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 Matthew Yglesias, business and economics correspondent for Slate, author of The Rent Is Too Damn High, and self-proclaimed "enormous fan of trolling."
Usually I check Twitter [first thing in the morning] to see what people have been talking about while I was showering. After that I go to the homepages of The New York Times and Financial Times. I guess newspapers are old school, but those are still two of the best things out there. Probably The New York Times is the only really indispensable thing out there. There's lots of other things that are great, but because so many things are great, if one of them vanished, you'd find something else that's great.
There's always more Twitter in my life. Trying to see what other people are reading, particularly early in the day. Different people wake up at different times; some people live in the UK and have a nice jump on things. Twitter is probably the main way that I'm finding articles. There are some publications that I'm reading regularly, but typically that's because I'm finding good links to them on Twitter on a regular basis rather than me navigating there.
Facebook, not really much of anything. I know Facebook is really important to media, especially right now. It's where a lot of the traffic comes from. But it's not where a lot of my information comes from. I'm not a big Facebook reader. I dabble in Reddit. But that's sort of something I turn to when the barrel's run pretty low. It's not high on my list of things I check out. A lot of the inbound traffic to a successful story will come from Facebook or from Reddit, but if you're looking to be the creator, that's not necessarily the place you want to be. It's good to find tools, like RSS in its day or Twitter now, that are less important as drivers of an audience, but I think better for the producers of content.
Later in the day, I always try to make some time to read stuff on Slate. Before I came to work here, I really loved Slate. It's got a lot of writers I've admired forever — Dahlia Lithwick, Amanda Hess, Emily Bazelon, Dave Weigel, John Dickerson. A ton of great up-and-coming talent. It gets sort of easy sometimes to forget to also read what your coworkers are doing. But along with The New York Times and the FT, that's the publication I make a point of reading. And all the people at [The Washington Post's] Wonkblog are great. But that's usually later in the day [that] I check over there.
I'm in the office most days. Things happen. But I've got a big Apple Thunderbolt display here at the office. Plenty of screen real estate for things to be open. That's better than looking at my laptop.
It varies according to what's going on in the day, but whenever I'm away from my desk for a while — whether it's for lunch or because I was away interviewing someone or at the dentist or whatever — I go back to Twitter. You know, I wonder if I missed something there. I used to be an RSS guy. But when they killed Google Reader, I thought I would experiment with just not finding a replacement, and I found that Twitter really fills that hole for me. And then of course my email. People send me a lot of stuff. Not just coworkers and pitches, but readers will sometimes send me things from local newspapers that they think I would be interested in. I have a good relationship with a number of spies like that.
I'm pretty regularly reading stuff that I see at Quartz, stuff that's in The Atlantic Cities site, some stuff from The American Prospect, different blogs of Paul Krugman, Scott Sumner, David Beckworth. I see something interesting at Marginal Revolution any time I come over there. There's a site called The Toast that Mallory Ortberg and Nicole Cliffe do that's really funny. It's not like a high-priority read for me because it's not what I do, but they're very amusing. Something from Gawker or Valleywag or both will inevitably catch my eye every couple of days. So there's a lot of sites in that category, where I don't necessarily navigate to their homepages, but you never go a week without seeing someone recommending or talking about them.
We subscribe to The New Yorker and to Cook's Illustrated. Like with a lot of people, there's a tendency for those New Yorker issues to pile up unread. And yet every time I take the opportunity to pick one up and read it, you find something amazing in there. That's a magazine whose reputation is well deserved. Possibly, weekly print magazines don't fit that well into modern lifestyles, but I'm never sad to read it. I listen to the Accidental Tech podcast; John Siracusa and Marco Arment do it. And I listen to John Gruber's podcast, The Talk Show, pretty regularly. Those are both about technology. I walk back and forth to work and I listen to those podcasts.
At the end of the day I usually try to wind down by reading stuff that's not my beat. I like reading the Food Lab column at Serious Eats. I read NBA coverage, whether that's at SB Nation, or there's a blog I like called Box Score Geeks. ESPN has stuff. So that's sort of my leisure reading. Obviously, how much mileage you get out of reading about basketball is a little seasonal. But we're in the season now. Also, sometimes I even read books! Right now I'm reading Thomas Piketty's forthcoming book Capital in the Twenty-First Century, which is great, but kind of like a work assignment. Before that I read a history book about decision-making in Japan that led to Pearl Harbor. I'm mostly a nonfiction reader, but I like to read off the politics and policy subjects I cover. It's more interesting to learn about things you don't know anything about. I know a lot about, whatever, tax and budget disputes.
What else can I say? The New Girl? Mindy Project? Parks and Recreation before it went away? Like everyone else, I watch some TV shows. But I think my job doesn't draw super-sharp lines between what I read just for fun and what I read for work, because I have a very loose beat. I'm interested in things in general, and typically work tends to wind its way into everything I do, at least a little bit.
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.