If my friend and Curator Magazine editor, Alissa Wilkinson was late to the “Media Diet” party, then I am, without a doubt, a crasher. That being the case, however, I still want to take a bit of time here to record the specifics of my own media ingestion. I find, as I’m sure every other writer who has engaged in this exercise has, that it is a mildly self-serving endeavor. But even more that, I’ve found myself deeply interested, not only in the writers I follow or care about like Alissa or, at The Atlantic, Susan Orlean and a number of others, but in the reading habits of most anyone who cares to divulge.
The reason for this, I think, is that we are in a time of transition of how we consume media. Almost every writer who shares his or her media diet notes this, as I will too. So, without further ado, my media diet:
I’m a loyal person. I like to find one way to do a thing and then stick to it, to make it my routine. In that way, I’m also a creature of habit, so figuring out my routine is not only a necessity, it’s an obsession. And it’s a work in progress. Despite my hunch that there has to be a better way, I am betrothed to Google Reader. I’ve even tried the varied ways to make Google Reader friendlier such as using Feedly to “pretty up” my RSS feed. But, unfortunately, that fell flat. When Google introduced Fast Flip, I thought that may be the answer, but the fact that it doesn’t work on just any site I wish killed that option too. When Sessions posted a few months back that he was forsaking Reader for good old-fashioned bookmarks I tried to follow suit, but soon found that I missed having articles served to me. My latest compromise has been to use the “Next” bookmarklet in Reader. This allows me to choose some of my most necessary feeds and flip through them, viewing the actual web page instead of the ugly Reader interface and it also has the residual benefit of removing the constant pressure from the “unread” counter.
So each morning begins with a few (hundred) obsessive clicks around the Internet. Among my top reads are Engadget, NYTimes, The Daily Beast, HuffPost and Religious Dispatches. From there I check Twitter to see what interesting pieces might have slipped through the cracks and also to get my friends’ recommendations from around the web. Then, throughout the day I repeat this routine, sometimes choosing to click my “Next – Culture” or “Next – Books” bookmarklet to see only stories that I’ve categorized as such.
When it comes time to get out of apartment (where I work in the mornings) and onto the train, I toss a physical book into my bag (right now it’s McLaren’s A New Kind of Christianity, expect some thoughts soon) and my iPhone in my pocket. It would be an understatement to say that my phone is my new portable media hub. I can access articles I saved using Instapaper’s “Read Later” bookmarklet offline, or check Twitter or Google Reader when I’m online. On top of that I’m also in the midst of a (so far) successful reading experiment in which I’m reading Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s A Thousand Splendid Suns in its entirety on the Kindle app on my iPhone. I was skeptical, but this has been a great way to decrease the weight of my bag and sneak in a few pages whenever I can. I will definitely keep this up.
On a related note, I have a list a mile long of books that I’m reading and/or want to read. And with my new gig as a book reviewer for The Star-Ledger, the hits keep coming. I’m currently whittling down 8 potential candidates to 5 reads for my first piece covering religion-related books.
When I had to drive to work I used to listen NPR every morning and I truly miss this. I’ve tried a few things such as streaming my local station while I work or listening to podcasts, but neither has caught on. I’m a reader and so if I have anything to read at hand (which, as you can see, I always do) I can’t just listen. Though I’m sure my eyes would thank me for the break if I did.
Additionally, my wife and I subscribe to a few print periodicals such as the New York Times Weekend edition, which we read throughout the week, as well as The New Yorker and Vanity Fair. Honestly, these don’t get read nearly as much as I wish they did, but who has the time? We also are members of Audible.com so we have a glut of unread (un-listened to) audio books. Again, I consumed these at a much faster rate when I was driving everyday.
I must also note that while all of this reading is happening there is a constant soundtrack, mostly from my own iTunes library which I’m obsessive about maintaing and which features selections from nearly every genre (although, I’m not big on classical). Sometimes, when I’m tired of my own collection and there’s nothing new on my radar, I flip over to Pandora to potentially discover something to add to my library.
Nighttime is when I catch up on television and movies. “Caprica” and “Parenthood” have joined the old Hulu standby’s “The Office,” SNL and “30 Rock” to comprise, with the occasional late night Daily Show/Colbert Report, my (online) television watching. And Netflix features (often documentaries) fill in the gaps when there’s nothing new on Hulu.
I’ve said on more than one occasion that if I could make media consumption my full-time and well paying job, I would. In the meantime, I’m fortunate to have a work situation that allows for a lot of media consumption in the cracks between and even, in some cases, pays me a little money to do it.
Jonathan D. Fitzgerald
Jonathan D. Fitzgerald is editor of Patrol and author of Not Your Mother's Morals: How the New Sincerity is Changing Pop Culture for the Better. Follow Fitz on Twitter.
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