Paul Steiger: What I Read
The ProPublica editor explains two of his media obsessions: Sports and women's fashion.
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 Paul Steiger, editor-in-chief and CEO of ProPublica, and former managing editor of The Wall Street Journal.
In the morning, three things arrive at the front door of my apartment: The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal and Women's Wear Daily. I will have read everything that interests me in The Times online the night before but seeing the stories structured in print is still relevant to me. I like to rifle through Women's Wear Daily to stay connected with my wife's world. She's a jewelry designer who blogs about fashion seven days a week. But I'm also interested in fashion myself. When I was editing The Wall Street Journal I used to delight in mentioning a fashion business story in the morning meeting. "Why don't we have this?" Anyway, I move quickly through WWD and spend more time with The Journal, reading the news pages, feature pages and editorial page.
We used to say the Journal was two newspapers for the price of one. While the news columns were down the middle, the editorial page, which was under separate leadership, was joyously right-wing. I disagree with it often. Sometimes agree with it. But I find it's always interesting and it's a take I don't see a lot of other places.
When I get to the office, I get more engaged with the web. I will look several times a day on the homepages of MarketWatch (they're very fast and often beat the Times), The Times, The Journal, The Huffington Post and, depending on the season, Politico and The Washington Post.
The other things I read at various times in the day, on trains or planes, include The Economist, which I've gotten fonder and fonder of over the years. The New Yorker's diet of longform stuff. Vanity Fair is a brilliantly edited magazine. I read it regularly.
I'm a sports freak. I try not to read any during the day unless something major is going on. But major can be wanting to see the Wednesday injury report for the Giants if someone was hurt on Sunday. Or peeking at an afternoon Dodgers game or the Dodgers own website or SportsIllustrated.CNN.com.
My wife's passion for pop culture has infected my media diet. I read People and Us and Entertainment Weekly. With People, you may be ashamed of what you're reading but you actually believe it (they actually do reporting). Entertainment Weekly is just a terrific magazine and I wish it were thicker with ads. I'll flip through Vogue and Harper's Bazaar. Basically what they're selling is absolutely fabulous photography.
My favorite newscaster is Brian Williams. He's as good as anyone I've seen do the news and a worthy successor to Tom Brokaw, Dan Rather and Peter Jennings. In terms of print, I'll always read The Times' Gretchen Morgenson, Joe Nocera, though sometimes I'll find myself violently disagreeing with him, The Journal's Jerry Seib and David Wessel. The sports columnist who I think is the best in daily journalism is Jason Gay at The Journal. He's fabulous. You should read his fabulous defense of Gisele featuring his typical self-deprecating humor. Someone has to stick up for the super model!
People have criticized The Wall Street Journal since it was sold but if Rupert and News Corp. hadn't bought it, it would've had a 30 percent cut in news. Instead, Rupert has expanded the news. I think it's still very much a player. For a while, they had gotten away from doing the signature in-depth pieces that The Journal did for many years but they're now back to doing their share of them. Plus, I think editor-in-chief Robert Thomson has really beefed up the Saturday weekend edition, which is now a must-read.
Some have attributed a liberal bent to ProPublica but I don't think it's born out by the facts. Before we even wrote a word, because our launch funders donate to moderately lefty causes, the prediction was that we would be left-leaning. We said, wait and see what we do. When I ran The Journal, I ran a down-the-middle news package and I worked for bosses that were way farther to the right. We recently had the chairman of the California Democratic Party use words I shouldn't repeat to describe us when we exposed emails showing how California congressional Democrats sought to gain from redistricting. That was picked up by the conservative blogosphere and right-leaning radio. We've done stuff both critical and supportive of Obama's stimulus plan. I think more and more people have concluded, including those on the right, that we are down-the-middle.