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 Madeleine Albright, the first female U.S. Secretary of State and author of Prague Winter: A Personal Story of Remembrance and War.
Sometimes I wake up at a quarter to 5:00 knowing baseball scores, traffic patterns, the weather and an event happening in another part of the world absorbed by osmosis. It's from turning on local broadcast WTOP when I'm trying to get to sleep late at night.
When I get up I read The Washington Post, The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal and Financial Times first thing. I really like to hold the actual papers in my hand. When I'm exercising or getting myself organized, I flip on Morning Joe and The Daily Rundown.
Then as I drive to work, I listen to right-wing radio on WMAL in Washington. It's kind of amazing that I haven't run over somebody because I get so mad wanting to call in and tell them they're outrageous. They're all unnerving. The language that they use and the way they demonize everybody they disagree with as a Communist liberal really drives me crazy. Also, I don't think it's particularly funny when they say "Osama... oops... I mean Obama." I was on the Hill saying something awhile back and by the time I was in the car they were on my case. It's the type of thing that makes me come into the office a little overwrought. Either way, I long ago decided I needed to tune in to get to know other views that are out there instead of listening to MSNBC all morning.
On my way home, I listen to NPR and then I watch NewsHour. Late at night, if I'm up, I flip on The Daily Show and The Colbert Report. When I travel, if I know the language, I read the local papers and if I get a connection on my iPad, I read the International Herald Tribune and Politico. In terms of magazines, I read The Economist, Time, Foreign Policy, Foreign Affairs, The New York Review of Books and some professional journals like Political Science Review or Daedalus.
For columnists, I read David Brooks on a regular basis. I think he is very, very thoughtful even though I disagree with him in many ways. I love E.J. Dionne and Richard Cohen. I really like the people on NewsHour like Margaret Warner and Judy Woodruff and Ray Suarez. They do a terrific job. I also like the Sunday hosts: David Gregory and George Stephanopoulos.
I have always been fascinated by the role of news and political change. I wrote my dissertation on the role of the press in Czechoslovakia in 1968. I always planned to be a journalist. I was news editor of my college paper and after that I did what I was supposed to do and worked at a small newspaper in Missouri: the Rolla Daily News. I did everything there: I took ads, I wrote articles, interviewed people, looked into UFOs, obituaries, etc. That was until the managing editor said to me "What do you want to do, honey?" I said I wanted to be a reporter and he replied "I don't think so. You can't work on the same paper as your husband because of guild regulations." They had rules like that in those days. Still, I can't believe I let this managing editor talk me out of a career.
What I find most worrying in the media today is the meagerness of newspapers in a variety of cities. Also, the lack of foreign coverage. I was pretty critical of the way the media covered the Arab revolutions, especially Tahrir Square. It was covered as if it was a spectator event taking place in a limited time period that would be resolved pretty quickly. Very little context. Other than that, I personally get a little tired of how every foreign story begins with an anecdotal lede. I prefer the straight who, what, where or when.