How do other people deal with the torrent of information that pours down on us all? Do they have some secret? Perhaps. We are asking various journalists who seem well-informed to describe their media diets. This is from an exchange with Frank Rich, a weekly columnist for the New York Times.
As a disclaimer: I’m pretty omnivorous, obsessive, and inefficient, so I wouldn’t recommend that anyone follow my example. I get five print newspapers each morning: the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, the Washington Post, the New York Post, and the New York Daily News. I do understand the inefficiency of print, but it’s a habit—when I grew up in Washington I was a newspaper delivery boy. I go through the papers very fast or more luxuriantly, depending on my day, whether I’m on deadline, etc. I read them away from my desk, drinking a cup—no, several cups—of coffee.
Then, either at my office or at home, where I often do the actual writing part of my work, I get on the web and look at a bunch of places to augment and update my newspaper news. Obviously I look at the Times’ site, at Talking Points Memo, Politico, Slate, and The New Republic. I check Memeorandum, which is a good index to blogging stuff, as well as Huffington Post and Real Clear Politics.
I read too many columnists and bloggers to mention, but I’d start with the Atlantic bloggers and the conservative bloggers on the National Review or Commentary sites. I also like reading some of the really smart financial bloggers, like Megan McArdle, Felix Salmon, and Rolfe Winkler.
I do some version of that periodically throughout the day, as circumstances allow or warrant. My column is due on Fridays, and so every day is sort of different; obviously some days are very deadline intensive and allow less time for distractions. Because you can, after all, turn endless web surfing or leafings of a newspaper into endless procrastination.
I read a lot of magazines, too. They’re incredibly handy for reading at the gym—I’ll sometimes go through three or four magazines on an elliptical machine. Besides the New York Times Magazine [editor's note: Rich's wife, Alex Witchel, is a staff writer], I regularly read the New Yorker, New York Magazine, the New York Review of Books, The Nation, and Vanity Fair. I absolutely read the Economist, and fairly thoroughly. I used to work for Time, early in my career, so I’m curious about what’s going on with them. The problem newsweeklies are having, and as a reader I’m a symptom of it, is that it’s not clear to me what their role is. For entertainment news I read Variety, and I also look The Atlantic, Harper’s, and the Paris Review (and not just because my son works there). It’s a media deluge. My biggest problem is trying to cut it down and digest it.
At night, as I’m going to bed, I’ll usually watch Jon Stewart and/or Stephen Colbert, and I always Tivo one of the network newscasts because I’m curious to see the zeitgeist of them. I sample cable news—CNN, MSNBC, and Fox—if some big story is happening. I’m also often reading scripts or watching DVDs for HBO, for whom I do programming consulting.
I tend to also like to do reading, particularly at night, that has no relation to journalism or my work. I usually have several books going that could range from non-contemporary fiction, to contemporary fiction, to nonfiction that might be tied to news or politics. I’ve been reading everything from the novel Union Atlantic, which just came out a few weeks ago, to Hannah Arendt’s Eichmann in Jerusalem.
When I’m travelling my Kindle is great, but even then I’ll take a book or two. As I discovered on a recent trip, a Kindle can inexplicably crash, and I never want to be on an airplane without a book. I don’t use the Kindle for reading magazines and newspapers, but it’s great for reading manuscripts and scripts.