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Getting the News — Gordon Crovitz

(This post is the seventh in News.me’s ongoing series, “Getting the News.” In our efforts to understand everything about social news, we’re reaching out to writers and thinkers we like to ask them how they get their daily news. Read the first post here. See all of the posts here.)

This week we talked to Gordon Crovitz — former publisher of the Wall Street Journal, co-founder of Press+, and an adviser to several early-stage media and technology companies run by people he says are ideally “half my age and twice as smart.” Gordon still writes the weekly “Information Age” column for the Journal, and is an invaluable source of insight on the evolution of media. Here’s what he had to say.

1. Describe how you get news throughout the day. What’s the first thing you check when you wake up?

I’m old enough to remember that in the analog era, before the web or 24/7 information in any medium, everything I read in the morning was new news. Now I already know the key news of the day before I wake up: The new biological rhythm for news consumption starts the day before. In the late evening, I always go to WSJ.com, which by then reflects what will be in the next day’s newspaper, to get advance word on what I need to keep in mind for the following day.

2. What publications or news sources do you read and trust? How frequently do you visit them throughout the day?

During the day my news habits include a few destination web sites such as WSJ.com, NYTimes.com, and FT.com, but also my Twitter feed, which is especially valuable since I mostly follow people whose posts include links to news and information that will be of interest to me. Twitter also allows me for the first time to have a good sense of what my friends and colleagues are also thinking about. Most of these links on Twitter are to journalistic sources, either from branded publishers or bloggers I follow. Then I follow other sites that are a mix of original reporting and smart aggregation such as Business Insider (disclosure: I’m on the board), AllThingsD and PaidContent, with the occasional visit to a broader aggregator such as Drudge Report to be sure I haven’t missed anything.

3. What platforms do you read/get content on? Are you into reading content on your iPhone or tablet, or do you still remember how to unfold a newspaper? Do you ever watch television news programs?

The device depends much more on where I am than on anything else. At the office, I’m usually using a browser on my desktop, so the consumption is chiefly web sites. If I am out of the office, I use my iPad — often as a browser rather than using specific iPad apps — or my smartphone, which I am embarrassed to admit is still a BlackBerry (my defense is that I can type 60 words a minute using the great BlackBerry keyboard). My favorite news apps on the iPad are Flipboard and News.me, which are both great ways to consume news, especially from Twitter feeds. At home, I usually use my my MacBook Air since one of my young sons almost always will have claimed use of my iPad. We do get two print newspapers at home, and I do enjoy reading the Wall Street Journal in print, but the other 23 hours of the day I’m likelier to access a digital version.

4. What was the last great article you read? How did you find out about it? Is this your typical pattern?

Sometimes great articles are in very traditional sources — Peter Wallison explaining the continuing banking crisis in an op-ed in the Wall Street Journal, Larry Downes explaining what’s wrong with the analog-era mission of the Federal Communications Commission during this digital age in a blog post at Forbes.com, or the expose of insider trading in the news pages of the Washington Post, for example. Others are great blog posts on specialized sites like TechLiberation (a wonky free market-oriented technology blog) that I check regularly. Often I find great articles thanks to Twitter: One of my rules is that if three of the people I follow link to the same article, then I always read the article, too. This is the new serendipity.    

5. Is anything missing from your news consumption pattern now or in the tools/sites that you use? Anything you wish you had?

Too much of my news consumption is still information presented to me as if I didn’t already know it. This is true of most newspapers, which still focus too much on what happened yesterday when I know what happened yesterday yesterday. It’s also true of too many web sites. I’d like to find more sources that offer context, perspective, and a smart look at what the news means for tomorrow. News readers designed for the tablet such as Flipboard and News.me are early in their evolution, but already compared with traditional web sites are more intuitive and faster ways to access news feeds.

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