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 friends and colleagues who seem well-informed to describe their media diets. This is from a conversation with Michael Lewis, author, Bloomberg columnist, and contributing editor to Vanity Fair.
I don’t really have news-reading habits. My consumption of news is always configured around everything else going on in my life. In a normal work day, I won’t actually look at a newspaper until nighttime. I take the Wall Street Journal and the New York Times to bed with me and I flip through them. I’m entranced with David Brooks—I always read his column. I’m also pretty interested in Paul Krugman’s. The papers are already old news by the time I look at them, though.
The news I get early is all online. I glance at the Times, the New Orleans Time-Picayune (I grew up in New Orleans), and the San Francisco Chronicle (I live in Berkeley) for a total of about 15 minutes. It’s more skimming than reading articles from beginning to end. Then I usually flip onto my Bloomberg machine and look at the pieces that are most read and most sent throughout the financial community. I look at the front page for Bloomberg terminal users.
After that, I use the news to procrastinate. If I’m writing something, or doing whatever it is I’m supposed to be doing, I’ll flip onto some website. I have quick links on my browser to Slate, the Wall Street Journal website, and ESPN. I probably flip onto ESPN five times a day, for pure procrastination.
I don’t tweet, I don’t Twitter, I couldn’t even tell you how to read or where to find a Twitter message. I don’t actually see the point of limiting communication to a haiku. I find the whole effusion of communications technology bewildering. All you have to do is overhear a certain number of cell phone conversations to see that the vast majority of what people say and write to each other is totally pointless. I have an email address and I’m thinking of shutting that down. It’s amazing how overly accessible people are. There’s a lot of communication in my life that’s not enriching, it’s impoverishing. I really do like consuming news on the web, though. That has been a useful addition to my life, especially financial news. I look at aggregation sites sometimes, like RealClearMarkets. It’s run by libertarians, clearly, but they do drag in everything that’s written about finance. For sports analysis, I’ll look at Baseball Prospectus and Football Outsiders.
I listen to NPR some, though I don’t watch any TV news. If I watch TV it’s either sports or HBO dramas. I subscribe to a lot of magazines: The New Republic, the New York Review of Books, the London Review of Books, the New Yorker, The Believer, and Vanity Fair (well, I get Vanity Fair for free because I write for it). As a kid I used to read one book and if I started it, I finished it. Now, I bet I have 17 books piled on my bedside table. I’m currently two thirds of the way through Oliver Twist and am planning on picking up Don Quixote when I’m done with that. I’m reading Kahneman and Tversky’s papers and I have a few kids’ books piled up as well.
Actually, if you were to draw a pie chart of where I get news from, I bet I get a third from whatever people in Berkeley—specifically the parents’ at my kids’ school—are outraged about. I’m surrounded by people who are alive to what’s going on in the world and who are quick to be outraged by it.