Emily Yoffe: What I Read

Slate's “Dear Prudence” writer explains her Media Diet

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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. The following is by Emily Yoffe, a Slate contributor who writes their “Human Guinea Pig” and “Dear Prudence” features.I’m so 20th century. I begin the day with actual newspapers: The Washington Post, New York, Times, and Wall Street Journal. If one doesn’t get delivered I feel agitated. I read the newspapers at the breakfast table while listening to NPR. I look at the front pages, op-ed pages, then the New York Times obituaries. Often I don’t get further than that – or I return to the papers in the evening. Then I go to my computer – Slate is my homepage and I refresh it, oh, 500 times a day. I am so Slate-centric that I not only read all the comments I get, I read comments my colleagues get.

I do have a web ritual. I go to Drudge Report, and though every day I promise myself I will not get sucked in and click on the story about some silly political gaffe or a two-headed dog, I always do. I look at a bunch of science sites: Science Daily, New Scientist, Knight Science Journalism Tracker. These help with general story ideas, and also give me insights for the Dear Prudence column (for example, a recent Science Daily story described a study about how intrinsic it is to primate brains to generate habits). Then things get looser. Whether I go to other sites on a given day depends on how much I’m procrastinating, and how much a deadline for my own little contribution to the onslaught is bearing down.

I look at Real Clear Politics, Politico, The Atlantic (Goldblog first), Politics Daily, Romenesko. I mostly see stuff on The Daily Beast or Huffington Post because someone sent it to me. The columnists I always read are Ruth Marcus, Bret Stephens, David Brooks, Charles Krauthammer, Mark Steyn, Michael Kinsley. (I owe my career to Mike – although please don’t pin the blame on him.) I appreciate the reporting and analysis of Claudia Rosett at Pajamas Media, and Anne Bayefsky at National Review Online. Making this list makes me realize how much I miss two great voices we lost far too young: Marjorie Williams and Michael Kelly

I subscribe to The Atlantic (I always read Hanna Rosin and Jeffrey Goldberg), The New Yorker (Malcolm Gladwell), Vanity Fair (Michael Lewis), The Weekly Standard (Andrew Ferguson). I have a stack of magazines by the bed and reading three paragraphs at a time before falling asleep means it sometimes it takes me longer to read an article than it did for the reporter to write it.

My book reading used to consist almost entirely of novels. Somewhere along the line I switched to non-fiction. These days I often read stuff in the neuro/evolutionary category. It gives handy explanations for bizarre human behavior, which again is helpful for Dear Prudence. Right now I’m reading Paul Bloom’s How Pleasure Works. I haven’t read a mystery, which I used to gobble up, in years, and it’s a mystery to me why. One fiction exception: I love, love, love Alice Munro. For inspiration to jumpstart my own writing I often turn to the work of Nora Ephron, David Sedaris, Mary Roach, Bill Bryson.

I don’t watch that much TV. My most regularly viewed show is the Colbert Report. I loved Eastbound and Down last year, but it was a mistake for Kenny Powers to spend this season in Mexico. As a family we watch Project Runway and Top Chef. And my teenage daughter turned me on to my guiltiest pleasure, the reality show, Say Yes to the Dress. The show consists of women coming to Kleinfeld Bridal in New York and choosing a wedding dress. Since I eloped and am against extravagant weddings, it’s odd that I enjoy this show. But each episode is a mini-drama about self-identity and family dynamics.

As for Twitter, podcasts, Facebook, RSS feeds – maybe I’m more 19th century than 20th century. I do very little on Facebook, and none with the rest. I don’t have devices. If I’m going somewhere I take something printed to read along the way (in the car it’s NPR). When I’m walking, I just listen to the ambient noise, or talk to myself – a lot.

More Media Diets:

Gary Shteyngart: What I Read (9/22)

Bret Stephens: What I Read (8/27)

Joseph Epstein: What I Read (8/25)

Dave Weigel: What I Read (8/23)

Christopher Hayes: What I Read (8/20)

Chris Anderson: What I Read (8/18)

Lewis Lapham: What I Read (8/16)

Reihan Salam: What I Read (8/13)

Peggy Noonan: What I Read (8/11)

Joe Randazzo: What I Read (8/5)

Jay Rosen: What I Read (8/3)

Neetzan Zimmerman: What I Read (6/9)

Clay Shirky: What I Read (6/06)

Peter Beinart: What I Read (6/01)

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