How do other people deal with the torrent of information that pours down on us all? What sources can't they live without? We regularly reach out to prominent figures in media, entertainment, politics, the arts and the literary world, to hear their answers to these questions. This is drawn from a conversation with Dylan Ratigan, the host of MSNBC's The Dylan Ratigan Show and author of the forthcoming book Greedy Bastards.
So the way my world works is I wake up and I check my BlackBerry, which is a uranium mine of information. The reason it's so rich with information is I have the benefit of all my legacy brokerage and financial research coming into it, I have all the current NBC clippings and headlines (from tsunami coverage to Casey Anthony to the White House) and I have my Twitter feed, which is probably the best monitor of what's breaking. For my first pass, I look at The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, Financial Times and all the major news organizations' Twitter feeds. On the second pass, I'm looking at the financial universe: the price of oil, currency pricings, etc. Then I'll log onto my computer and check the homepages of The Huffington Post, Politico, Zero Hedge, The New York Times and Financial Times and I'll read Naked Capitalism just to see what Yves Smith is saying about the banking system. I don't subscribe to any print media. I wouldn't read a newspaper now unless you put a gun to my head and even then I would really try to negotiate with you. It's not that I reject the content, it's that I reject the format.
At 9:30 I begin a conference call with my staff who fill me in on the holes in my diet like the Casey Anthony trial or the he-said-she-said between Democrats and Republicans. I check Twitter on average once every 15 or 20 minutes. I like to tweet about things that provoke debate but I don't seek confrontation for confrontation's sake. Feel free to call me an asshole on Twitter. I won't respond. On the phone, I make calls to primary sources: actual people doing actual things like Senators, bankers or businessmen.
That combination of news puts me in a situation where I can differentiate between what's actually happening and the blowhard news cycle of fear-monger manipulation and self-indulgent garbage. For instance, you hear a lot of talk on the debt ceiling about how disastrous it's going to be. The nice thing about having access to the financial markets is you can see how full of crap the political media is. If America was not going to pay its debts then the yield on the ten-year bond rate would be 14 percent. It's under 3 percent now. It's a joke. The whole thing's a charade. The debt limit itself is invented. It's like a really strict curfew your parents can and will remove at any time, which is not to say that America's debt is insignificant.
Outside of the financial markets, there's very little penalty for having false information. Whereas in the financial universe, the punishment for false information is severe and irrevocable: you lose all your money. Good information matters and bad information is dangerous. So when a politician or political journalist asserts anything it's always a good idea to check the asset prices that would be affected. "Oh my God, we're going to default on our debt? That must mean America's ten-year bond must be out of whack!" Oh it's not? Then I guess they're full of fucking shit.
One of my great frustrations with working in cable news is that the entire cable news infrastructure has been branded through partisan political lenses and so people assume that if you're on MSNBC you're left and if you're on Fox News you're right. There's no question that I'm painted as left because of the network I'm on. The branding precedes the talent in cable networking. Since when is it my job to be a Democrat or Republican? I recognize that both political parties are bought by six industries: energy, banking, health care, defense, agribusiness and communications.
For books, I read autobiographies and spiritual literature like Ram Dass. The most recent autobiography I've read is Richard Branson's Losing My Virginity. It's not some glorification of how Branson became rich. Far from it. It's a revelation of his value system and his personal struggles. The bottom line on Ram Dass is the realization that there is no personal identity. I'm an anchor, I'm a journalist, I'm a father, I'm a brother. But the only thing that's important is infinite potential. Every human being's identity is your potential. Right now I'm an anchorman in New York who's a dude. But I'll still be Dylan Ratigan. So who are you? My answer is infinite potential. I think when you take that identity to your work it puts you in the best possible situation.