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.
Lisa Seitz, administrator for a tax accounting company, Oakland, CA:I'm 38, I work to pay off my student loans and other debt; I think of myself as a free-range intellectual.
Print: I read about 50 books a year, which can be anything. Currently I'm reading Culture of Narcissism by C. Lasch and Globalization and its Discontents, by J. Stiglitz. I find books to be the best way to really delve into an issue, or to be immersed in a writer's thoughts and imagination.
Magazines: I subscribe to The New Yorker and The New York Review of Books, which I read religiously. Some others I read for fun, e.g., Saveur.
Radio: avid, addicted NPR listener, especially: To The Best of Our Knowledge, RadioLab, Market Place (the best approach to the financial world and Kai Rysdall rocks!), and On the Media. I get most of my news from listening to the BBC. I avoid TV.
Online: I have an epic RSS reader. I read feeds from Arts & Letters, The Atlantic Wire, Chronicle of Higher Education, Discovery News, Language Log, Scientific American, Bookforum, Delanceyplace, and PolitiFact (just to name a few) daily. I aim for feeds that are wide-ranging and promote clear thinking.
I get the Washington Post headlines delivered to my email. Also I check out Paul Krugman's column, Adam Curtis's, and FakePlasticFish's blog weekly. When inspired, I download Intelligence Squared and RadioLab podcasts.
I just want to stuff my head with lucid and evocative ideas.
Matt Valkovic, non-profit project manager (and former U.S. Army captain), Los Angeles, CA:
I usually wake up to a slew of emails received overnight on my BlackBerry from our contacts overseas. Our non-profit works with the US military to deliver humanitarian and economic development assistance to people in Afghanistan, Iraq and Africa, so their days are almost complete when I'm getting my sorry butt out of bed.
I get The New York Times delivered to my door because its reporting, especially from Afghanistan (Dexter Filkins, Rob Nordland, Alissa Rubin, etc.), Iraq (Anthony Shadid, Steven Lee Myers, etc.), and Pakistan (Jane Perlez) is unmatched. Plus, I read it everyday when I was in college so I got used to its broccoli-style of writing. David Brooks, Ross Douthat, and Nick Kristof are my favorite columnists. I have a love-hate relationship with Tom Friedman. Kinda wish someone like Fareed Zakaria would take over his column; let Friedman travel around and talk at posh conferences like the Aspen Ideas Festival and the WEF in Davos.
Also in my BlackBerry in the morning is Foreign Policy's Af-Pak update, which is useful for getting a manageable understanding of the issues and events coming out of that uncertain conflict.
At the office, I sip my coffee and scan my Google Reader which includes a bunch of bloggers (mainly defense/foreign policy types) from Laura Rozen, Josh Rogin, Andrew Exum, Tom Ricks, Registan, Wired's Danger Room, Small Wars Journal, NYT's At War blog, Ink Spots, and Time's Swampland blog. I follow a bunch of those folks' Twitter feeds, too. Lots of good links in those tweets.
Also on my morning coffee session is Andrew Sullivan's Daily Dish. I've read Andrew since I was a college freshman -- fall of 2002 -- when he blogged independently. He's the only blogger I've read consistently since I was a young, naive freshman. I don't agree with Andrew on a couple things but I think his perspective (Catholic, conservative, gay, HIV-positive, anti-big government, and chastened by the Iraq war) is like no one else's. I'm a straight, Catholic, small-c conservative, ex-Army captain from Pittsburgh, PA, and I've always considered myself open-minded about perspectives that are contrary to the conventional left-right spectrum. I think his View From Your Window contest is the best web contest out there. His crew of under-bloggers are helping to redefine blogging and news aggregation, and they don't intrude on Andrew's voice. My other favorite British-American is the inimitable Christopher Hitchens. I'm a fan of David Frum, too.
Anyway, during the day I'll occasionally check the New York Times's homepage and Drudge for a quick headline scan. For a lunch time brain relaxer, I'll visit Buzzfeed and Gawker for random funny stuff like Phil Davison's "Matt Foley-esque" campaign speech. For sports and Pittsburgh-related news, I'll check ESPN.com and Post-Gazette.com.
At night, after work, a workout and dinner, I'll either watch a Netflix (DVD or streaming on my IPad) or read a book. Just finished Season 4 of The Wire. I swear to God, The Wire was and is the best show on TV. I feel bad I'm 3-4 years late. Looking forward to Season 5 of Dexter, too. I'll also check TED.com for whatever new amazing videos are trending there. I'll visit Charlie Rose's website every now and then, too.
As far as books, I'm reading Andrew Bacevich's Washington Rules and a new book about the Pittsburgh Steelers and the decline of the steel industry in the 1970s called Those Who Hit the Hardest.
I'll pick up the following magazines if I'm traveling or heard about a story/article I should read: Vanity Fair, The Economist, Wired, Fast Company and maybe The New Yorker. Anything by George Packer is a must-read, though. The Assassins' Gate, was my own wake up call re: Iraq.
Lisa Zhito, freelance Writer, aspiring novelist, political activist, Presbyterian churchgoer, Nashville, TN:
#1 - Harper's - My must-read every month.
#2 - Blogs, National: Gawker, Atrios' Eschaton, Krugman's "Conscience Of A Liberal," John Cole's Balloon Juice, Huffington Post (mostly just the headlines, HuffPo has become crap lately), Andrew Sullivan
#3 - Blogs, Local: Southern Beale, Nashville 21, Pith In The Wind, Tiny Cat Pants
#4 - New York Times
I sort through the media landscape by largely eschewing the repetitive garbage (Yahoo! News, my local Gannett fishwrap, wire services); Twitter helps me keep abreast of the headlines and minutiae that tend to get inflated into Really Big Deals on cable. Ditched Facebook because frankly I just don't have the time for that stuff.
Keep those submissions coming! Send your responses to email@example.com 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)