Jack Mirkinson: What I Read
Huffington Post Senior Media Editor Jack Mirkinson spends his day on Twitter, but fights microblog-induced ADD with a varied selection of podcasts, magazines, movies, musicals, and, of course, ABC's Scandal.
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 a phone conversation with Jack Mirkinson, Senior Media Editor at The Huffington Post.
The first thing I read when I wake up would have to be my email. Usually, I’ll just make sure that nothing crazy happened overnight, because I wake up and then almost immediately start working. Then I check AP or Reuters, because I’m looking to see if there’s anything interesting that the wires cover that we can file from there. After that, I look through what used to be the Google Reader. Now I have Feed.ly, which is one of the things that replaced it. My day starts at seven and it ends at six, so I usually go back about ten hours through the reader to see if there’s anything that I missed. I try to do that for about 20 or 25 minutes and then I turn on Twitter.
I have to work myself up in the morning to Twitter, because it’s so immediate and stressful. You shouldn't have to dive completely into it. At first I’ll scroll through, and see if there’s anything from the last half hour or so that I may have missed while I was getting myself mentally prepared for the day. Then I’m off and running.
For the rest of the day, Twitter is the ruler of everything. I think that’s not an uncommon thing for people in our line of work to say. It’s really trumped everything else. When I started this job almost four years ago, I wasn’t even on Twitter and I barely used it as a source. But then, gradually, it took over my entire brain. There are a lot of really annoying things about Twitter. It can have a propensity for real shallowness and attention deficit disorder, but in terms of having to cover any kind of news there’s really no substitute for the amount of information that it brings you.
One of the biggest parts of my job is running the HuffPost Media Twitter feed. The accounts we follow from HuffPost Media are usually industry-focused; media players on the beat or media writers who are in that field, a ton of HuffPost people, all the trade websites, and the broad-based sites. Mixed in with that is a lot of politics stuff, because we do a lot of political coverage. So we follow all the major websites you can think of. We also follow a bunch of different columnists, different TV personalities and news hosts. [Wall Street Journal op-ed columnist] Peggy Noonan's account passed my eye just now. I don't really know why we follow her, but we do.
The other day I randomly clicked on a blogger’s predictions about what CNN anchor schedules might mean for the broader trend of the network. Some anchor was filling in and it raised the question, does this mean that she’s moving to the show? It can get as inside baseball as that. It completely runs the gamut.
In terms of newsletters, I was liking the Capital NY Media Pro newsletter before they cut us off. They charge you like $6,000 to get it again, which I’m not prepared to do. I read the [Politico] Playbook, although I think nobody can read that without some level of self-loathing. But I read it very dutifully. I also get the MediaBistro morning newsletter, which is just a roundup of different media things. Those are generally useful, in terms of what everybody might be talking about, but I’m not relying on them to guide my day.
My personal Twitter account, which I vaguely try to maintain during the day, is definitely less political than HuffPost Media's. It's for my own personal quirks. There are 700 different Twitters around. There's Black Twitter, Gay Twitter, Feminist Twitter, British Twitter. That’s the grab bag on my personal account. But for the most part, I try to keep Twitter slightly confined in my daily life. I try to keep it to work hours as much as possible, and to weekdays as much as possible. I try to really shut it off on the weekends, especially.
In addition to Twitter, I’ll probably check the Guardian, which is my favorite newspaper, and the Times a bunch of times a day. I also listen to a lot of podcasts —anything from Democracy Now!, to different BBC shows — because I’m something of a fanatic Anglophile. Or to a bunch of different media shows. I'd say the Guardian, the New Yorker, and Democracy Now!, which covers a million things most outlets wouldn't, are the news sources I couldn't live without. And also the Times, because, duh.
I do not subscribe to any print newspapers. I grew up in a house with lots of newspapers lying around, but I never really saw the need to do that myself. But I subscribe to a lot of different magazines: to the New Yorker, the New York Review of Books, the London Review of Books, Harper's, Vanity Fair. I think I had a subscription to New York that just ran out. I can’t say that I always manage to catch up with all of them at every point, I probably go through different phases, sort of dipping into each one. The last really big magazine article I read was this 26,000-word thing about Julian Assange in the LRB, so that was an intense read. But I love magazines and I very much like subscribing to magazines. Getting something nice in the mail that you know you can read is a very good feeling.
I am constantly trying to read more non-news things. I think I’m probably not the only person who read that David Carr column about how TV has ruined his brain, and ruined his ability to consume almost all other forms of media when he’s not on the job. So that’s my ongoing battle. I try to read as much as possible. Right now I’m reading Gravity’s Rainbow, which was a Hanukkah present, and I started reading Tony Benn's diaries. I try to alternate between fiction and non-fiction. The last book I read was the first part of a three-book series on the civil rights movement. After Gravity's Rainbow, I might read something that’s slightly less intense.
But I do watch a lot of TV. I love Scandal like nobody’s business. I just agreed to be a recapper for HuffPost for Scandal. I’m also watching Parks and Rec, I like Brooklyn Nine-Nine a lot, and I just started watching Cosmos. I went through this whole phase recently where I was watching a lot of BBC nature documentaries. And another crucial staple of my media diet is musicals, whether of the filmic or theatrical variety. I’m trying to watch less TV and watch more movies. Basically I'm trying to regain my attention span. I think sitting around all day and watching a billion tweets go by can do a real number on your ability to concentrate. I just saw The Grand Budapest Hotel, which I rather adored. Then I saw Last Year At Marienbad, which was a ponderous French bore.