How do people deal with the torrent of information that rains down on us all? What's the secret to staying on top of the news without surrendering to the chaos of it? In this series, we ask people who seem well-informed to describe their media diets. This is from a conversation with Lewis Lapham, editor of Lapham's Quarterly, and editor emeritus and national correspondent for Harper's magazine.
When I was the editor of Harpers magazine, I used to keep up with the news. I don't really do that any more. What I do is I primarily read books. I don't read the Internet at all. I wake up in the morning and read for probably an hour, hour and a half before I actually get up. That will be a book. I don't read the newspaper until I have a coffee and head to the office.
On the way to the office, I read the New York Times in paper. When I get to the office, mostly I'm reading for the quarterly, in which case I'm pursuing an idea--whether it's War, Money, Education or the City--whatever the forthcoming issue will address. So I'll be reading Thucydides, Gibbon, Voltaire, Dorothy Parker, Herman Melville. It's a very broad canvas.
As for magazines, I read Harper's, the New Yorker, the New York Review of Books, the Nation, National Review, and the Financial Times. That's about it. I don't read anything on the screen. If I want to read something on the computer--for example, I don't subscribe to the Washington Post, but I wanted to read the series they did on Top Secret America--I'll ask one of my editors to take it off the Internet. I have people to help me plunder the Web. They also do a good job gathering subscribers for the quarterly through its website.