“Every time I hear about Twitter I want to yell Stop,” writes George Packer in his New Yorker blog. Packer feels he’s drowning in information and opinion. Perhaps he feels, like many of us, that other people can read faster, or have some secret formula that allows them to converse knowledgeably at 8 a.m. about an item this morning on paidcontent.org. To reassure you or alarm you further, and perhaps to give you a few ideas, we are asking various friends and colleagues how they deal with the information tsunami. We start with the Atlantic’s politics editor, Marc Ambinder.
First thing in the morning, I check my curated Twitter feeds on my iPhone. I actually have four (personal Twitter feeds, not iPhones). My basic feed has tweets from all the major news sources from the New York Times on down. Actually, even before I go to Twitter, I have my CNN app configured to send me an alert via Outlook if there’s been a big story overnight. I spend about 30 seconds scanning the feeds to get a snapshot of the morning zeitgeist. I also check my email. I’ve signed up for mailed summaries from all the major news sources, left-and right-wing blogs, and so on.
On the bus to work I return to Twitter to click on links that I want to dig deeper on. Important stories tend to get re-tweeted, so the links are easy to find. I don’t go into real depth until I know what I’m probably writing about that day. No, I don’t even glance at the Washington Post or New York Times front page anymore. If I have time, I may go to the Times iPhone app at some point during the day.
I continue checking Twitter throughout the day. My other Twitter feeds? One is focused on my parochial interests. I’m like those guys who like to listen to the police scanner on the radio. So I have a feed devoted to tweets from many city police and fire departments, keeping me abreast of fires, plane crashes, natural disasters, that sort of thing. Another feed draws from sites about celebrities, sports, gossip, and popular culture. And a fourth concentrates on ground-level politics: political candidates, campaign consultants, and so on. I’m thinking of starting a fifth, breaking out the science sites.
Until about a year ago, I was a Twitter skeptic. But now that there are good ways to sift out the garbage, it is my main source of news. I’m constantly editing my feeds and dropping people who start writing about what they had for breakfast. I have about 11,000 Twitter followers and I try to adhere to the same standard in my posts that I apply to others’. Often I start a discussion about something I plan to write about. It’s sort of like outsourcing analysis. Not that I steal other people’s ideas. But replying helps me to refine my own.
At some point during the day, I usually check out Memeorandum, a site that uses an algorithm to determine which stories are popping. No, I have no idea who they are.
In the evening, I often read magazines, on paper—even ones I could get on-line for free. I go to the newsstand at least once a week and buy the Economist and Nature, among others. And of course I get the Atlantic for free and read it cover-to-cover. I also still buy the Sunday New York Times (on paper) and read it cover-to-cover. It seems like a luxury now.
When I’m in New York, I buy the New York Post. You need it just to function there.
I just ordered a Kindle, mainly so that I don’t have to lug a heavy pile of books on vacation.
Last thing at night, I check Twitter.