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 phone conversation with John Carney, senior editor at CNBC.
I usually do two things at once: I open my phone and look at Twitter, and I turn on CNBC to see what the headlines are that morning, depending on how early it is, either in Europe, or on Squawk Box.
I wake up pretty early, usually before 6 a.m. I start reading the news that people up that early are talking about on Twitter. I actually find people waking up and reading stories and tweeting that out, to be a really fascinating experience. The first thing that catches their attention is often the first link they're tweeting out. And so, one advantage of waking up a little earlier than everybody else is, you're able to watch everybody in your twitter feed start to read the news and talk about it.
I have an RSS reader. I use Feedly. I used to use Google Reader until they terminated it. I go through there and I have probably 1,000 different websites that are plugged into there, so I see the latest things they posted since the last time I looked at my reader, which is usually around 6 p.m. the night before.
I'll often look around for what a bunch of people who I like to follow pretty closely, websites or writers, to see what they're talking about. It's people like Joe Weisenthal at Business Insider, Kevin Roose, Heidi Moore, Felix Salmon, Jesse Eisenger, Matthew Klein, Ryan McCarthy, Matt Goldstein at Reuters, everybody at FT Alphaville -- if it's a day when a Holman Jenkins column comes out in the Wall Street Journal, I tend to go to that, and I'll look at Heard on the Street. These are people who tend to be writing about things that nobody else is, or taking angles on things that everybody reads but their angles are going to be more interesting than everybody else's.
I'll open my email to see what my colleagues at CNBC have been emailing me about, what sources have been emailing me. I'll read through what I consider the big macro economics blogs, like Pragmatic Capitalism, or Mosler Economics, The Money Illusion, and occasionally Paul Krugman, to see what they're talking about. And usually by then I have a couple of ideas of what I want to write about.
CNBC has a couple morning phone calls that I participate in, where we plan out what's going to be on the air that day, and what's going to be online that day, so I'll call into those around 8 and 9 in the morning to talk about what's going on. And then at that point I'm usually writing something, trying get a couple things out for the morning.
Later in the day I often find myself, particularly if it's a slow news day, I'll go to the SSRN, the Social Sciences Research Network, and run through the most recent finance, and law, and economics papers to see if there's anything that seems like, this would be a good thing to try to bring to people's attention. There's a lot of really smart stuff that often doesn't filter through to the public for a long time. I like to spend some time looking through that and try to figure out, do I understand this paper and can I explain what it's saying to people in a way that will make sense in a post on a website?
In the afternoon, I'll go back and see what people have written about that morning. Is there something I disagree with? Or something I want to emphasize to talk about more, on top of the news? Another couple reporters I should mention — Lauren LaCapra at Reuters does a lot of good stuff, and Jessica Pressler at New York magazine, and guys like Eddy Elfenbein, an old school stock blogger, Tony Fratto, Ed Harrison. I'll see what people are talking about, and if there's a way to engage in that conversation. Sometimes that's just for tweeting, sometimes that's for writing blog posts, and sometimes I'll email producers at CNBC and say, this guy's saying something interesting, we should try to see if we can talk on air.
I also spend too much time reading stuff that's completely outside the econ and politics area. I read The Awl, The Hairpin, Crushable, and Grantland. Arts and Letters Daily is a huge time suck because there's a billion things there I want to read and there's no way I have time to get through it all. And I love cooking websites, like America's Test Kitchen, so very often when I'm trying to decide what to make for dinner in the afternoon, I'm on America's Test Kitchen looking. I don't know how much that contributes to my productivity except that it probably saves me time. I can work later because I know exactly what I'm going to cook.
I used to work for Business Insider and Dealbreaker, so they're still daily reads for me. And Above the Law — I used to be a lawyer so I'm still very fascinated with what's going on with law. I think the finance/economics Twitter sphere is a healthy community to engage with to figure out what's happening, to get reactions to what I'm writing about, and to see how other people are reacting to the news.
I listen to a lot of audiobooks. Amazon has this whispersync function, where you can read books on your kindle and pick up where you left off on the audio version. So that's really nice for me. If I'm on the subway and it's too crowded to read, I can put on my headphones and listen from where I was.
I'm reading a lot of fiction right now. I'm reading Donna Tart's The Goldfinch. In hardcopy, I'm trying to get my hands on a lot of books about New York in the 1960s and 1970s because that was a big transitional period for New York City. For me, it feels like, with the election of De Blasio, we're entering the post-Giuliani, post-Bloomberg era. I bought William F. Buckley's book about running for mayor in New York, The Unmaking of a Mayor. And I bought another one called The Jeweler's Eye, which is a bunch of his columns from the 1960s. I'm trying to get hold of some old Pete Hamill and Jimmy Breslin material, just because I think that was the last time New York went through a major transition like we are now and I 'd like to see how these guys dealt with it. Maybe they'll give us some insight into what's going to happen to New York now.
