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Getting the News — Patricia Sauthoff

(This post is part of 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, from writers and thinkers like Zach Seward, Anil Dash, and Megan Garber, here.)

This week we interviewed Patricia Sauthoff, editor of the juggernaut content aggregator Mediagazer. We’ve always admired Mediagazer and its sister sites Techmeme, memeorandum, and WeSmirch for their comprehensive coverage and fantastic, seemingly magical algorithm that surfaces the top stories of the day. We were sort of hoping Patricia would tell us all of Mediagazer’s secrets, but she kept mum — so we settled for how she gets her news, instead.

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

First thing, always, is to log onto Mediagazer to make sure everything is running smoothly and to check headlines from overnight. In the mornings Lyra McKee or David Connell are at the helm so I enjoy the luxury of coffee in bed while I catch up on all the non-media news that happened while I was asleep.

In the mornings I usually stick to RSS feeds for news. I can scan headlines and open tabs as well as search for whatever particular topic strikes my fancy. I’m still using Google Reader, but the redesign hasn’t grown on me. One of these days I’ll find a good replacement.

Around 11 am I fire up Tweetdeck and stick with Twitter for the bulk of the day, though I do jump back to RSS on occasion. The feeds I follow on both of those tools have some overlap but there are some things I’m more likely to read when I see on one or the other. Like The Awl. Nothing they tweet ever makes me want to click a link, but in RSS I find myself reading it all the time.

Because my job is to aggregate already published news I follow more journalists than publications on Twitter. Writers are more likely to tweet their pieces immediately than publications — especially those with auto-tweets — so that’s a good way to stay one step ahead of everything. RSS picks things up slower too, but it’s helpful when there are multiple stories on a topic. I can get a general view of how journalists are responding and scoop up all the takes in one shot.

Mediagazer and Techmeme founder Gabe Rivera, of course, has famously created an awesome algorithm to catch news and it’s fantastic. I try to beat it to the punch as often as I can. I don’t really know how it works, but if I can find news it hasn’t, I feel like I’m doing something right. It’s a bit strange to be the aggregator because I spend all day going through news feeds I’ve aggregated for myself and sharing the best of those. I don’t really get to use any other aggregators, except as a mark of what I’m already doing. The race to beat Romenesko was always pretty fun, but I’m enjoying his turn back toward journalism a lot more. He’s not only got a famously great eye for stories but an investigative streak that likes to fill in the gaps that others are missing.

Around 6 p.m. EST the media pundits tend to slow down, though news still trickles through until pretty late at night. I keep one eye on that beat and turn the rest of my news reading attention to world politics.

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

I almost never go directly to a news source looking for information. I’m more likely to trust a byline based on experience than the publication as a whole.

My daily reading is very diverse. For techy news the WIRED blogs, All Things Digital and PaidContent are good. I usually end up on all three of those at least a couple times a day. Obviously the big ones like the Guardian, New York Times and Reuters are always coming up, no matter what topic I’m reading about. I also really enjoy the AP local coverage, even if it’s a place I’ve never been. I constantly find myself reading some random AP story from Mississippi or wherever and wondering how I got there. Their headlines must be link-baity. I’m also reading a lot of Forbes and Bloomberg these days, which 15-year-old me would not approve of.

I get sucked into both Inside Higher Ed and the Chronicle of Higher Education on a pretty regular basis, so I’m oddly up on the current debates in secondary education. Both of those publications find good writers and don’t have the academic voices you’d expect.

My number one most trusted news source is the Twitter feed of Foreign Policy’s Blake Hounshell. I’d like to hear how he has the time to read all that news and keep up with so many different threads of conversation. What I really like about him is the mini-criticism he gives when he does link to a story, or the way he’ll retweet others as a narrative of whatever he’s currently thinking about.

Beyond the US and UK papers, I follow a lot of English-language papers around the world, too. The National, The Hindu, Dawn, etc. It’s a nice balance and often the difference of perspective is startling.

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?

It probably sounds crazy, but I don’t have a smart phone. I do have an iPad and a wireless hotspot though, so I do end up pulling that out and looking at it in what are probably inappropriate situations. I work from home, so I don’t really need a phone at all. The tablet is a bit unwieldy, but it works and is easier to read on.

One of my favorite things on the whole internet is an “Onion News Network” video called “How Will the End of Print Journalism Affect Old Loons who Hoard Newspapers?” Even though my work is online I have loon piles of print all over my house. When I lived in London my mom would save up a month’s worth of New Yorkers and ship them to me. It was awesome.  Even though I could read it online with my subscription, I never did. My husband is a journalist too, so we’re constantly buying magazines and stacking them up all over the house. I find I read a lot more widely when I’ve made the commitment to a print magazine.

