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 an email exchange with Rembert Browne, staff writer at Grantland.
I usually wake up with the sun because I've yet to invest in blinds. That's usually around 7 a.m. Waking up before the Internet (9 a.m.) is the make-or-break moment of my day. If falling asleep while standing up in the shower, eating breakfast, deciding on a hideous outfit, and leaving my apartment all take place before 8 a.m., I'm going to have an amazingly productive day. If I wake up at 9:30 a.m, putz around my apartment for an hour, and then consider leaving at 11 a.m., everything is bad.
There's a lady in my building who gets The New York Times but rarely comes down to get it, so I usually take a section or two from her before I walk out of my building. Also, someone gets New York magazine, reads it, rips the address off, and then places it on the lobby radiator, so I take that once a week also. It's all quite parasitic on my part. In my two-block walk to the subway, I refresh my email, Twitter, and Instagram and spend my 15-minute commute from Hell's Kitchen to Greenwich Village catching up on what happened while I was drooling. When I finally get to the coffeeshop that doubles as my office for next 10 to 12 hours, I'm actually borderline-ready to start writing for the Internet.
Grantland starts posting articles at 9 a.m., so once that time comes, I refresh the page every half hour until 6 p.m., because many of my favorite writers happen to work there. Outside of that, I monitor what I read based on my Twitter feed. I follow all of my favorite writers and some outlets, so I tend not to miss when people have written things and let the Internet know of their postings via social media. I also pay close attention to the writers I actually know well, because I enjoy takes on culture, politics, whatever from people with whom I have a personal connection. I've got to be semi-selective, though, because I spend probably 75% of my work day (8 a.m. to 6 p.m.) writing. The majority of reading comes during a quick lunch, a break between writing multiple stories, or once I'm done for the day.
I rarely go to a site and spend time looking for things. Instead, I click on articles based on what I see on my Twitter stream, which I (for better or worse) check probably every 10 to 15 minutes. Speaking of Twitter, I spend my longest stretches on there in the 15- to 20-minute period after an article goes live. I like seeing the initial reaction, be it "positive" (and thus, replying with thank yous), "you spelled that wrong in paragraph 4" (fixing it), or "i hate you, die" (in which case, I'll either retweet them or send them the Urkel GIF). Outside of that, however, I tend not to spend more than a minute on Twitter in any long chunks during the work day.
I don't really have a set routine for how I get news over the course of the day, but I do find myself winding up on some sites more than others, mainly because there are writers (some that I know, some that I wish I knew) who seem to be interested in the same type of stuff as I am. I'll always be a New York magazine fan, and Amanda Dobbins writes about the weird pop culture things I want to read and also write about. Same is true for sports and Buzzfeed, especially Kevin Lincoln, who often writes about similar stuff as I do, which makes our relationship 1 percent competitive, 99% awesome. I have very few "go-to" sites, but there are many writers I'll check out as it happens over the course of the day (Erika Ramirez and Jason Lipshutz, Billboard; Grace Wyler, Business Insider; Gene Demby, Huffington Post) and then there are people who write longer stuff I'll pause my entire life to spend 5 minutes reading (Jon Caramanica, The New York Times; Ta-Nehisi Coates, The Atlantic; Zach Baron, wherever he so pleases, to name a few). When it comes down to it, I'm a fan first, writer second. I hope it always stays that way.
I find myself reading as many, if not more, articles in fields I don't write in. So, politics, finance, and tech end up taking up a large amount of my web reading—politics because I really care about it a great deal and will probably end up jumping in that sphere at some point in my life; finance and tech because I have no idea what anything means or how to do anything. I find myself reading super well-written, accessible finance and tech articles (The Times' Jenna Wortham, Gizmodo's Sam Biddle, ReadWriteWeb's Jon Mitchell, New York's Kevin Roose) from beginning to end, paying closer attention than I would to anything else, because I'm just so clueless and want to not be so dumb. A few of these poor souls are forced to deal with my post-"just read your article" texts and Gchats and emails asking for further explanations on things, which they always seem to entertain, probably because they feel bad for me. But it's all very appreciated.
