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 Brian Stelter, New York Times reporter and author of an upcoming book about morning TV.
I try to get up by 7 a.m. to watch the morning shows, since I'm writing a book about morning TV. I have four TVs in my bedroom right now -- one big TV that's cable, and that's tuned to NY1, because my girlfriend Jamie is a traffic reporter there. The other three TVs are smaller -- 20-inch flatscreens, basically computer monitors hooked up to rabbit ears. They're tuned to ABC, NBC, and CBS, so I can watch them the way the morning TV producers watch the shows. I soak it up and learn how they do it. It's shown me how aware they are of each other. If one has a big exclusive interview, the other will either counter-program or tacitly acknowledge it. It's also shown me that there are significant differences between them -- CBS is really trying to be more substantive; NBC tries to get the mix of news and features right; ABC is clearly turning to criminal mysteries and softer features earlier in the show than its competitors. I love watching. I don't know what I'm going to do with the TVs after I finish the book, but for now, having all four TVs on is bright enough to force me to wake up.
Between 7 a.m. and 9 a.m., I start opening what ends up being dozens of browser tabs -- links from Twitter, links from Facebook, stories in The Times, stories that Jamie sends -- on my computer. My goal is to close all those by the end of the day. Right now I have Politico, Salon, Adweek, the New York Times, GigaOM, and The Atlantic open. I'll at least skim all those open tabs by the end of the day. I feel like within Google Chrome I'm piling up a bunch of newspapers to read. Pretty much all the links come from Twitter and Facebook, but primarily Twitter. I think of the tabs as a stack of reading material; some are story material, some are just stories I want to read.
I also get newletters -- Mike Allen's Playbook, I Want Media, Jason Hirschhorn's newsletter, a few from Mediabistro. When I get into work I skim The New York Times in print, mostly to look at the placement of articles, sizing up my and my colleagues' stories. Sometimes I'll look at The Wall Street Journal, the Daily News, and the New York Post. I only buy the paper -- The New York Times -- on Sunday, and that's recent. In terms of print, that's the interaction.
During the day I rely heavily on sites like Mediaite for video clips. I think of it as a clipping service, showing me what I missed last night on the Daily Show, or from MSNBC or Fox. Gawker also does some of that. And then there are blogs I go to: TV Newser, since I used to work there; I try to check Gawker. I purposely go to their homepages.
I probably hit Twitter every five minutes or so. I don't obsess over reading every tweet, but I like to when I can. I worry less about tweeting out and more about listening. I've been consciously trying to consume more and comment less, unless I have something to add. And I check Facebook a couple times an hour. I don't want to downplay it; I think it has so much potential. I can sense it's becoming significant, but collectively we haven't figured out how to use it. I like what Facebook does on the newsfeed, collecting reported posts together -- if 10 people post about NBC, those are collected into one story, and that's helpful. I've just started toying around with subscribing.
And there's something that's a subscription business tool. It's called TV Eyes -- it's my most important tool. It's a virtual DVR for every channel, every city, at every hour of the day. I can go back and find any clip I want, queue up the time, and watch it. I think it's a B-to-B play; it's not meant for the public, but it's very helpful. Mediaite's also great for that, and I rely on it a lot, but this lets me go straight to it.
To end the day, I try to look at the New Yorker, New York, Time, People, Entertainment Weekly, Wired, Reason, The Nation, The Weekly Standard, just to get my eyes away from a screen. I try to read a different one each day; that's subway reading. There's absolutely a risk of filtering out information by relying so heavily on Facebook, Twitter, and email. So I consciously try to ferret out other sources of information. To me, the magazines are a piece of that.