How do people deal with the torrent of information pouring 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. This is drawn from a conversation with Tamron Hall, host of MSNBC's NewsNation.
I wake up at 6 a.m. and the first thing I look at is my BlackBerry. At 5:30 a.m., our news team distributes a morning note with stories that peaked overnight, for example, on this particular morning we’ve got stories about extreme weather, the clashes in Cairo, and a missing girl. I'll read that and then flip on The Today Show, which I will watch for 30 minutes before switching over to Morning Joe. After I get dressed, I go to my iPhone or iPad and flip through a number of apps. I don't get any papers delivered. I'm completely driven by technology. If my wireless connection goes out, I'm in the toilet.
In the cab to work, I read apps for Real Clear Politics, The Washington Post, Bloomberg News, The New York Times, USA Today and The Daily Beast. When I get to work, I'm on my computer reading the Dallas Morning News, because I used to live there, The Chicago Sun-Times and Chicago Tribune, because I also used to live there, and other blogs like Polite on Society, an African-American blog or The Grio. I love Chris Cillizza's The Fix, he's one of my favorites, and Salon.com.
I'm on Twitter but I don't tweet as much as some would like. I check Twitter at least every hour and throughout my show, which airs from 2 p.m. until 3 p.m. The downside of Twitter is when it's used for extreme thought and not positive thought or constructive criticism.
Last Wednesday, for instance, NewsNation, was the first national show to go live from Occupy Wall Street. We were flooded with tweets. The reaction was split. Some were smugly pointing out that protesters rallying against corporate greed were armed to the teeth with iPads and iPhones. Others applauded us for covering the protests live. Still others criticized me for not getting it: "Why do you keep asking the protesters what they want?" I'm like, you can't even go to McDonald's without being asked what you want. Yes, it's an obvious question but it goes to the heart of the protests. Americans don't all live in New York City. My mother, for instance, lives in Texas. At the time of our broadcast, she hadn't been following Occupy Wall Street for 19 days and a lot of other people hadn't either. On day 19 of the movement, if you think people were up-to-date then you are sorely mistaken. That's why we tried to explain what had been going on and answer questions like where were these people right after the bank bailout? What was the straw that broke the camel's back?
What I present on air and what we present on our show is information. I don't want to be a pundit. I don't want to be a partisan. I have no desire. Obviously, I know MSNBC is associated with being liberal. I look at it this way: a) that's not a bad association, b) if you watch our program you would clearly see that there's a difference between our show and primetime. I admire Lawrence O'Donnell, Rachel Maddow and Reverend Al Sharpton. I have great admiration for them. But it's not something I am interested in. I know why I'm a journalist and why I chose to enter this profession. I was raised in the red state of Texas and I love my state. I also enjoy living in New York and going to gay pride parades with my best friends.
I remember being on a plane chatting with this off-duty pilot who started railing against MSNBC and how it's liberal. I asked him what he watches and he said Fox News. I refrained from giving him a little dose of tough love. But he clearly chooses to subscribe to a certain perspective that he believes. MSNBC provides another important piece of the puzzle in this country.