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 Gail Collins, New York Times Op-Ed columnist, popularizer of Romney's dog-on-car roof story, and author, most recently of As Texas Goes ...
This is an ancient ritual that goes back to when I was first in New York and both my husband and I were working for the Daily News: one of us buys The Times, The New York Post, and the New York Daily News and we have coffee (which my husband buys at Starbucks—we're pathetic). I’m still a real New York City news junkie even though I don't write about it too much.
I go through the New York part of The Times and the back sections. I'm sort of an Arts and Leisure checker-outer first, and then Business. My husband, Huffington Post New York editor Dan Collins, is pretty much in charge of sports, to tell you the truth. I think it's really a waste in a couple-ship that both of you read the same things. To read the same books as my husband would be such a waste of effort, because there's so much out there.
I download the abridged version of The Times on Audible.com and I listen to that in the subway. I'm one of the few people I know who listens to a lot of stuff on my iPod. I listen to The Times on the way to work. And then on the way home, I often listen to The New Yorker because I download that every weekend, too. Everything is abridged. If you're done listening to something and think, "Wow, I want to know more," you can always call it up online. But so frequently in my life I find that abridged things work out OK.
By the time I get into work I have a general idea of what is in the front section of the Times. Then I go online and finish up on that. And only then — and by then it's like 10:30 in the morning for God's sake — only then do I start reading other stuff. I always check The Washington Post, and I always sort of go through a run of various websites like Politico and the Huffington Post and the Drudge Report and Talking Points Memo. If I'm still available for reading things at that point then I go on to The Wall Street Journal and then some of the sites that I visit sort of regularly but not every day.
If I'm sort of trolling around, I like to go to the stuff that has 5 million different things on it. Drudge and Huffington Post, Buzzfeed, and Politico — things where you can see like 24 things all at once. Then if I think I'm going to do something on say Congress or something vaguely Congress related, I always go to places like National Journal or The Hill.
I spend a lot of time just reading email, and a lot of stuff comes there. I get the Wonkbook every day. Every time I call people up to ask them about some issue, I get tons of things about that issue for the next two months. So right now I'm getting a ton of email about the post office. I could really spend my entire day reading about the post office online right now.
There are people here that are in charge of Twitter and Facebook. Whenever anybody wants to be my friend I always say that they can be my friend but that's pretty much the extent of my Facebook participation. When the web became a big deal, I was still an editor and I was always nagging the columnists to blog or do some proactive web related thing. Then when I went back to being a columnist I really knew I had to do something like that so that's when David Brooks and I started doing "The Conversation." But that is my thing I do.
For the last number of years, I've been writing books really rapid fire in the evening so I've only been reading in the evening about the thing I'm writing about. Right now I'm between books, and I'm not going to do any new projects for a while. So I am completely and totally only reading fiction. It's weird, I usually read three books at the same time. I listen to one on my iPod, right now that's Maine by J. Courtney Sullivan. And I've got a book at home, right now it's Alice in Bed by Cathleen Schine. And then on weekends we have a house up in the country we go to, and I'm reading Gone Girl by Gillian Flyn. I recommend them all.
I usually read on the Nook when I'm travelling. I did a column (this was a couple years ago) on the Twilight novels. A really long flight back and forth across the country was enough to get through the entire Twilight series.
New York magazine comes in the mail. My last book I wrote was on Texas so I'm also getting some Texas stuff by mail. I get the Texas Monthly and the Texas Observer. I think mail is hard in New York because you have these weenie little mailboxes.
We tend to go to bed around 10 o'clock and just watch television for a couple hours. We watch Jon Stewart and Colbert. Sometimes I'm horrified that whatever I just filed a column on, they are doing something hilarious before my column comes out. It's very depressing, and then people think you stole it. But I've always been a big fan of using humor to get people interested in what's going on in current affairs so I'm a huge admirer of theirs.
I have a great capacity for really bad television. We've gotten really into House Hunters International. It's a very strange experience. You do get a weird little bit of a sense about what it's like to shop for a home in Bulgaria. Any reality show about people trying to start careers I'm easily taken in by. For a while, we tried to watch the ones about people bidding on storage lockers. There were like four different series about people bidding on lockers. And then we noticed there's one about bidding on lost luggage, and it was just too much.
And I'm a huge admirer of all the other New York Times columnists. Often actually I go online at night right before I go to bed and read them.