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 Rev. Al Sharpton, host of MSNBC's PoliticsNation.
I'm an early riser so I'm usually up by 5:30. I first open up my laptop to The Huffington Post, Politico, The Grio, The Root, Yahoo and News One. Then I google myself and google my civil rights group National Action Network. After that, I'll get a sense of what I want to do on my radio and television shows and then the newspapers arrive. I subscribe to The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, Financial Times, New York Post and New York Daily News. I set aside the papers by 7:15 and head out for breakfast or a meeting or whatever I have to do that day.
When I get to work at the National Action Network, I re-check Politico, Google and Yahoo, which usually have changed by then. Then I'm on air from 1:00 to 4:00. When I get off, I head to MSNBC. I do my show, go through a briefing and get home at 10:00 p.m. or 11:00 p.m. Later in the evening I'll get into my books. I just started the new Steve Jobs biography and I've spent the last three weeks reading Absolute Monarchs by John Julius Norwich, which is a history of the popes. I typically get to magazines when I'm on planes. I'm the type of person who will spend $25 at a newsstand picking up Time, Newsweek, Ebony, I'll read most of the nationally-circulated black magazines, Fortune, or BusinessWeek.
I'm using Twitter all the time now. In the mornings, I tweet. Just before I'm on air for radio or television, I tweet. People are surprised I do my own tweets. I do Facebook two or three times a day but I'm far more active on Twitter. My daughter, Dominique, got me into it. She said I should build up a Twitter following and I said, "What is that?" And she said, "Suppose you want to mobilize people on a particular issue. You can do it right away." That's what got me. I was like, "Wow, you're right, I can reach thousands of people at once." I was hooked.
On TV, I was big fan of Rachel Maddow even before I got to MSNBC. She's smart and well-researched. I'm a big fan of Jon Stewart too. I like to watch people that make you think and Maddow and Stewart do that. I don't think that people who are not bright can appreciate those shows.
Now Glenn Beck, he gets under my skin. A lot of what he says is so irritating, I don't understand why people watch. He just bothers me. There are others I disagree with but they're not as aggravating. Take Bill O'Reilly. I don't agree with him but he's intelligent and I can have a conversation with him. As a matter of fact, we go to dinner together twice a year. We'll go uptown one time and downtown the other. We've been to Sylvia's, Amy Ruth's and The Harvard Club. He's a smart person that just sees the world differently than me. We can actually talk. I even talk to Sean Hannity from time to time. But I could not find myself eating dinner with Glenn Beck.
New media is like electricity. Is it good or bad? It depends on who's using it. Any time you can reach thousands of people instantaneously and unedited, it can be great or it can be bad. The downside is misinformation can spread. The upside is it takes away a lot of corporate control of how we get information. When people are getting information through Facebook or independent blogs, they're not dealing with as much with advertising. I think that's a good thing if it's not misused.