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.
Anne K de Neauxillery, recent business school graduate, New York, NY
I was spoiled as a kid, went to fancy schools, worked in journalism and finance. Just finished b-school. Happy to be in good health. Interests are tech, politics, entrepreneurship.
I'll organize my media consumption this way: Print | Radio | Online & Main Course | Dessert| Vegetables
Some context: I should be reading The Atlantic more often but I don't. I think reading choices are akin to dating. People who are insecure or immature do not want to admit that they are attracted to someone who is not 'traditionally' good-looking, so they stay with what's safe and accepted, even if deep down they know it's coarse and tawdry (eg. The NYT). The New York Times for me is like the Heidi Montag of journalism; started out well-meaning and cute, and then devolved into an obscene caricature of itself just to draw more eyeballs. It's a shame.
Print: I read the Economist - arrogant, unapologetic, usu. wrong, but smooth-talking, like most MBAs. I read Fast Company - good writing + design . I'm a cheap bastard so if I pay for magazines/newspapers, they might as well look nice on the table. If I'm traveling, I'll pick up the WSJ - lots of interesting material.
Radio: Most of the day, I listen to NPR + BBC, the truffles of the liberal effete. Tom Ashbrook's On Point really has the pulse of the nation. Also, it gets me accustomed to hearing non-East Coast accents without assuming the speaker is eye-crossingly dense (stupid dense). I am warming up to Diane Rehm's show.
Online: Style trumps substance: if the site is visually unappealing, I won't read it, however good the content may be. The NYT, for all my criticism, is dope-easy to navigate and read through. So is The Atlantic Wire, actually. I never touch HuffPo; it looks like the precursor to an aneurysm. I'm probably the only person who uses my InPrivate Browsing to read Al-Jazeera. I think they do some of the best reporting in the world, but I'm scared I might land on a Terror Watch list.
TV: Totally forgot TV. I haven't owned one since college, but I don't really miss watching.
Main Course (Stuff I consume fairly regularly) BBC/NPR; The Economist; Fast Company
Is there a method to how I sort through the media landscape? You don't, or at least I don't. Just kind of stumble through.
Scott A. Kuhagen, law student, Philadelphia, PA:
Having grown up just outside of DC, I was fortunate to grow up with the Washington Post on the breakfast table everyday. These days though, I tend to start with the New York Times online (though I got the print edition three months this summer as a birthday present, which was fantastic), usually by using the NYT Today's Paper link, since by the morning the lead story is occasionally not the top story on the site. NYT is good for national politics, Congress, and basic Supreme Court news. I'll go to the Washington Post for additional takes, op-eds, and Virginia politics.
I listen to a lot of NPR: Morning Edition is mandatory (WHYY local newsbreaks are my main source of local news -- can't stand local TV news). In the evenings, either Marketplace or Fresh Air if it's interesting while washing the dishes, etc.
Once I'm at school for the day, before class starts, I open tabs for whatever in Ezra Klein's Wonkbook looks interesting -- especially on immigration policy and health care. From there, I depend very heavily on Twitter to fill me in on developments during the day: @thecaucus and @marcambinder for politics, @dahlialithwick for big legal stories, @vapoliticsblog and @AdamRhew for Virginia politics, @REUTERSFLASH for breaking world news, @ggreenwald to point out the absurdity of it all, and @accesstojustice for public interest law and access to justice news.
Otherwise, I do keep up with Andrew Sullivan and his team (who, whatever the haters say, still do an impressive job collecting thought-provoking voices and opinions) and Talking Points Memo. For other legal developments, I look at How Appealing. Having been lucky to live in London for a year, I'll check the Guardian or Economist online from time to time for important British happenings.
On the weekend: Saturday and Sunday aren't complete without Weekend Edition on NPR. New York Times' Book Review email newsletter, New York Times Magazine online, sometimes the Washington Post's Outlook and Book Review sections (though they used to be a lot better a few years ago).
So if I had to boil it down: A lot of NPR (a lot!), and the NYT empire. Typical/clichéd, but they're two of the most substantive news organizations out there.
Nick Scandy, electrical engineer, San Francisco, CA
I'm a 25 year old electrical engineer who lives in San Francisco and commutes down to Silicon Valley for the day (and often much of the evening) to hang out in the tech world.
My day starts at 6:15am when I promptly check my work and personal email to see what the other half of the US has already accomplished for the morning. 7am hits and I hop on the Cal Train where I'll start emailing via my laptop and 3G card or -- on an ideal day -- read an old-fashioned book. Currently it's David Foster Wallace's Infinite Jest, though it's almost always a read by someone hyper-cynical like Heller or Vonnegut. This helps me stay sane.
Once I've settled at my desk, the BBC is my first pass source. If it is covered by the BBC, the topic is guaranteed to have a level of credibility and importance that necessitates reading. The Atlantic fills my need for intelligent opinions and editorials, Macsurfer.com and EETimes keep me up to date on tech buzz, and although I've let my Scientific American subscription lapse, I'll still do some reading there from time to time in order to live out an alternate life where I'm still in research-oriented academia. For reasons I can't explain, I'm a fan of CNNMoney's stock ticker, though almost all of their actual articles are over-simplified and devoid of any original pieces of information. So it goes.
Despite being a part of the tech world's core demographic, I have no Facebook account and I don't ever feel the need to use Twitter. This helps me preserve my attention span in a world where hyperbolic new stories and blankets of passive communication constantly fight for the spotlight. Thus, I tackle the 'What I Read' challenge with a simple mantra: maintain a manageable list of respectable sources and don't forget that a well-written book can be far more engaging, relevant, and thought-provoking than any combination of RSS feeds, Twitter updates, and news bits with hundreds of asinine comments attached.
Simon Owens, media reporter for The Next Web and social media consultant, Washington, DC
I find that before I even fire up Twitter in the morning I read Mike Allen's Playbook (skim it quickly) and POLITICO's Morning Tech in my inbox. The latter gives a great rundown of all the tech policy stories of the day, including net neutrality regulation at the FCC, what various congressional committees have on the agenda, the latest political implications for major tech companies, etc.
On Twitter, Nieman Journalism Lab and Romenesko are essential to follow for the online media world. An anonymous twitter user named @pourmecoffee always has hilarious commentary on what is happening in the day's news. Salon's Glenn Greenwald is good on both Twitter and on his blog for following wonky civil liberties stories that you might not otherwise know about (as a side note, I'd be interested in seeing his media diet if you're looking for more subjects). I have a love/hate relationship with Dave Weigel's Slate posts and tweets.
In the blogosphere, Nicholas Carr is well known within blogging/tech circles but likely because of his slow blogging schedule isn't as well-known as the Michael Arringtons or the Mashables of the world, yet his insight into the hidden consequences of a Web 2.0 world is unmatched. I don't really read science fiction and yet a blog called The Whatever -- run by science fiction novelist John Scalzi -- is for some reason addictive for me and his 40,000 other readers. And if you're someone who gets too bogged down in more niche blog/tweets and need a bit of fresh air when it comes to off-beat images, video, news, and discussion, Reddit is the perfect escape.
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