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 our Media Diet series, we ask people who seem well-informed to describe their media diets. But not everyone is a media junkie or Internet guru, so we asked our readers to give us a peek into their daily media consumption habits. Here are some of the standout replies we received so far.
Sam Lichtenstein, PhD candidate in mathematics at Stanford University:
What I read: The New York Times, Slashdot, Tabarrok and Cowen's blog Marginal Revolution (probably my most reliable source for interesting things on the internet), Arts and Letters Daily (as Steven Pinker observed, this is a great time-waster), Mankiw's blog. More obscurely, I read Cooking Issues, the blog of Dave Arnold of the French Culinary Institute in New York, and I often listen to his radio show
too -- they discuss issues like how to make perfect french fries, how
to heat things to 900 degrees using only a microwave, and how to measure
*exactly* how shaking versus stirring a cocktail affects temperature
and dilution. Also, for someone into higher math like me, a number of
mathematicians' blogs make it into my regular rotation: Terry Tao, Tim Gowers, and Jordan Ellenberg (who also writes for Slate, and posts on many interesting topics besides mathematics). The big "social media" revolution in mathematics these days is Math Overflow,
a site started by Berkeley grad students about a year ago, where
professional mathematicians (some named, some pseudonymous) as well as
graduate students like myself can ask and answer one another's
research-level mathematics questions. It's a big time waster but I check
it daily. If I'm being honest with myself, I also follow a few
webcomics somewhat regularly: XKCD of course, and also Luke Surl and Achewood. I rarely read anything in print except novels and and The Bridge World, my one magazine subscription.
How I sort through the media landscape: unintelligently. I don't use RSS feeds, aggregation sites, or anything like that. Rather I rely on the fact that Chrome and Firefox have learned what sites I like and can autocomplete the URLs as I type them in. I've never really gotten into the whole Twitter thing, although I often stumble across things like @English50cent which make me wish I followed Twitter more regularly.
Evan Cudworth, Assistant Director of Admissions, the University of Chicago:
Media addict at heart, there are very few moments of the day I’m NOT reading, but my ingestion habits are at the whim of the admissions cycle. With no consistent routine, I find myself navigating the media landscape in slightly different ways throughout the year.
Throughout the fall I am on the road for weeks at a time visiting high schools. My iPhone contains a few dozen apps that I check obsessively throughout the day (often from my rental car in the high school parking lot). Favorites include Reeder, The Atlantic Wire, The Onion, The Guardian, Mashable, and Huff Post (can’t get enough “If Colleges were Rappers”).
Winter: Google Reader/Buzz
November through March I’m planted firmly in my home office for application review.
A catch-all Google Reader feed features the regulars (Chait, Gawker, Wonkette, the Atlantic’s Business and Politics channels, Marginal Revolution, Hot Air, The Chronicle of Higher Education, etc.) but also a bevy of eclectic gems: Becker-Posner Blog, Chart Porn, The Sartorialist, Passive-aggressive notes.
Student visits peak in spring and summer, and after 5 months in front of the computer screen, I find Twitter to be an adequate media vacation. The four masters of the genre: Roger Ebert, Dave Weigel, Sarah Palin, and Kanye West.
Chicago is an amazing “take a magazine and read by the lake” city. Evenings and weekends I catch up on some of the subscriptions I’ve ignored the past year; Harper’s, The Economist, National Review, Esquire, and whatever books Adam Davidson and Ira Glass have been bugging me to read.
As for television, it's mostly for HBO’s Sunday night programming and VH1 pop culture countdowns. Even when I do watch TV I'm compulsively checking Twitter, Facebook, and Buzz.
Bob Sassone, writer and blogger for TVSquad.com and other AOL sites, MA:
I write about media and entertainment so I try to consume as much info as possible every day. The first thing I check in the morning (after e-mail) is Twitter. That's where I get most of my breaking news and interesting links. After that I go to James Lileks' site (http://www.lileks.com). If they passed a law where each household could only go to one web site a day, I'd choose Lileks.
Then I go to Slate, USA Today's Pop Candy blog, The Atlantic Wire, Wall Street Journal, NYT. Every day I also check The Daily Beast, Neatorama, The Comics Curmudgeon, which is hysterical. I'm also into all things food so I read The Retro Cookbook and other food blogs. I'm a Mac guy so I check TUAW several times a day. I love The Awl. I read Gawker but tell people I don't. My bookmarks folder is bursting. Google Reader is your friend.
I've watched 5 or more hours of TV every single day since the mid-70s (really), so I watch EVERYTHING, including all the news channels: CNN, Fox News, MSNBC. You can get something out of all of them, and if you're watching just one then you're just stuck in an echo chamber.
I don't read as many print publications as I used to, but there are some I still buy: Esquire, GQ, cooking mags like Cook's Illustrated, and smaller mags like Atomic Ranch. But every year the list of print mags I buy gets smaller. I even read my local town newspaper online. But I hope print survives and thrives.
Keep those submissions coming! Send your responses to firstname.lastname@example.org with "What I Read" in the subject line. Please include your name, location, and occupation. We want to know: 1) A bit about yourself 2) your favorite sources online, in print, on TV/radio, and 3) how you sort through the media landscape. Please limit submissions to 250 words.
Keep your eyes peeled for another edition of "What You Read." Until then, happy reading.
Past Reader Diets
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.