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. This is drawn from a conversation with Chris Matthews, host of MSNBC's nightly show Hardball with Chris Matthews.
We set the alarm for 7 a.m. I get up and go downstairs and make a skim latte for my wife and begin my French roast. Then I start reading newspapers with the TV off. I read the shopper first, it's The Washington Examiner. It's edited by a fine journalist named Steve Smith. It has a very late deadline and I enjoy reading their takes. There are no jumps. It has a page very similar to the New York Post's Page Six and it really primes the pump. I go to Politico next and I get it in hard copy. It comes in a very crisp paper stock that I like. I'll read the stories through the jumps, scan for bylines and find topics for Hardball. Then I'll go to The Washington Post: open it up, go through the front page and page two and the Style section, which isn't as good as it used to be. Then I'll look at the op-ed page and I'll read with great interest E.J. Dionne, Eugene Robinson and conservatives George Will and Charles Krauthammer. Then I'll look at the sports page to see how the Phillies are doing and move on to The New York Times for their international coverage, eventually making my way to the op-ed page where I'll read Maureen Dowd and David Brooks. That's my morning.
On Mondays, I'll read The Weekly Standard, which is neoconservative. I like to know what they're saying. I love the Standard's film critic John Podhoretz. I've loved him for a long time. I also love film critic Ann Hornaday at The Washington Post. She's a great essayist. In The New Yorker, I read Hendrik Hertzberg all the time. I like his short takes in Talk of the Town. My favorite conservative is Peggy Noonan. We have similar Irish Catholic backgrounds and I like the way she thinks. The other journalists I like are on my show all the time: Howard Fineman, Joan Walsh, Chris Cillizza, Andrea Mitchell, John Heilemann, Mark Halperin. I get to meet them every day and it's a glory. Throughout the day, I'm on the phone with my producers. I get piles of stuff taken from web sites. Around 4:30 p.m., I'm ready to go. I write the cold open and start the show.
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I enjoy the competition of ideas. I think in that sense I'm a conservative because I want to save what we have in this country and be tough on political figures. On my show, there's nothing like a good argument. Nothing excites me more than conducting an on-air interview and detecting a Grand Canyon of ignorance in someone—pulling back the veil and showing the man or woman behind the curtain. Most of my programming is spontaneous. I think that instantaneous communication has a great advantage. It's our responsibility to have everything I say be factual. Is this true? Can we prove this? You have to have it right. Occasionally, you make a mistake and you correct it. But you have to be predictably factual. That should be the rule with all media, new or old. Not a good batting average but predictable reliability.