The first thing I do when I move somewhere new is to get a library card, I’m too mobile to buy a lot of books these days, and have a nice little collection of cards. Lately I’ve been on a fiction binge thanks to the local library. Of the last five novels I’ve read only one of them has been an e-book. The wait time for library e-books is too long and I like to read the dust jacket of anything I’m going to put that much time into reading.

I haven’t owned a TV since 2006 so I have to really go out of my way to watch it. I don’t really like TV, but I get sucked in easily. I watch FRONTLINE regularly, and 60 Minutes works really well as a podcast. I do go old-school and listen to the radio every day though — streaming, of course. Fresh Air in the afternoons and Le Show on Sunday nights.

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

I recently reread, for maybe the third time, Lawrence Wright’s “The Apostate” in the New Yorker. That was such a good article. I hold nearly all magazine pieces up to that one for comparison. The last one to stick with me almost as strongly was an Atlantic piece by Caitlin Flanagan called “The Hazards of Duke,” about the complexity of the female sexual landscape. It was a really troubling article that I remember reading about when it came out early last year, but I didn’t read it until Longform put it on it’s list of the year’s best. I wouldn’t call it great, but I also read the GQ T.O. piece ["Love Me, Hate Me, Just Don’t Ignore Me," a profile of Terrell Owens by Nancy Hass] a week or so ago and I don’t follow sports at all, so there was definitely something compelling to that one.

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

Whomever decided that computer screens would have a horizontal orientation is evil. Or not a reader. It would be so much easier to read and write if I could swivel my laptop screen vertically. It would seriously change my life. I think that’s one of the main reasons smartphones and tablets are so appealing, you can see so much more of a page if you turn the screen. Of course, if I couldn’t swivel it back to watch the Daily Show in wide-screen, I’d complain about that too.

Other than that, I’m not an innovator. People are coming up with cool tools all the time and I love trying them out. Someone will invent something that will be perfect for me, but I don’t know what that is. Unless it’s a dictation program that can function perfectly while I’m running water. I have genius ideas in the shower or when I’m doing the dishes but by the time I can write them down, they’re not quite right.

Getting the News — Zach Seward

(This post is part of 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, from writers and thinkers like Anil Dash, Khoi Vinh, and Megan Garber, here.)

This week we reached out to Zach Seward, editor of outreach and social media for the Wall Street Journal. In addition to his writing and editing at the Journal, Zach teaches a class on digital media at NYU. He’s working at the intersection of social media and news every day. Zach warned us that his responses to the questions would be “a little obsessive” — this is one of our longest interviews, featuring Zach’s observations on his own rapacious appetite for news and the digital media landscape. But it’s so good that we wanted to publish all of it. This might be the first and last time we publish the phrase “news blow,” but we could hardly pass up on the opportunity.

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

My alarm clock sounds like one of those bright-red bells that might ring in a firehouse to signal an emergency, aptly setting the tone of my morning, which is a bleary scramble to answer: What did I miss?

Lurching out of bed and casting aside the iPad I fell asleep reading, I grab my phone to see what has piled up in my inboxes — work email first, then personal. I’m lucky to be part of a global news organization, so if something has exploded overnight in Kabul, if Asian markets are tanking, if protestors have been evicted from Zuccotti Park, that news will be waiting for me, often as raw dispatches from our staff overseas. My first notice of last year’s earthquake in Japan, for instance, was an inbox full of increasingly alarming emails.

I suppose this kind of news consumption is driven by an unhealthy fear, as though going to sleep were a risk rather than reward. And there’s often little to distinguish a can’t-miss story from a quarterly earnings report: that red LED blinks at the same pace no matter what news has just arrived. Ping. Ping. Ping.

Still, on a good day, email is my best informant. Friends send over links, sources chime in with tips, and strangers reach out to say something unexpected. My inboxes are messy streams not unlike the Twitter timeline or Facebook newsfeed — except that every message is addressed to me.

I also subscribe to scores of newsletters and other automated emails, most of which I delete without reading, which is a cathartic morning ritual. There are only two such emails that I open without exception:

  • News.me's digest of what my friends are reading and sharing, which is also on the Web. Many services compete in this space, and I’ve tried them all, but News.me is the only one that reliably surfaces links I want to click on. (I’m not just flattering you; it’s true!)
  • Timehop's diary of my Foursquare check-ins and tweets from a year ago. Sure, that's not really news so much as nostalgia, but I see it as an improvement on that old newspaper fixture, “This Day in History.”

Before setting my phone back down on my dresser, I also check topheadlin.es, which is a mobile web app that my colleague Jeremy Singer-Vine built. It scans dozens of news sites for the single most-prominent headline on each and displays them in a clean list. If a big story has broken overnight, I will get a quick view of how everyone is playing it. On a lighter morning, topheadlin.es is an efficient glance at the news judgment of news organizations from Al Jazeera to ESPN.

