Ben Smith: What I Read

BuzzFeed's editor-in-chief tells us how his media diet has changed since joining the world of #LOL and #WTF.

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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 Ben Smith, editor-in-chief at BuzzFeed.

In the morning, I make my kids breakfast and read my email, which is still the main place where sources are sending me original stuff. Pretty much everything I read I first see on Twitter. I don't want to miss anything so I have a slow-moving list, with less people, a fast list, and a foreign policy list. On my slow list are people like Zeke Miller, Maggie Haberman, Dave Weigel and Chris Cillizza. I'm dipping in and out of this stream and there's always a worry that I'll miss a big story.

On my way to work, I often take the bus and I'll open my MacBook Air. I don't visit many website main pages regularly but the ones I do are BuzzFeed, obviously, the Maggie Haberman and Alex Burns blog, the Drudge Report and Reddit, which is a great place to see stuff that's bubbling up. The Reddit community is raw and libertarian and young but also not cynical—sort of wide-eyed and earnest in a positive way but also harsh and negative. You can get lost in Reddit and spend hours reading stuff about being a kid and a parent. I occasionally get my parenting advice on Reddit.

For podcasts, I listen to a program out of WKUT Austin and This American Life for its utter reliability [laughter]. Actually, I don't think the Mike Daisey affair raises terribly-worrying questions. I'm not interested in the debate about whether it's possible to tell great stories without making stuff up. I think it is possible.

For political media, I love the central conversation on Twitter. In 2008, the conversation was centralized on a group of blogs. It was fun being a person feeding that beast. But it's great to be able to interact on Twitter with newsmakers and get corrected by random people who know better than I do. I really enjoy it. I also think the social web is cross-partisan in a way you rarely see on cable, in arguments between prominent writers and politicians. For humor, Pour Me Coffee is excellent. Dave Weigel is a natural and Alex Burns has let his inner-monologue out onto Twitter and gotten pretty awesome. And Andrew Kaczynksi and Chelsea Peretti are funny too.

I still read some bloggers but it's sort of a lost art. There aren't new great bloggers. It's not the next thing. But the generation of Choire Sicha, Micky Kaus, Andrew Sullivan and Josh Marshall are great and they never stopped being great. Andrew is no longer the conservative he once was but he and Josh are masters of the medium. I remembered getting hooked on them on a dial-up modem in Eastern Europe when I was working for the Baltic Times in Latvia. I was hitting refresh obsessively.

Since moving to BuzzFeed, I read more broadly. We have this fantastic tech vertical and women's vertical. I've always been interested in sports, tech and sexual politics but now I get to read it as part of my job. Before, it might not have fit into my narrow political reading habits. Lately, I've found myself not reading The New York Times regularly. We get the Weekender and I like flipping through the Sunday paper. But I was out with my son at a coffee shop the other day and there was a stack of The Times and the Daily News and he was like, "Do you have to pay for these?" So, I bought one and I had to explain to him how they worked: why it folds, where the story continues. It was really exotic to him. He's a smart, 8-year-old kid who reads on his Nook but this was really unfamiliar to him.

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