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 this series, we ask people who seem well-informed to describe their media diets. The following is by Max Read, a Gawker contributing editor who works the night shift.
The first thing I read when I wake up--usually around noon, unless I have a really wicked anxiety dream--is the comments on my posts from the night before. It's nice to start the day with a little bit of abuse, plus, sometimes, somewhere in all the invective, there will be helpful corrections or updates.
Once I'm feeling insecure enough, I check my Facebook and Twitter and Tumblr accounts. Facebook and Twitter are the easiest, since they'll alert me when people are saying things to or about me. Tumblr you sort of have to scroll down through all the pictures of dogs dressed in the manner of people to find out if anyone has "reblogged" or "liked" you. I still don't quite "get" Tumblr, but I feel as though I'm on the verge of cracking the code. I think the secret involves the word "hipster," somehow--Hipster Puppies, Look at This Fucking Hipster. My favorite Tumblrs are my friend Grady's, called Three Frames, which is just looping animated GIFs of three frames from different movies, and Miles Klee's Hate the Future, which is about the future, and how awful it will be. I used to follow Nitsuh Abebe's Tumblr agrammar pretty closely, but he mostly writes for New York Magazine's Vulture blog now, not that I'm complaining.
By now I probably already have a headache, so I skim through my Google Reader and try not to actually read anything about politics. I usually fail at this. I tend to like really mean bloggers--Tom Scocca at Slate and Who Is IOZ? are two of my favorites--but my favorite blog right now is Ta-Nehisi Coates, at the Atlantic. He seems like he'd make such a good dad, you know? He's so patient! If I broke up with my girlfriend, I'd want to talk to Ta-Nehisi about it first. I also follow a bunch of general-interest sites like The Awl and the NY Mag blogs, plus a lot of stuff that makes me laugh, like Hipster Runoff and Hark! A Vagrant. I'll scan the front pages of The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, The Washington Post, the BBC site, but usually their headlines are pretty similar to what was up at 4 a.m.
I follow a lot of music blogs too. Dance music, mostly--20 Jazz Funk Greats, Plaidmusic, Another Night on Earth. I'm usually listening to music when I'm reading or writing.
After this I pretend that I get off the computer to go read a book or do some writing. I promised myself I'd read 50 books this year, but I stalled out at like 30--which is still about 28 more than I read at all last year. I really loved Tom McCarthy's Remainder. And I got really into David Mitchell this year. Right now I'm reading Oakley Hall's Warlock. One thing I miss about working at home is being on the subway and having uninterrupted time to read books and magazines. The only subscriptions we have are courtesy of my parents: The New Yorker and Cook's Illustrated. My girlfriend steals The New Yorker for the train, so I usually just ask her which articles are worth reading. I'll read anything by David Grann or Kelefa Sanneh. Or Anthony Lane, whom I usually disagree with but can be pretty funny. Cook's Illustrated I read cover to cover and imagine what it would be like if I were to make those dishes.
In reality, though, I usually stay on or around the computer. There's a message board I visit--http://www.ilxor.com. It started as a music discussion site but now it's just sort of general-purpose. I shouldn't let anyone know I post there, since I've said so many embarrassing things there over the years, like that Joanna Newsom is a better rapper than Ghostface Killah. That one sticks with me, because, Jesus, who would say something like that? But most of the people who post to the site are really smart and funny, and it can be a good source of stories and videos.
I watch TV during the day, too. I'm into Boardwalk Empire right now, which is depressingly predictable, but who cares. I like people in costumes. Terriers, on FX, is great, though I think it's already been canceled. I like 30 Rock and Community and How I Met Your Mother. I love cop shows. Really any cop show. For a while this summer I was trying to watch foreign movies on Netflix every day, but you have to actually look at them, to read the subtitles, so that didn't last very long. I don't watch any news TV except for the Daily Show, sometimes. It gets me too mad.
By the time my shift rolls around at 8 (I usually sit down at 7 or 7:30), I usually need to re-check the same sites and see what's up on the internet--Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, and Google Reader. I read Gawker first, to see what they covered that day, and then scroll through the last couple hours of Twitter updates and Facebook posts, to see if there's any big breaking news. Same with Google Reader. Tumblr isn't as great a source for story ideas, but if I ever need photos of people whose heads have been replaced with bread, I know where to go. I follow the usual suspects on Twitter--famous people, media people, news organizations. It all pops up in the corner of my screen when stuff happens. My favorite Twitter accounts are the fake ones: The Kaplans, Dina Lohan, George Lazenby.
Some of the best sources for stories are the social aggregation sites--Reddit, Digg, I guess Fark counts, too. I can't tell the number of times I'll think I'm the first to find something really great and unique and then see it's already on Reddit's front page. The "WTF" section in particular is classic--though Reddit has its own blind spots. There's a popular "Men's Rights" section, which is kind of gross. Mostly, though, it's a pretty high standard of commenter and they get a lot of good stuff.
The Times and the Journal and the other major papers will put up their front-page stories sometime in the evening, I guess around 9 p.m. or maybe a little bit earlier. I check up on all of those sites throughout the night, plus the ones I've already mentioned. One thing I make an effort to look at is the British outlets, since they're updating through the American night--BBC and the Guardian, of course, but also the Independent, the Telegraph, even the Daily Mail. Especially the Daily Mail, to be honest. I don't know how they do it, but they know about every tragic child abuse case and weird sex crime in America before anyone else does. It's eerie.
I usually take one last look at my Facebook and Twitter feeds before I sign off and go to bed, just in case there's something huge that would show up there first. Then I stumble back to my room and fall asleep.