How do people deal with the torrent of information pouring 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 Choire Sicha, co-founder of The Awl.
I sleep with my iPhone under my pillow or in my hand because I fall asleep reading. Since we start publishing at The Awl by nine, I'm up by seven or seven thirty. So, when I wake up, I immediately turn on the phone and go straight to either email or Twitter or The New York Times depending on what's going on when I passed out. (I usually read the Times Wire version. After breakfast, you can't really look at the front page--it's useless.) Then I'll find coffee and begin a pretty serious Twitter and Tumblr crawl, emailing myself things to create a little reservoir of stuff to either read, think about writing about, or send along to other people.
I'll head to the office most days. We publish a little slower in the mornings, because we find that--with some blogs--people don't tend to really kick in to reading them until 10:30 or 11 a.m. for the most part. But then more regular readers start earlier so we always want to have stuff for them too.
At my computer, properly caffeinated, I'll sift through email and check Google Reader. I don't use Reader as strongly as other bloggers do or have. But I have fourteen different folders for RSS feeds on a variety of topics. Some of them are just sort of structural (World News, New York City, Arts, Gossip, Gay News etc). The City folder, for example, has everything from EV Grieve to City Room and Gothamist to the charmingly-named New York Shitty.
Looking around at my bookmarks, there's a bunch of old school blogs like English Russia, Bad Astronomy, Europopped and The Last Word on Nothing--which is really one of the best science sites out there. One of my more important bookmarks is "College." It contains everything from The Daily Bruin to The Whitman Pioneer to The Williams Record--I have all the student papers there. A lot of them are weeklies, so around Wednesday or Thursday I check those. Reading the Harvard and Yale papers every day is actually a huge boon.
Twitter factors majorly into my day. Most of the 500+ people I follow are a pretty varied bit: a mishmash of friends, people I've worked with, reporters, strange animals. I guess there's two strains on Twitter: One is very news attached and all about urgency and the other is more creative and just browsing, finding weird things and being oddballs.
Unlike Twitter, on Tumblr I don't really follow reporters. I made a rule for myself that it was supposed to be "safe space" output only: there'd be no arguing with people, no engagement, sort of a very personal "this is interesting" stuff. We actually find a lot of original and interesting art on Tumblr: the other week, Tess Lynch, a writer in L.A., wrote something really gorgeous that we excerpted.
At a certain point mid-morning, I'll go: "Oh right, I haven't read The LA Times, Miami Herald, Chicago Tribune, and a couple others yet, so I should go check their front pages, finally." In all those major city papers, despite their great dependence on wire services, there's still local stuff that's amazing. Particularly now as we're midway thorough the world's longest election cycle. And, you know, you have to read the local Florida papers because it's the place where all the Internet's crazy stories come from. I mean, Fark famously has its own Florida tags now.
As far as magazines, I have a pretty active subscription life. There's some obvious standbys like The New Yorker, Harpers, Architectural Digest, N+1 and, yes, The Atlantic. But then there are also new favorite quarterlies like Meat Paper and Lucky Peach. I feel print subscriptions are so rapidly discounted all the time--the non-monthlies are a real boon. You forget that you subscribe to one and then suddenly it shows up.
Magazines are one thing internet people may not take advantage of enough. Sometimes, they're so "on the internet" that they forget that there's tons of stuff in GQ, Details and Esquire every month. Every magazine has so much, if you find one and can't harvest it for something interesting for a blog, you're crazy. Usually, I'll get around to reading them on weekends. But, if you're a professional blogger, it's a good break in the afternoon when you suddenly sit up and realize you should eat something and then you have all these magazines around. Those two activities (eating and reading) go together very naturally.
The funny thing about blogging as writing is that it's reading too. In the afternoons, we kind of get burned out from reading by about 2 or 3 p.m., after hours of it. Of course, there's also the weekly publishing schedules to think about, like when The New York Observer's stuff goes online and now Wednesday and Thursday when the Sunday Times Magazine comes online. The idea is to read quickly but comprehensively: you don't want to be in the habit of glossing over things, then you start to miss intention and nuance. Late afternoons we sort of wind down and rely more on breaking news like the BBC, Al Jazeera, the Times, Twitter.
In the book world, I got pushed out of my science fiction bubble. I'm actually rereading Beijing Welcomes You by Tom Scocca. I want to read the final version. I've also finished Lev Grossman's The Magician King and then, coming out this fall, I just read the James Wolcott memoir on being a critic in the '70's. It's a good galley season.
I end up doing a lot of reading on my iPhone. It's the best reading experience in the world if you have light sensitive animals and/or people in your room at night. The screen turns black, it's incredibly small, it doesn't light up the room and you can fall asleep with it--it drops out of your hand and you don't notice.