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 conversation with Jonathan Karl, senior political correspondent for ABC News.
The very first thing I do, almost before my eyes are open, is just grab the iPhone and check my mail for breaking over-night news. Then, depending on how early the day is, I'll go right to Mike Allen's Playbook newsletter, which rounds up the morning's political news. I'll also hit other newsletter aggregators like The Note, Morning Score and The Plum Line.
It used be that the very first thing I would turn to was the three newspapers at the end of my driveway: The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal and The Washington Post. Now, if Mike Allen has skimmed the paper's first, that takes priority. Oftentimes, I feel like I've read about half the content of the newspapers by the time I take them out of the little plastic bags.
NPR's iPhone app is also a major part of my morning routine. I crank up the volume on it while I'm getting dressed and listen to Steve Inskeep or the Marketplace Morning Report. The app also lets you listen to any NPR affiliate channel so I bounce around the country. During the campaign, when there was so much focus on Ohio, I routinely listened to the NPR-affiliate in Columbus. My least favorite affiliate is the one in DC, WAMU, which has far too much local coverage. I mean, every fifteen minutes for traffic reports? If I want traffic reports, I'll put on WTOP.
Next up I'll listen to the Sirius satellite channel POTUS Politics for its Morning Briefing broadcast. I think it starts at 7 a.m. and runs for four hours. It's a really good mix of political news, analysis and "this day in history" type stuff.
I find myself having less and less time for the traditional columnists. I grew up as a 5th grader reading The New York Times op-ed page religiously. That was the first thing I would turn to. I wanted to see what William Safire or Anthony Lewis were writing. Now it's often way down the list. Punditry only interests me now if it offers a truly fresh perspective or is surprising, which is incredibly rare.
For instance, Peggy Noonan is at her most intersting when she is taking a surprising line at odds with the Republicans. David Brooks has done that so often that he's actually most interesting when he's doing something that is more in line with the GOP. It's like, wow, that's right: David Brooks is a conservative, isn't he?
In terms of beat reporters, Martha Raddatz never ceases to amaze me. She's been great on the whole Petraeus scandal. Luis Martinez, our off-air Pentagon reporters, has been all over Benghazi. I wish I could be reading more Marc Ambinder because he's always awesome. For Congress, I'm a big fan of David Rogers at Politico. The knowledge of all things budget he brings to it is stellar. He's been around long enough that he's injecting more of himself into it. I've been reading him since his days with The Journal. You can tell he's just so sick of bullshit that he's unafraid to call it out. He's a first-rate reporter but becoming more of a pundit. He'll be a go-to guy for me on all things fiscal cliff.
My guilty pleasure reading consists of anything my two teenage daughters recommend. I read the Harry Potter stuff, the Percy Jackson series, Twilight, etc. They also drag me to the movies. I dreaded this more than anything when the Justin Bieber movie came out. But, in the end, I actually liked it. It was this docu-style film all about this kid from outside Toronto who has talent and determination to become a pop star and one agent who was on the outs who believed in him. The record companies blew him off and he wasn't tied to Disney or anything like that. He had to do it on his own. He put his stuff on YouTube, traveled around, established a Twitter presence and built the thing by himself. And here I thought Bieber was just a purveyor of mildly-annoying music.
Before bed, I will usually take a look at The Times and The Journal homepages to give me a leg up on what's in the papers in the morning. At the end of the day, stories that a newspaper editor prioritizes are still important to me. I like to see what somebody really smart thinks is the most important story of the day. Inevitably, these are stories I wouldn't have turned to. That's the beauty of a front page: You're exposed to stories someone else thinks is important. You don't need to be Donald Rumsfeld to know you've got both known unknowns and unknown unknowns. I want somebody to show me those unknown unknowns.