How do people deal with the torrent of information pouring down on us all? What sources can't they live without? We regularly reach out to prominent figures in media, entertainment, politics, the arts, and the literary world to hear their answers. This is drawn from a conversation with Emily Nussbaum, television critic for The New Yorker.
I tend to go to Twitter first thing. I just wake up and I pull up Tweetbot on my phone and that is the first thing I surf. I do read The New York Times, generally on my phone, first thing in the morning, but I start with Twitter.
With The Times, for some reason, I always read the book section first and then I look at the opinion pages to see if Gail Collins has a new column and then I start reading other stuff.
At the computer I open my Gmail, my Twitter, my Facebook, The Times. There’s a bunch of different blogs I tend to read at different times through the day. I read Jezebel, I read Vulture and New York magazine, I read The Awl and The Hairpin sometimes, I read Rookie Mag. I switch around in what I’m reading, and a lot of times Twitter takes me to a site, like a political blogger, and I end up falling into a particular site for a while. There’s pretty much always some kind of weird community anonymous discussion site I’m on. For a couple of years it’s been YouBeMom, which is the new version of what used to be Urban Baby. Urban Baby still exists, but they redesigned. YouBeMom is basically just an anonymous site of mostly mothers, largely women, having these weird, often quite trollish and crazy conversations.
My habit of discussing TV online goes way back. I always feel like formative influences were a weird combination of TiVo, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, and Television Without Pity, all of which I think appeared relatively concurrently.
TV critics and writers I read online include Andy Greenwald, Willa Paskin, Alyssa Rosenberg, Mo Ryan, Matt Zoller Seitz, Margaret Lyons, James Poniewozik, June Thomas. Some of these people I also now know offline: we just had a Brooklyn drinks night where a bunch of TV writers gathered and argued drunkenly about Ryan Murphy. I find great stuff through Twitter links: I just read an incredible essay by Lili Loofbourow in the Los Angeles Review of Books, all about the "new girl" comedies. Sady Doyle has written some terrific gonzo takes on TV, not all of which I agreed with, but which I found provocative and entertaining. Same with Amanda Marcotte, Alex Pappademas, Lindy West, and a ton of other people, who I'm sure I'm forgetting to name—I love how swashbuckling and varied the voices can be online, as opposed to the more conventional structures of print magazines. The people at The A.V. Club are great, despite their horrible commenter threads. There are individuals on Twitter I go back and forth with regularly, sometimes in response to specific reviews, and I've learned a lot from that as well.
I often find myself going down rabbit holes. Sometimes it will be about current shows. Sometimes the A.V. Club or Vulture or something covers an old show or a conversation strikes up on Twitter about, say, old sitcom intro music, and then I’ll find myself going on YouTube and looking up all of the old YouTube clips, and then that will take me to some Wikipedia entry about what’s happening. I’ll end up going to TV Tropes, which is just incredible. I also find The Futon Critic helpful because they just cover what’s coming on the schedule, and I don’t have a strong industry knowledge.
I do watch TV news when there’s an emergency or an election, but I get really angry when I watch cable news. I wrote this really negative review of The Newsroom, but as it happens I share many of Aaron Sorkin’s opinions about cable news. I do think television is not a good format by which to deliver news by and large.
I have a TV and a TiVo. I was an early adopter of TiVo. Certainly for me it was just the most explosive experience when TiVo came out, and you could actually save or go back over television shows. I have an enormous amount of season passes. Also, because I’m a TV critic I get screeners. Some stations send you DVD screeners. Sometimes I watch them on my TV. Sometimes I watch them on my computer. Sometimes I watch them on my computer at the office. Some stations have streaming sites that you go to to watch the previews. I watch TV shows in a slightly agnostic, cross-platform way, which I feel really ambivalent about because I do feel some of the best shows coming out are much more cinematic and care much more about the visual aspect of TV and the fact that I’m watching some of those on a phone or a not so good computer screen is, you know, it’s not ideal, but it is the way that people watch and I want to watch the way that people watch.
I have a lot of print magazines at home. We subscribe to Entertainment Weekly, The New York Review of Books, Elle, Vanity Fair, The New Yorker and New York, Cricket magazine, Real Simple, which I find very soothing. I read a bunch of stuff that my husband Clive Thompson and I share. I read Wired some of the time, I read The Believer sometimes. This is going sound extremely weird, but sometimes if we have a babysitter, we’ll go out to a restaurant, have a glass of wine, and hang out at a table and read either books or magazines or stuff on our phones.
I’ve read at least a hundred books on my phone. I load things into Kindle. It’s one of my worst impulse habits. I wake up, I look at the book review section in The Times, I read about a book I’d like to read, I go to Amazon, and I buy it immediately. I read them everywhere I go. I read them in dribs and drabs while doing errands, like if I’m standing in line. I read a lot of them on the subway. Occasionally, I’ll watch a movie there, but usually not. Often I watch movies by downloading them on iTunes rental. What I’ll do is if I have insomnia or something, I’ll watch it late at night with my headphones on in bed. For some reason I have a belief that I should be watching all romantic comedies. I really appreciate that this Mindy Kaling show came out because — I tweeted about this the other day — now I have an excuse for having watched all of these.
When I’m cooking and cleaning and stuff in the kitchen I listen to either the Marc Maron podcast or NPR, but my husband gets Rhapsody, so I listen to music through that. I listen to a lot of country music and musicals. This is not the taste of everyone in my household, but every time my husband leaves the house I try to put on musicals and force my children to dance to them. I tend to be into a bunch of singer songwriters that are really word-oriented: so I like Elvis Costello, Paul Simon, Joni Mitchell, and Fiona Apple. Anybody who has lyrics that I can obsess over I will listen to.