How do other people deal with the torrent of information that pours down on us all? What sources can't they live without? To find out, we regularly reach out to well-informed people to learn more about their media diets. Austan Goolsbee is the chief White House economist and chairman of the Council of Economic Advisers. This is drawn from a conversation after he announced on Monday that he's leaving the White House to return to his teaching position at the University of Chicago Graduate School of Business.
The first thing I do when I wake up is check my phone. The Council of Economic Advisers' puts out a morning economic briefing with clips from the morning newspapers, primarily the business sections and what's in Bloomberg and other sources. I also get Politico's Morning Money and Playbook. I check those first thing but if for some reason they are delayed, I won't see them on those days.
When I'm driving to work, I listen to NPR's Morning Edition or All Things Considered. Then, when I get there, the White House puts out the White House Morning News Summary, which tends to be a lot of politics, so if we have some big staff meeting, I might just flip through it. When Rahm was the chief of staff, checking the News Summary was more of a defensive, nerve-wracking obligation. He would be running around "have you seen this article?" "Have you seen that?" I'll also visit the homepages of The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal and The Washington Post to make sure I'm up to speed. Oh and have you heard of Memeorandum? It's kind of an algorithm-based site showing who's linking to the top stories. I'll check that during the day.
Now I was giving you the straight news sources. I'm an economist and I come from a data hound tradition. I feel like if I were stuck on a desert island, I would rather have the Statistical Abstract of the United States than the Twilight series. But in terms of media figures that I like and I've gotten to know well, I think David Leonhardt is great. His blog is really good and his columns are too. David Wessell, same thing. I like the team of John Harwood, Steve Liesman and Maria Bartiromo quite a lot. I think Business Insider's got some pretty good material too.
But often, I'm reading primary source material: the Bureau of Economic Analysis for GDP tables, the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the Census Bureau has tons of reports on different types of data like what's happening to small businesses or what's happening in Colorado. It's pretty eye-opening how much information there is if you know where to look.
I've tried to deny that I read Us Weekly. My wife subscribes and I've denied for years that I had anything to do with it. But there was a moment in 2007 on the campaign trail when the president was going to talk to someone who had a rumored relationship with Rihanna and I said "Whatever you do, don't ask about Rihanna." As I uttered that statement, it became clear to everyone that I had been reading Us Weekly and the president turned and started howling. "I'm so proud of you, you're the first economic adviser who's even heard of Rihanna."
When I go back to the University of Chicago, my intake of primary source data will likely remain the same. But it will feel like a major change because I won't be getting the clips, the news summaries and the White House distribution list e-mails throughout the day. I'll feel like I've moved to the desert island. One thing I've lost after leaving academia is book reading, which went way down. This year I read this book about a guy who drives across China that was fairly interesting. I also read David Brooks's The Social Animal. A lot of what I read is history or other stuff that has nothing to do with economics.
On my way home from work, I'll listen to music or sometimes NPR. If I'm home early enough we'll put the kids to bed and flip on The Daily Show or the Colbert Report.