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. This is drawn from a conversation with Ed Henry, who recently left CNN to become the chief White House correspondent at Fox News.
I find it's not just figuring out what sources to use to get information but which devices to use. I have device overload: two iPhones, a Blackberry, an iPad, a Kindle, a laptop for work, and a personal laptop. A big part of my day is organizing my devices.
I try to get up about 6:30. I stay at work for Shepard Smith's show at 7 pm some nights and often don't get home until past 8, so I'm not getting up at 4 am. Some days the White House briefing is at noon, some days it's at 1:45. If the President has no events in the morning and the briefing isn't until 1:45, and if I don't have a dramatic number of live requests, I take the morning to do reading at home. I'm a captive to information, devices, and President Obama. To me that's my life. Of course my wife and kids are the most important.
In the morning, I literally roll over and go to the devices. First I check the BlackBerry because it's a work device and has overnight notes from Fox--emails with roundups of domestic policy, foreign policy, political, and campaign 2012 stories. I scan to see if something bad or dramatic happened: Have we caught a terrorist and I need to get in the shower now? Second, after I tell my wife I love her, I go to the iPad, which is wi-fi only and in the docking station charging. I don't get hard-copy newspapers at home anymore. I download newspapers to read while I'm in transit or at work: first The New York Times and The Wall Street Journal--a proud News Corp. property--and then The New York Post. I'm from New York so I like to check on the Yankees and they have quick, breezy stories. Sometimes they'll have a 250-word story that didn't get attention in The Times but is something that real people are talking about, whether pop culture or something about the economy. It's a visceral reaction kind of newspaper.
As I'm looking through email I may read something like the Politico Playbook. I'll add my voice to the chorus of praise for Mike Allen being able to put a bunch of complex stories into a little digest, but sometimes people only read that and think they know everything. Mike's awesome but the Playbook is one of many things. I also use the USA Today app. It's one of the best apps on the iPad and you don't hear enough about it. It's very user friendly, constantly being updated, and has more sections than the print paper. In addition to the Fox News app, Fox Business has a good iPad app, and 60 Minutes is one of the best apps. I often check it out on Saturdays and Sundays when I have more time to catch up on reading.
I make coffee around 6:45 in the morning because I'm annoyed if I don't have a cup of coffee with The Today Show at 7:01. I move all my devices from the bedroom to the living room, where I sit in a corner seat on this great couch we have. I have the TV on the left, my iPad on the arm of the couch, and a BlackBerry, iPhone, and maybe a Kindle on the right. I sit with my coffee and scan the ABC, CBS, and NBC morning shows. I watch cable all day at the White House so I feel watching the network morning shows gives me a sense of what else is happening. I'll watch what the competitors--Jake Tapper, Chuck Todd, Norah O'Donnell—are up to. My wife Shirley eventually gets up around 7:30 and will make me eggs. She's awesome.
Around 9, I gather up all the devices, get in the car, and immediately turn on satellite radio. Sixty percent of the time I'm listening to Fox so that on my way in I know what we're doing. This morning, for example, I had a live shot at 10 about the economy so I was listening to Bill Hemmer talk about the economy.
At the White House, I'm watching Fox all day--not just because we're #1 but because I want to know what my colleagues are saying--and flipping around to the other networks. Fox Business is smaller but I take time to watch it because it's fun and fast-paced and growing really fast. I also have email and Twitter up all day. I follow Jake, Chuck, Mark Knoller, and other people in the White House beat and other news outlets, and I check mentions of me because you want to make sure people are not misrepresenting what you said in a White House briefing or what you reported. I find that The Huffington Post aggregates stuff pretty well and gives me a sense of what the left is talking about. On the right, National Review's The Corner gives me a pretty good sense of what conservatives are saying. Facebook I only use occasionally for personal reasons, to see what family and friends are doing. Twitter is up all the time and there's a lot of value to it, but you can waste a lot of time on it too.
I find that the iPad and Kindle each do different things really well. If you're out in the sun you can't read the iPad, and I like having a ton of books on the Kindle. The Kindle is also half the size of the iPad and you can subscribe to blogs. For pennies a day you can have blogs delivered to you. When I'm done scanning the papers, Gawker is my total guilty pleasure: What did The Daily Show or Colbert do? What's the crazy sex scandal of the week or what congressman did something crazy? Am I missing something beyond the wonky world that people are talking about at the water cooler? I'm a huge sports fan so I also like Deadspin (if A-Rod's in trouble, they've got it) and ESPN's Bill Simmons.
At night, I try to get off of all the political stuff because my brain's just fried. I usually try to have a book that has nothing to do with politics in the Kindle. I've been reading Unbroken by Laura Hillenbrand. I love to go to Vegas so I just got a book by Chad Millman called The Odds: One Season, Three Gamblers, and the Death of Their Las Vegas. I'll also have my MLB iPad app on as background noise. Usually I have the Yankees radio feed on so I can hear John Sterling, a crazy guy who says wacky things. On TV, my guilty pleasure would be the occasional Entourage, Mad Men, and Curb Your Enthusiasm. What I'll typically do is download a whole season of something like Mad Men and take it on overseas trips with the president. I downloaded the Ken Burns Baseball series before a Europe trip in May.
We asked Henry whether the White House was making him pay a price for switching from a middle-of-the-road news network like CNN to what some consider the conservative-leaning Fox News, as we suggested last month after a couple testy exchanges between Henry and White House press secretary Jay Carney. His response: "I asked tough questions about the Bush and Obama administrations while I was at CNN and I will continue to ask tough questions at Fox. I'm just doing my job and [Jay's] doing his job. I have great respect for Jay. The only real problem with him is he's a Red Sox fan."