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My Media "Diet"My Media "Diet"

My Media "Diet"

No, I have more. It's astounding how much some of these people read. I am considered a manic reader among my small circles, but I can't hold a candle to these folks—or most of them, anyhow. I focus my reading on books—last year I read sixty, and I'm on track to read fewer but still many this year. But as I say that, I realize that I read a LOT of other sources of news.

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Topics: Arts, Media
My Media "Diet" March 29, 2010  |  By Alissa Wilkinson
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I'm late to the party, as usual, but I just discovered the Atlantic Wire's "Media Diet" feature this week. And all I have to say is this: HOW COOL IS THAT?

No, I have more. It's astounding how much some of these people read. I am considered a manic reader among my small circles, but I can't hold a candle to these folks—or most of them, anyhow.

So without further ado: here's my media diet. It's sort of shameful.

I focus my reading on books—last year I read sixty, and I'm on track to read fewer but still many this year. But as I say that, I realize that I read a LOT of other sources of news.

I don't have a set morning media routine, though I've been trying to establish one. I have fantasies of waking up and reading a paper copy of the New York Times over a cup of coffee; unfortunately this won't happen until we have a kitchen table and I can get up at the same time each day without disrupting Tom (a feat, when you live in a studio apartment).

Instead, on a good day, I check the NYTimes headlines and Twitter for anything interesting in the morning, then grab my Kindle on the way out the door and catch up on The Millions and anything I saved to Instapaper the day before (which I have set up to automatically email to my Kindle overnight) while on the subway.

If I'm not in a giant rush, I usually will have also checked my Google Reader before I leave, and I continue to check it throughout the day. Recently, I set up a Google homepage; I'm not in love with it, but I am in love with the way it lets me quickly peruse and read the pieces I'm interested in (and open the ones I want to read later in a browser tab), while quickly discarding everything else.

I find that the blogs associated with magazines and newspapers are usually the best, probably because the people who write from them are often paid writers to begin with! I make sure to read the NYTimes arts headlines, a handful of news sites, and a bunch of blogs on various topics—academia, pedagogy, technology, fashion, art, film, and so on. I probably read one out of every fifty articles that come through my Google Reader feed, but it does help me to stay in the loop with minimum fuss and distraction. And some of them I follow on Twitter instead of Google Reader for various reasons—Slate, DoubleX, a couple of the NYTimes and New Yorker blogs, Harper's, and so on.

I also get a surprising amount of the articles I read from pieces that friends post on Facebook. Since I hide the vast majority of "friends" from my Facebook stream, I really only see articles I'd be interested in anyhow.

Every day is markedly different for me—I'm in two different offices and at home one day—but I try to check sites a few times a day and save articles to Instapaper (or sometimes print them out) that I want to read later. I try to catch up on those over lunch or in the subway.

At night I read books. I used to read books in the subway, but my commute is simply not long enough and the experience is painfully disjointed. I usually have two or three books going—a novel, a nonfiction book of some kind, and sometimes a book of poetry, short stories, or essays to pick up and read for a brief period of time. Most of my book reading happens on the weekends over brunch on Saturday and Sunday, though. If we're not otherwise occupied in the evenings, we're usually catching up on a movie or a show like The Wire.

I got out of the habit of reading magazines regularly in grad school but hope to pick it up again soon, as there are some changes coming down the pipe. We subscribe to The New Yorker, The Atlantic, Harper's, Poets and Writers, The Paris Review, Image, Books & Culture, and The Hedgehog Review, and recently New York Magazine started showing up, though neither of us recall subscribing. I subscribe to the web version of The Chronicle of Higher Education and read it whenever time allows. I also get Real Simple, Body & Soul, and Lucky, for kicks. But I rarely read most of these in anything resembling their entirety; I'm really lucky if I read one article from The New Yorker before the next issue comes. The only periodical I truly read cover-to-cover is Comment, but you can imagine why that is!

And there's a lot of articles and printouts I end up carrying around and reading to prep for class. This is far too spastic for my taste, and I have to come up with a better way of doing it . . . but I haven't, yet. My life is not consistent enough. (I suppose if I went to the gym instead of running outside, but that seems like the wrong kind of trade-off.)

I do watch TV, but only on the computer via Hulu or on DVD. Lately we're finishing the fourth season of The Wire, which is essential viewing. And for fluff, I watch 30 Rock, The Office, Parks & Recreation, and Community (the best new show on television!). When I have extra time I binge on The Daily Show.

And I think it counts that I listen to a number of podcasts religiously: This American Life while I do laundry and housework, usually on Wednesdays; The New Yorker Out Loud while I'm walking to and from the subway; The New Yorker Fiction, which is only monthly and so pretty easy to keep up with; and a cast of rotating characters including RadioLab, The Treatment, The Moth, and the Books & Culture podcast if I have enough time. Not a podcast, but audio and always an essential and often a regulating part of my media diet: Mars Hill Audio. (When I was in college, I worked for a woman who streamed NPR all day while she worked on web design, and I really, really miss that, all these years later. I hope to go back to it some day.)

I don't even realize all I'm consuming, and believe it or not, I've consciously cut it down. I'm a writer and a teacher, and so I need to be at least attempting to make as much culture as I'm consuming. But I get tired when I enumerate it all, sporadic as it is. So instead, I ask, what's your media diet?

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