I make a point of getting all of my hometown (Atlanta) news at some point every day, by way of the city's main culture newspaper, Creative Loafing. I love home and even though I haven't lived there since 2005, I can't allow myself to get to behind on the happenings of the city, be it music, transportation, politics, or straight up GOSSIP. No amount of national news is more important than ATL GOSSIP.
I still use Facebook, but I kind of wish it didn't exist, mainly because this is my seventh year on the platform and that's a long time to do anything. I post about a third of my articles there, the ones that I especially think my friends who aren't on Twitter (which is a sizable chunk) will enjoy, but I rarely go to the platform to simply kill time. That's what 2005 to 2008 was for. I'm also slowly unfriending people, so oops. Twitter is my girl, but I'm thankfully still not addicted to it. I love the fact that sometimes I can annoyingly live-blog an event, and then I can go a few days without using it. I do enjoy it, though. It's fun, mainly because it has a weird community-aspect to it I never thought I'd be into. But I am. I'm not smart enough to use Pinterest, but I've tried three times. Oh, and Instagram. I used to hate it, because I thought everyone was trying to be a professional brunch photographer, but now I think I like it as much as Twitter. It's great, especially the way I interact with it, which is as a more personal Twitter in the sense that I'd never follow someone I didn't know. I just like keeping up with my close friend's lives (and where they eat, and their puppies, and their OBESE CATS), via photo. It's great. And brunch.
Gchat is my office. Most of my staff is on Gchat, and "mini-meetings" take place on it all day long. Mine is a mix of friends and colleagues (Grantland and elsewhere) and it's the place information is shared that doesn't need to be for everyone. If I see a link or something amazing, which often boils down to new rap, R. Kelly-related news, or pictures of Drake, I'll often go down my gchat list and send it to anyone who would care, be it for pure entertainment or because said person might want to write about it. The good thing about this is that the feelings are mutual, with my gchat constantly bombarded with awesome links to things people know by now I'd be interested in. I also get a message from my friend Shea from Atlanta that has a 50-percent success rate at turning into a late-afternoon Grantland article. So that's an amazing thing (in case you were wondering, I've never actually found something to write about on my own. I'm a leech. All I do is take and take and take. It's disgusting).
When my work day is "over" (6 p.m.-ish) my second work day begins, which more often than not involves covering some type of event. If it's for a story I know I'm covering the following day, I try to control my tweets/photos/whatnot because I want to save some of it for the article. And when I finally get home, I really only have two goals, but they're super important to me and only me. One: figuring out what I'm writing for the next day. Even if I haven't written any paragraphs and simply have notes or ideas floating in my head, I like knowing what the next day's semi-going to look like, especially since I know things may be added to my load at any given time. Second, and most important: I have a hard time sleeping peacefully if my gmail inbox isn't at 0. I've got many of the tell-tale signs of mild OCD, and this is one of my biggest ones (in addition to the sock bin with only black socks, which is next to the sock bin with only white socks). Even if everything isn't answered, I like to put things in their appropriate folder for the following day before I pass out for a few hours.
I fall asleep gchatting around 2 a.m. Or texting. Or something. I leave someone hanging every single night. It's super rude, but it's almost like you're being told an Internet bedtime story, which is incredible. Sorry to all of you that have fallen prey to my narcolepsy.
As an aside, even though there's very little print media in my day, I still prefer it to the Internet. I think I still hate the Internet. I have a stack of 11 magazines on my table in my room that range from The Atlantic to The FADER to The Economist, and I still read each from beginning to end, even if I've read specific articles online. I cycle them out when the next issue comes out. So yeah, print is the best. I also slightly wish e-readers didn't exist. I just love books. Death to Kindle. Shout out to paper and ink. Gutenberg, what.
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.