A couple of months ago, I wrote here on my need for a digital diet. I would be lying if I said that I had made any significant progress on decreasing the quantity of my time spent reading online. However, I can say that I have been making a concerted effort to read more carefully and slowly, thus avoiding the problems of a decreased attention span that I was worried about. I thought that it would be useful to set out what exactly I spend all of that time reading on a daily basis and why I cannot manage to give it up. This time, I will limit myself to things that are delivered directly to my inbox on a regular basis. I will reserve a separate page for blogs and for other websites.
1) New York Times – I get a summary of the NYT headlines twice a day, first thing in the morning and the afternoon update when the markets close. I certainly cannot say that I read it “cover-to-cover” if such a thing even exists on the Internet. I will generally read 1-2 articles in the top headlines, along with a scattering of articles in the Nation, World, Politics, and Business sections. I generally steer clear of the editorials, but I do follow a couple of the major op-ed writers (e.g. Krugman) and guest contributors. On Fridays, I receive the Movies and Books update. I don’t really make decisions on what I want to see at the movies based on reviews, but I do take a lot of recommendations for books from the NYT.
2) Washington Post– I get a daily e-mail from the WP similar to the one I described in the NYT. I tend to read fewer articles here, since many of the top stories are duplicative of what I have already read in the NYT. I do make a practice of reading more deeply in some of the political or policy analysis pieces, since I expect the WP to have a deeper expertise in the area that any other publication. I also read any of E.J. Dionne’s columns, and other columns with topics of interest (though I tend to find the WP’s main political columnists pretty pathetic). I also receive the Sunday Agenda and Sunday Roundup, which give me the gist of what was said by policymakers on the major Sunday morning talk shows, shows that I generally miss while I am away at church.
3) Slatest – For those who are not familiar, the online magazine Slate sends out a list of 12 links to some of the most important stories three times a day– morning, afternoon, and evening. The idea was introduced back in 2009, and I find that the idea appeals to me more than its execution. The original plan was that the Slatest could track a couple of stories as they developed throughout the day across a variety of the most reputable sources, including major blogs, national newspapers, and wire services. In reality, 6-8 of the 12 links are the same from one edition to another. Not quite as dynamic as I had hoped. Many of the stories that Slatest links to are things that I already picked up in the WP or the NYT, but Slatest tends to round out my reading with articles from newspapers in Chicago, Boston, or the West Coast. Slatest will also pick up some quirky story from time to time that makes for just fun reading. Again, I cannot say that I ever read all 12 stories (again because of the duplication from other sources and between editions), but I generally read 2-3 each time Slatest is published.
4) Wonkbook – Technically this is a Washington Post product, but it seems different enough to list here. Ezra Klein, a prolific liberal blogger, created this daily morning roundup of policy news as a regular part of his blog now hosted at the WP. I like it because it tends to focus a little more on policy, featuring the opinions of experts and academics, rather than politicians and their talking points. I read it in its entirety.
5) The Browser– This is a daily e-mail digest of 10-15 really interesting stories from around the web. It does a good job of avoiding most of the mainstream American journalism like you see on Slatest, but picks up overseas stories, longer essays, and items of cultural and artistic interest. I generally read 1-3 stories from each edition.
6) Today’s Big Thing– I almost don’t want to admit that I follow this, but here goes anyway. This is a frivolous and fun little list of 5-6 viral videos that are going around the Web on a daily basis. Its good for a couple of laughs at the end of a long day. I typically watch 1 or 2.
7) Houston Press– Weekly e-mail from Houston’s alternative weekly magazine. Usually stories of local interest only. I generally read the main story maybe once a month.
8) New York Review of Books– Biweekly e-mail from literary magazine. These are typically longer reviews than found in the weekly NYT and they are a little more selective in picking titles of higher quality and significance. I read 1-2 essays in each edition.
9) NPR Book Notes– Another set of book articles. Not focused entirely on reviews. This is a recent addition for me. I read 1-2 articles in each weekly edition.
So that’s it. Like I said above, we have not even scratched the surface of what I read in terms of blogs and print materials, much less other websites I follow daily by other means.