How do other people deal with the torrent of information that pours 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 to these questions. This is drawn from a conversation with Chuck Todd, NBC News chief White House correspondent, host of MSNBC's The Daily Rundown and editor of First Read.
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Usually around 4:45 a.m. nature calls and I wake up. I'll start on my BlackBerry where I get every news e-mail alert available. I'm serious. Any newspaper that has an email alert I'll subscribe to. I'm tracking at least one major newspaper in each state from The New York Times to the Honolulu Star-Advertiser. We also have an overnight note that's internal that I think we should make public: It puts to shame any of these morning notes our competitors have and it comes out at 5 a.m., gathering reporting from around the world. That takes about 30 minutes. Then I move to Twitter and read 8 hours of news scrolling backward. If they're really long articles then I'll open up the iPad but the BlackBerry's magnifying glass function is pretty good. I'll hold the phone about a quarter inch from my face.
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On Twitter I follow 500 to 600 people or entities. I should say, the guy or gal who runs the Atlanta Journal-Constitution Twitter feed has a hidden sense of humor that I love. I don't know who the person is, I should find out, but they've got a fun little snark that's surprising given that it's a newspaper and you'd expect a sober, neutral tone.
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After Twitter, I fire up the iPad and load up the morning's edition of The Washington Post, The New York Times and USA Today. After reading them, I'll leave for work at 6:15 or 7:15 depending on my Today Show duties. When I get to work, I'll go through the Washington rags: from Politico, to your guys' morning note (National Journal), The Hill, and Roll Call. I'll actively go to the ESPN homepage, the Miami Herald's University of Miami section and the Los Angeles Times Dodgers section to see if major league baseball has finally taken the team away from Frank McCourt. A guilty pleasure I have is sports gambling and I read Chad Millman's blog for that. I think sports gambling translates to politics pretty well.
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I get a number of magazines at work: Reason, Town Hall, The Nation, and The Atlantic. A lot of people brag about reading The Economist. That used to be me a year ago but now I actually read it as my beat has forced me to cover the Middle East more.
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To veg out at home, I'll grab a light beer and watch Seinfeld or Family Guy re-runs. Usually there's one book I'm reading. I just finished a book on the history of ESPN. It's more about the TV industry than sports. I've been telling people in the business they have to read it.
The upside of the Internet is it opens you up to a wide variety of media content. Do I think The New York Times is more influential because of the Internet? Yes. There's an idea that news is a commodity but there's still going to be one king—and the Times owns that daily space. Where would bloggers be without The New York Times to either prove their point or provide them with an institution to bash? Additionally, I think the Internet has really provided an opportunity for the monthly magazine. I say this as a total suck up to The Atlantic, partially because I'm a contributing editor. But as newsweeklies become obsolete, and let's face it, they are, the room for a monthly magazine to take the 30,000 foot view is wide open.
The downside is obvious: the news comes so fast you miss stuff. I can't tell you how many times I'll read over an email I deleted and say, 'Oh my God, I'm glad I read this.' There's also the personalization of news, which Eli Pariser talks about in his book The Filter Bubble. Let's say you're a 9/11 conspiracy theorist and Facebook or Google knows it. Eventually you only get updates based on your point of view. It's easy to fall into this trap of confirmation bias. You believe this to be true and you keep reading content that confirms your bias. I worry about this more and more with smart opinion writers who only consume their own point of view. Here we have this incredible diversity of news and people are consuming it in such a narrow fashion. I worry that too many columnists are writing for their base, which is exacerbated by the most emailed list, the Internet's version of TV ratings. There are too many people that get caught in the trap of "my audience isn't going to like this." The most influential columnists challenge what you think their ideology is once in a while. They're not afraid when their base tells them they're sellouts. On the left, my favorite sellout term is "corporatist." On the right, it's "mealy-mouthed" or "elitist." It ends up becoming the political version of yo' mama but, in my view, challenging your readership is a good thing.