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 Reza Aslan, the Iranian-American religion scholar, writer, and author of Zealot, who spoke to us last month about the aftermath of his viral interview with Fox News.
The first thing I read in the morning is my Twitter feed. It's funny, because I found myself in the strange position where rather than actually reading the articles that my favorite journalists write in the newspaper, I just follow their Twitter feeds and find out what's going on before they have a chance to write it and before it comes out in the newspaper. Twitter is not a communication tool—it's my primary source of information about what's going on in the world.
Of course, this is an old story. When this really came home for me was during the 2009 Green Revolution. My partners and I were staying up all day and night on Facebook, on Twitter, coordinating with people on the ground in Tehran and other parts of the city—feeding news stories to traditional outlets, trying to verify reports as they were coming in. We were doing this for days on end with barely any sleep. And I remember this moment because it was so instrumental for me. The entire time in the background is CNN and the 24-hour cable news networks. At one point CNN, in a breaking news segment, begins to talk about what's happening on the ground in Iran. And it was remarkable: rather than reports about the situation—from Tehran or from a neighboring country—on the CNN TV screen was the same Facebook feed that I had on my computer two hours ago. I don't mean someone was reporting on the Facebook feed. I mean it was just the Facebook feed! It was a camera pointed at the Facebook feed. What you're calling breaking news is just simply what I saw on my Facebook page an hour ago. That was kind of the moment it all just became reality for me.