Steve Coll: What I Read

The New Yorker staff writer explains his Media Diet

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How do other people deal with the torrent of information that pours down on us all? Do they have some secret? Perhaps. We are asking various friends and colleagues who seem well-informed to describe their media diets. This is from a conversation with Steve Coll, president of the New America Foundation and a staff writer at The New Yorker.

I'll assume that I'm not traveling in some ridiculous place, which is about a third of the time. Otherwise I'm in D.C. or New York. If I'm in D.C., I start by reading The New York Times and The Washington Post, which I subscribe to in print and read over coffee. If I'm in New York, I usually read the New York Post in print, too. I get The Wall Street Journal and the Financial Times at work, so I read those somewhat less often. When I'm in Washington, I'll listen to NPR and BBC World News if I'm driving to work.

At the office, I have a mini-screen TV on top of my desk that I leave on all day, muted, just to have it on--an old newsroom habit, I guess. I leave it on CNN and will change it to CSPAN if there's an interesting hearing on.

My work homepage is the BBC. I read all of the major Atlantic bloggers online, as well as The New Yorker, just to see what's happening at my home shop. Then I read Romenesko to figure out what's happening in the biz. I'll usually look at Politico,, and Gawker. I only read news on my BlackBerry if I'm in the car or if I've been away, in which case I generally just look for headlines on Yahoo.

I'm on a fair number of e-mail lists, including a private, Washington-based Pakistan/Afghanistan listserv that probably has about 60 members. That springs into life every now and then.

I subscribe to a lot of magazines, but the one I try to fully digest every week is The Economist. I take it around for as many days as it takes me to get through it, on subways, waiting for meetings and things. I do the same with The New Republic if something catches my eye, and with the Washington Monthly. I also subscribe to The American Prospect and The Weekly Standard, as well as Foreign Affairs and Foreign Policy. I'll look at the West Point counterterrorism Sentinel and at Survival, from IISS in London.

After work, I don't really do much news consuming other than sports television and The Daily Show, which I record and watch when I get home. I'm much more likely to read a book or something in the evenings. I've got a big book project that has required me to read a lot of books about things I wouldn't normally read about. Then I have a body of think tank work that requires me to read about terrorism and South Asia at a level of academic depth I wouldn't normally read, so I always have a few of those in my pile. Every third or fourth book, though, so once or twice a month, I try to read something for pleasure. Either I get my wife to recommend a novel or I read something like Game Change, which I just finished. Two of the novels that I’ve read recently that I would highly recommend are The Financial Lives of the Poets by Jess Walter and Absurdistan by Gary Shteyngart. Both of them are hilarious.

I have a Kindle and I imagine that I will move to a Kindle or a tablet at some point. Even though it's against my best interest, I still carry around a lot of heavy paper I could replace with the Kindle. I'm not intimidated by it--I just haven't found the time to convert yet.

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