal with words. The fewer words you need to say something is a sign of good writing, and Twitter helps with that.
The end of my day is the end of my day. I usually don't turn on the news unless I have to, and if I need to start catching up I always have my BlackBerry. I DVR shows like Southland and The Good Wife and The Daily Show and Colbert and The Soup and Chelsea Lately, and during the weekend or when I'm off on Monday and Tuesday I'll watch all those shows and laugh. On Friday I also try to watch Bill Maher. How I really get away is I leave the phone in the house, turn music on, and work in the yard and pull weeds out of my beds and mow the lawn and sweep the sidewalk and wash the windows and check on my hydrangeas. It's amazing the sense of accomplishment I feel even though every day I say, "Here's what's happening in the news," and people are following me.
Though I was groomed in traditional, old-school journalism with a capital J, I realize that the world--and that includes journalism--is evolving and I have to adapt and evolve with it. In this digital age and with social media I think the fact that viewers can reach out and tell us things instantly is amazing for us, but we can't allow those tools to make us paranoid about what we say or do. We walk a fine line between objectivity and being too vulnerable to the whims of the audience. We have to balance that by making sure we go back to old-school fact checking regardless of what's trending. We have to give viewers the truth and tell them the news.