How do other people deal with the torrent of information that pours down on us all? Do they have some secret? Perhaps. We are asking various people who seem well-informed to describe their media diets. This is drawn from a conversation, edited for clarity and length, with Susan Glasser, the editor in chief of Foreign Policy magazine.
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The first thing I do in the morning is, like everyone else, look at my iPhone or iPad, depending which is charged. I’m old-fashioned enough that my usual go-to source is my email. I get all of Foreign Policy’s morning emails: the daily international news headlines, the AfPak daily brief, and the MidEast channel daily brief, which has been indispensible these past few months with the Middle East going up in flames. I do read Playbook, which is usually out first thing in the morning. I do subscribe to news alerts: I get the New York Times, CNN, and AP alerts on my phone. Only the New York Times comes in my email.
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We subscribe to four print newspapers at home: The Washington Post, The New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, and the Washington Times. I don’t think I read all four in a given day; by the time I’m up in the morning, I’m in the kitchen within a half hour, rushing through these four papers and trying to get my six year old to eat and get ready to school. I spend much more time with the print papers on Saturday and Sunday, when I’m able to read them more fully. I like the WSJ weekend edition more now since they added two new sections, and I tend to read it more on weekends than during the week.
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Once I get to the office, I usually read RealClearWorld (and RealClearPolitics) to get a quick snapshot of other international coverage, although RealClearWorld tends to be more focused on opinion and argument. I still look at the Drudge Report, because if there’s a big story he’s on top of it quickly. if there’s a really big international story, I usually visit the New York Times website. I’ve been very impressed by The Atlantic Wire; you guys are very fast on the dime and do a lot on the foreign policy coverage, which I appreciate. The speed of the news cycle overhwlemes me how fast it moves now, and not just for wire stories but longer, value added pieces.
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My day is so fractured in the office, as with everyone else in the last few years, but what’s interesting is that I tend to find news based on what people are linking to on Twitter and Facebook. A few years ago I was in Silicon Valley and I met a young guy working for a big venture capitalist. I asked him (much as you’re asking me now) “you seem to know so much about so many things, what do you read?” To which he replied: “all my articles come to me socially.” I was astonished because he seems so well informed, but now I think everyone else has caught up, and I’m surprised and amazed how news I want to read comes to me socially.
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I use out own site for content discovery as well. I tend to go in and out of web reading all day long, either through ForeignPolicy.com or the individual bloggers. The FP team has taken to Twitter with a vengence. and by tracking their network I’m usually able to discover something interesting throughout the course of the day. I don’t really visit a lot of individual websites: we’ve all become so aggregated that we’re looking at everything so mixed together. I love The Atlantic’s website, I love Andrew Sullivan’s blog at The Daily Beast. I actually think a lot of the blogs on the New York Times site are excellent: I’m always impressed by the ones that I don’t read all the time, but when I encounter them I think, “They have this? I should be reading this!” I tend to dip in and out, and they have a deep bench of bloggers. We’re up to something like 15 daily blogs at FP, so I’m hard pressed to keep track.
When our site went down as part of the Amazon cloud crash, we first started on publishing on Twitter before we realized that we already had a built in distribution network, so we started publishing our articles on Facebook, and distributing them through Twitter. I thought that was really interesting: realizing "wait a minute, the website isn't working but we already have a website we can publish on that does work and a distribution network, why not keep at it?" That was an interesting new media moment.
I’m not a podcast person. I’m not a TV person. I read stuff, pretty constantly online and through email and other soruces of content and various websites. I’ve moved very much away from TV and radio, although I find that people are sending mroe video to me and I'm looking at it more, ever before, in the last few months.
In previous office jobs, we had CNN on, and I really don’t really watch TV news in the office anymore. Sometimes I'll watch Al Jazeera’s live feed on the web, which was a great resource during the Arab Spring, but it's all pretty much web reading while I’m at the office. I tend to read print stuff at home.
We subscribe to tons of magazines at home, and I’m not sure we maximize our investment! I try to read (or at least hold onto to read) The New Yorker: I’ll keep a pile of back issues that I haven’t read and I’ll look forward to taking the train to New York or elsewhere to read what I haven’t read. I subscribe to The Atlantic and Vanity Fair, which I always read, and I always find something interesting and of value in The Economist. My husband (The New York Times’s Peter Baker) covers the White House, so we get all the political magazine like The New Republic and the Weekly Standard. We may also be the last people who get the Columbia Journalism Review in print. I love the monthly circulation: if these magazines were weekly, it would be significantly harder for me to read them. I’m still in mourning over the closure of Gourmet, which I'd subscribed to since college. They have a website, but I don’t visit, even though they rolled over my print subscription. I haven’t yet connected to it in the same way that I connected with Gourmet in print all those years ago.
This is why so disconsolate about the closure of Gourmet: Before there was a whole network of food blogs, I loved to read food stuff. I just don't get as much joy from it as I used. My husband thinks I'm crazy, but I do read cookbooks sometimes. I find them very relaxing, I can’t quite explain it. I find it to be very relaxing to think about, "here’s what I could be doing if I had the time to cook these meals." It's an interest I tried to carry through to the magazine. We just launched our first ever food special issue of Foreign Policy. It's got a lot of great stuff by two foreign affairs writers: Anna Badkhen, author of Peace Meals, and Annia Ciezadlo, author of Day of Honey, who wrote on the “mideast hungry rumblings’ and how food has showed up as a motif in the Middle East. Anna wrote an excellent story called “The Baguettes of War.” During the Egyptian revolution, there was a man who we dubbed “bread helmet man” who inspired us to find a whole bunch of other pictues of people wearing their baguettes and bread in the revolutions. It's amazing.
After reading to my 6 year old and trying to figure out how to get him interesting in old-fashioned books with actual stories (and not the Star Wars visual dictionary), I usually read on my iPad a lot, as I find it much more convenient than my laptop in bed. I catch up on our site, I try to get started on the next day’s papers, and I try to dive into longer things I tried to get through during the day. I read a fair amount on Slate, our sister site. I’ll dip into that pile of New Yorkers, too.
I’ve made a conscious effort over the last year to carve out more time for books. I was a huge book reader, and the combination of the Internet and having a kid several years ago has really curbed that. I increasingly read books as an editor of a print and daily web magazine: we get a flood of great books coming through here, and at night I’m trying usually trying to speed through the interesting ones. Right now, I’m reading The Wars in Afghanistan by Peter Thomsen. It’s a big meaty, ambitious history of the wars in Afghanistan going back through the 19th century. It’s invaluable history of the region. We are literally inundated with books, so I often have a stack three, four, or five high that I’m trying to go through just to get sense of what I want to go through.
I don't tweet much, if at all. Anne-Marie Slaughter, formerly a policy chief at the State Department (and now professor at Princeton) is a really fierce and dedicated tweeter, and I'm in awe of how she makes commentary and news. I've really enjoyed her presence in my Twitter feed, but that's not how I take to the medium. I’m a reader of Twitter and not a maker of tweets.