Joe Weisenthal: What I Read

The deputy editor of Business Insider explains how breaking news is like Whack-a-Mole

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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 Business Insider's deputy editor, Joe Weisenthal.

I'm a real early bird. I usually get out of bed by around 4 o'clock in the morning, and the first thing I do is fire up Tweet Deck to see what's happening on Twitter. Half the time the first thing I tweet is, "What did I miss?," and people--often traders in Europe--will send me articles about what happened while I was sleeping. I also usually try to get a quick look at the world financial markets by going to Bloomberg.

It kills me how much humans have to sleep. It seems like such a waste of life but I don't think there's any way to avoid it. As soon as I wake up I feel like I'm playing catch up. The worst is when something really huge happens overnight--like when North Korea shelled a South Korean island or the Japanese earthquake--and you feel like you're two hours behind and go into overdrive. Those are always exciting mornings.

I usually work for about an hour at home and then head into the office, checking Twitter or email as I walk to the subway. When I get into the office I turn on CNBC and have it on mute most of the day, but turn up the volume when a new economic report is about to come out. I used to watch CNBC a lot more and actually have it on, but it just got too political for my taste. In the morning, I'll also look online to see what the major newspapers have.

Throughout the day, Twitter is by far my biggest source. I put a high premium on Twitter feeds that actually break news in real time, like Breaking News, Reuters, Sky News for European stuff, Al Jazeera and Al Arabiya recently for stuff on the Middle East. Any time there is some kind of crisis I try to find sources in that area. So, for example, when the Irish debt crisis was happening I found a ton of Twitterers in Ireland who really helped me understand the whole situation.

The interesting thing about financial news is that there aren't many practitioners who are actively tweeting, unlike, say, in tech, so you're sort of stuck following journalists for the most part unfortunately. There are a lot of good people associated with Stocktwits, Josh Brown who goes by Reformed Broker is awesome, and my old colleague John Carney at CNBC has a great Twitter presence. One of the sharpest people I follow is an investor in California named Cullen Roche whose blog, Pragmatic Capitalism, is one of the few where I feel like every post is a must read. I also follow FT Alphaville and a lot of their writers, and @mbusigin is a great economic commentator. Another great Twitter feed and blog to follow is Abnormal Returns--he's been running a blog that aggregates the best of the financial blogosphere for years now so he really knows his stuff. And Eddy Elfenbein has a blog, Crossing Wall Street, and a Twitter feed that have some of the most straightforward market commentary around.

I also get sent dozens of Wall Street research reports that I consume pretty voraciously, and I follow chat rooms where traders shoot each other news headlines and IM about what's happening in the markets. Politico's Morning Money is a really good e-mail newsletter and I subscribe to a few others, but it's rare to find something really fresh that I haven't seen before in an email. I used to use Google Reader for RSS feeds but that really tailed off because it feels stale and doesn't feel breaking. When I have time to kill I'll go into it and find all these blogs I used to subscribe to and I'll have hundreds of unread posts. If I wasn't in the news business myself I would consume more information that way.

The underlying theme of it all is that I'm pretty obsessed with news breaking in real time and I'm trying to get it as fast as possible. In my office I have two big monitors. I have Tweet Deck and my IM window in one, and I'm seeing headlines and commentary flash up on that. On the other screen, I either have the post I'm writing or something longer I'm reading like an article or PDF.

Usually at night, before I go to sleep, I'll check some international sites like the Sydney Morning Herald, China Daily, and to see if any interesting headlines are popping up for the next day.

These days, my biggest pet peeve in the mainstream financial media is the blind assumption of economic beliefs that don't stand up to any kind of test. For example, you'll see journalists write that when quantitative easing comes to an end in June, interest rates will rise, as if it's fact when it's not a tested thing. It's deep opinion repeated so often people forget it's opinion anymore.

I still subscribe to a few magazines like New York Magazine, but they're mostly bathroom reading, so maybe half an article. And then half the time I'll take my laptop into the bathroom. Listening to radio seems good in theory, but if I'm listening to something I'd rather be listening to music.

When I want to take the day off I won't check Twitter or email or look at my phone, otherwise it will drive me nuts. I don’t really read for leisure anymore, which is probably not very healthy. When I'm not working, I go to the gym and completely disconnect for the day, and call it a loss. I watch Anthony Bourdain's show on TV or my Netflix app and The Good Wife on CBS. I used to like Mad Men but I got bored with it. My wife and I got an iPad, which totally killed my TV watching on an actual TV.

I actually think my job is like a video game--like Whack-a-Mole or Asteroids. You get in your station and stuff's flying at you constantly and you have to blast it down. It's really thrilling; my heart is racing, it's really stressful (which I like), my eye is usually twitching, and I have muscle spasms--that's a good day. A bad day is when there's no news.

People have this idea with various news site like The Huffington Post that it's commoditized content and crap and that the way you stand out is to be smart and thoughtful. I think the opposite. There are plenty of smart and thoughtful people out there who take their time and say something reasoned, but what's really hard is the video game: Getting it fast but also being smart. If you look at the sites that are really huge--Politico, Drudge, TMZ, The Huffington Post, hopefully Business Insider—they're really intense. They're always live and saying ‘this is happening this is happening, this is happening.’ It’s really hard to pull off, and it could come unglued if you don't have the stamina.

This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.