How do people deal with the torrent of information that rains down on us all? What's the secret to staying on top of the news without surrendering to the chaos of it? In our Media Diet series, we ask people who seem well-informed to describe their media diets. But not everyone is a media junkie or Internet guru, so we asked our readers to give us a peek into their daily media consumption habits. Here are some of the standout replies we received so far.
Chris Choi, account executive for an political media consulting company, Washington, DC:I am 23 years and very much a child of the internet age. Still, you can blame my more traditional parents, who still get three newspapers delivered daily, and my liberal arts education for my appreciation for all things old and printed.
Print: There is really nothing like holding a newspaper or magazine in your hand. I still have binders full of tear outs from old issues of Newsweek as well as various front pages of the New York Times - 9/12, Gretzky's last game, Obama's election, and Mark McGwire's 62nd home run, among others - in my parents' house. But today I subscribe only to The New Republic which I like to read during my commutes. Its longer form makes it harder to read during the day, most of which I spend in front of a computer. I also find that when I read print, I look for more analysis than quick and easy news, which I can get anywhere. I'd subscribe to more but I'm afraid I wouldn't have enough time to read them all.
Online: I rely on a number of sources for information on the web. I'm of the opinion that if you're not using Google Reader, RSS, Twitter, etc., you're not really getting all that you can out of the Internet. I subscribe to news alerts from NYTimes, Washington Post, Politico, Wall Street Journal and Mashable, most of which I try to read while still in bed in the morning. My phone is also my alarm clock which makes it hard to ignore. My work is primarily in politics so it helps to stay informed about what is happening, be it in politics directly or more generally in current events. Sites like Huffington Post, as devoid as they are of real content and reporting most of the time, are pretty useful for getting a snapshot of what's going on. During the day, I refresh Political Wire about twice an hour to get the absolute essential news when it comes to politics. I rarely go to sites like Daily Kos, which I often find to be too strongly opinionated. I like information, but I also like to form my own opinion. My method of web information consumption suits me that way. When it comes to other topics, I regularly follow NYT's Mark Bittman for new food recipes and I try, when I remember, to check local DC blogs to know what's happening in my neighborhood. I'm a big fan of Prince of Petworth.
TV/Radio: I tend to stay away from TV, which is easy when you don't subscribe to cable. Still, I have to say it has been a really long time since I learned something on TV before I learned it on the internet first. As for radio, I listen to NPR most days, even if it's streaming over the internet at work. It's a great mix of perspectives and interesting, under-reported stories -- there's no alternative as far as I am concerned.
Benjamin Cape, technical writer, Denver, CO:
I've read every installment of this since you started asking media leaders what they read. I spent seven years in journalism and the feature answers questions I asked myself every day. I think every journalism student should read it.
I'm 32. I'm a technical writer. I live in Denver. This is how the day goes.
Every morning, I stand at my kitchen counter and go through The Denver Post. Can I plug your local newspaper here? There is no one else in your city covering your city the way the newspaper does. I read the local section and then, because it's baseball season, sports. Once the Rockies win the Series (!), my sports attention will hibernate until Spring Training.
In the car to work it's NPR. If anything earth-shattering happened overnight, this is the first place I'll hear it. Nothing earth-shattering seems to happen.
At work (only during lunch off course), I check in with the New York Times Web site. This is where I got a bulk of my online news. If David Brooks or has a column, I read it. I then check in with the Atlantic Wire. This is a good summation of what people are talking about for the day and I will be lead to other Web sites. I think sites like this are the future.
For Blogs, it's mostly music (Stereogum, FuelFriendsBlog). I used to pick up Spin and (way back) Rolling Stone. Music is listening and I just don't see a place for music coverage I can't hear.
When no one is looking, I check the Gawker sites.
I don't Twitter or read any RSS feeds. I don't read anything on my phone.
In print, we get The New Yorker (even if the political coverage annoys you, there is still a lot of good stuff, every week), The Atlantic (most journalists I admire have been in here at some time), National Geographic (where else am I going to get maps?), Consumer Reports (a gift from my wise, frugal mother) and assorted alumni magazines. Colleges must have contacts in the CIA because they have found us despite us never giving them any money or forwarding information.
After nearly 10 years of being a reader, I canceled my Newsweek subscription this year. Although they have great columnists, I couldn't justify (the already low) expense. A couple weeks later, they were put up for sale.
I don't watch any television news. I used to watch CNN with the sound down while I worked out in the morning, but my cable provider decided I shouldn't watch it (or anything for the matter) without some technical upgrade I wasn't willing to pay for. I don't miss it.
In bed is the only time I can crack a book. I read about 36 words and then I'm out.
Amanda Alampi, student at New York University, New York, NY:
I guess you can call me a read-avore. I read everything I can get my hands on. I even read nutrition facts on cereal boxes and the active ingredients on the back of shampoo bottles.
Over the years, I've developed a reading routine. My mornings are filled with overseas news. I start with The Guardian, BBC and The Daily Telegraph. I briefly lived in London so the only habit I couldn't kick was reading their news publications. I've learned that reading news from abroad gives a lot of perspective on what's really going on in the world. Then by mid-day, I've skimmed through some blogs like Huffington Post, and then the major news organs such as the New York Times and the Wall Street Journal (don't lie, you've peaked at their version of the news too!) I subscribe to The Economist and Foreign Policy (they are amongst the few that I still believe are worth reading in print) so I try to work my way through those when they arrive.
In my spare time, I scavenger through The Strand, New York City's best bookshop for discounted New York Times best sellers. Presently, I'm studying journalism, history and international policy at New York University so I guess you can say that I pay a large amount (read: a quite incredible amount of money) to read too.
The one "read" that has really revolutionized the way I consume information is Twitter. I spend a great deal of my day checking in with what's up in the Twitterverse. This social networking tool is where I go for breaking news. Often, stories develop on Twitter long before I see it on FOX or CNN. I take an active role in suggesting stories and re-tweeting stuff that I've read to my own followers. It's part of what I call "the Social Contract of Twitter." If you are going to use information from Twitter, you should be a provider of information too.
As a result, I'm filled with a lot of seemingly useless knowledge. But there are two real benefits to being a read-avore: #1. You are great at making awkward cocktail party conversation and #2. You are highly skilled at Jeopardy.
Keep those submissions coming! Send your responses to firstname.lastname@example.org with "What I Read" in the subject line. Please include your name, location, and occupation. We want to know: 1) A bit about yourself 2) your favorite sources online, in print, on TV/radio, and 3) how you sort through the media landscape. Please limit submissions to 250 words.
Keep your eyes peeled for another edition of "What You Read." Until then, happy reading.
Past Reader Diets
What Do You Read? First Edition (9/8)
What Do You Read? Second Edition (9/10)
What Do You Read? Third Edition (9/15)