To me, it's really unpredictable. I grew up in New York City, so I remember when we had high crime rates in the 1970s, 1980s, and early 1990s. I hope that the healthier, safer, and more prosperous city we've built in the last 20 years is robust enough that it doesn't fall apart just because you elect a more liberal mayor. But I also think that, you know, socio-economic systems are fragile. And so, I'm not sure! I actually think that's going to be one of the most interesting stories within the next two years — what happens to New York now that we've had a regime change. And will De Blasio really be as different as his supporters and detractors think he's going to be from what what's come before. There's a lot of institutional inertia when it comes to city politics so it could be that things aren't going to be as different as everybody expects. But again, that'll also be interesting to see — how the people really hoping for change will react if that doesn't occur very rapidly.
Because we've had Giuliani, and then Bloomberg, for so long it remains to be seen how much of what they arguably built — one, how much of this improvement is attributable to them, and I think a great deal generally is. But two, the test of leadership is how robust the system you built really is. In other words, was the system dependent on them? If so, that's not great, right? You hope they built something that can last beyond their leadership. So, you know, we'll see. I have friends who are very confident things will continue to run along smoothly, and I have other friends who are in a panic about what might happen.
I'm in the business of observing these things and writing about what's happening in the world, and even though my beat is Wall Street and finance, what happens in New York very much impacts that beat. The young people in New York, the newcomers, have never experienced the New York from The Warriors movie. And I did, I remember that. So it seems unrealistic to them that it could get that bad. It doesn't seem impossible to me, but you know, obviously I hope for the best. I love this city. It's a terrific place. And, like I said, it's going to be an amazing story no matter what happens.
I'm almost always reading either a novel or a book of philosophy. I'm somewhat obsessed with ancient philosophy, mostly Plato, Socrates, and Xenophon. I tend to read a lot about them before I go to bed. Unless it's Sunday night, in which case I'm watching The Walking Dead or Homeland and then I end up going to bed without doing much else. I do end up, even despite myself, I try to tune out a little at night, to decompress. But I end up checking Twitter.
Especially with event TV, I find things like Twitter really fun. Whether it's a sports game, or the Oscars, it's brilliant to tune in to Twitter those nights. I don't think I ever watched award shows voluntarily unless I was drafted into it before Twitter. Now Twitter makes it so much more fun to do. For Breaking Bad and Walking Dead and Homeland, I try not to look at Twitter because I DVR them and tend to be watching them slightly out of sync with live TV. I'm afraid to open Twitter and find out, oh, that's how this episode ends.
I'm lucky because I have some very good friends who are both great on Twitter and great sports people, like Katie Baker and Will Leitch. Sports is better with them. Even though they don't live in New York anymore, I feel like I'm watching a game with them as we're sitting there tweeting away.
My brother Tim writes a column for the Washington Examiner that comes out a couple times a week, and I always read those. In part because his beat overrides with mine, in that he's writing about how big business connects with government, and ever since the financial crisis you can't write about the financial sector without writing about big government.
I have so many Google News Alerts that I should probably cull them down. Over the years, what would happen is, there would be some story I was following and I'd create a google new alert, and now I just have so many of these things coming in that it's not as useful as it used to be. I have the names of every big bank. I have the names of people who were in the news that I used to write about a lot. Some of them no longer are and now I wonder, do I really need to know everything ever written about this guy ever again? And I get news alerts from The Wall Street Journal.
I live in Brooklyn, so I get a lot of Brooklyn-based news alerts. One site is called Brooklyn Based, and there are a couple others, too. They let me follow along what's going locally and I find them very useful.
I get The New York Times, as the advertisement says, in the Friday, Saturday, Sunday edition. I get The Wall Street Journal. Occasionally I get the Financial Times. And I get four magazines: National Geographic; Chronicles; Critical Review, which is a journal that comes out once or twice a year; and The American Conservative. Oh, and New York magazine, too. Depending on what's in something like the New Republic or the New Yorker, I'll pick those up when I see a cover story I'm interested in, but they're not something I subscribe to.
Twitter is almost a ubiquitous, omnipresence in my life. I'm on it at all times, everywhere. Facebook less so; I'm there a few times a day. But I also look at Instagram, and lately I've had a lot of interaction with sources and that sort of thing through Snapchat. I think it's a way for people to connect, so I wrote an article about how a lot of summer interns on Wall Street were using Snapchat to talk to each other. I told them to Snapchat me, so now I randomly get Snapchats from, like, dudes sitting at their desks doing Excel spreadsheets. I have yet to break a really big story through Snapchat, but I think the potential's there. One of the things I like about Twitter is the way it lets me interact with people who are reading what I'm writing. Snapchat's just another way for them to reach out to me. I'm not sure I'm a very great Snapchatter. I don't do anything Snap-worhty, I guess? But they'll be setting at their desk, or some crazy party, and I'll send them a Snap of the sun setting over Manhattan from my Brooklyn rooftop.
My homepage is my site, which is really embarrassing and egotistical. But it comes up and it's a good reminder, this is what I do for a living.