Robin Sloan and Matt Thompson gave an awesome talk last year on designing news for “media moments.” Waiting in line at the supermarket, commuting to work, and seeking a diversion to avoid an awkward conversation in the elevator are all media moments into which news might fit. And I think right-when-you-wake-up may be the ultimate media moment, combining urgency, routine, and a voracious audience, at least after they’ve had some caffeine.

The Internet made me a morning person, I guess.

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Getting the News — David Shen

(This post is part of 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, from writers and thinkers like Anil Dash, Khoi Vinh, and Megan Garber, here.)

This week we’re very happy to feature David Shen. Dave is the West Coast Director for Launch Capital, former vice president of user experience and design at Yahoo!, amateur triathlete, and incredibly dedicated advisor to News.me. With a dual background in both programming and design, Dave is bursting with ideas for how to improve the news experience. We find him an invaluable resource, and we thought you might be interested to hear some of his many ideas.

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

When I wake up in the morning, I might grab my iPhone next to my bed first and scroll through my email, looking at the various news emails I subscribe to. Then I open up Twitter and scroll through a few screens to see if there is anything interesting. If I get to my Mac, then it’s all about reading news via email, on my Netvibes page, and on twitter.

Netvibes is a web-based RSS reader, the next generation of evolution from My Yahoo! who popularized the user interface for reading content via placing that content into modules on a single page. Netvibes and other RSS readers are aggregated news readers that predate the stream view of content which came with the advent of Twitter. Still, I like the format provided by Netvibes because it allows me to scan a page full of headlines very quickly. Each one of those modules is news grouped by source, so if I want to focus on news by sources I can do that easily here.

Twitter is different; it has no organization, except for sorting in time and is presented serially only. But its user interface is great for real time news. The news is presented one after another as soon as it is placed in the stream.

I also read a lot of paper. I won’t buy newspapers (too big, too thick to carry, my fingers get dirty from holding the newsprint), but I still subscribe to magazines. I still have this conflict between paper and screen for reading. I’ve tried to read WIRED and Popular Science on the iPad but can’t do it for some reason; the paper versions are still superior to me. But I love my Kindle app on iPad and read almost all of my books on it.

There is one use case where I need paper magazines, and that is when I fly. That annoying little bit of time during takeoff and landing when we’re supposed to turn everything off is when I get through a stack of magazines. If only the airlines would allow us to use our e-readers during this time – it could remove my need for paper magazines greatly.

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

I subscribe to emails from the New York Times, Stocktwits, the Washington Post, and John Mauldin's weekly newsletter. I almost never visit the top pages of these sites; the typical home page of a news site is typically an online copy of its offline equivalent. Offline, we seemed to have gotten used to scanning an entire page of newsprint. Online, it is too cluttered for screen use because a computer screen is too constrained for scanning all that content.

Lifestyle and other content come in other emails, like Lomography, Griff Hamlin Blues Guitar Unleashed, Trendwatching.com, and Brain Pickings Weekly, As a central place to collect all sorts of content for later perusal, email works amazingly well for me.

More likely, I will pick up paper versions of: The Economist, Time, Popular Science, Popular Mechanics, WIRED, Runner’s World, Bicycling, Triathlete, and Inside Triathlon.

The numerous other sources available online of blogs, brands, and sites are too many to name – I visit these randomly as they are presented to me, mostly through Twitter.

This begs the question: what exactly constitutes news? With the advent of the Internet, blogging and citizen journalism have become mainstream. There is a massive explosion of content but it is chaotic and ungoverned. Does someone’s online diary constitute news? A snippet of a person’s day on Twitter or Facebook feed? An opinion piece on a presidential candidate by an individual? The way it is presented, it seems that everything is now categorized as “news” in everyone’s minds. This is both an amazing happenstance and an opportunity for great danger. More information than ever possible is now available on any topic one can imagine; however, there is an unsolved problem where we instinctively think that whatever is printed is truth. Thus, we can always find content to support our position on an issue, but we have little means to know whether it is true, an opinion, or a blatant falsehood.

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?

For me, it is slowly moving towards digital simply because of portability and the ability to do advanced things like reading later or saving snippets.

Bringing up an issue I mentioned earlier, there are still advantages of paper over those of screens. I must admit to liking the feel of paper. I save articles for reading later by ripping pages out and then I scan them in via my Fujitsu ScanSnap (an indispensible office device by the way). But paper isn’t very eco-green, and it takes up so much space and weight.

So far, the Kindle’s black and white e-ink screen is superior to that of the iPad color screen on eye strain and contrast. I’ve dialed down the brightness of my iPad’s screen to help ease the strain. But the iPad is great because I can read in the dark. Still, holding an iPad is pretty tough for a long period of time; it’s just a bit too heavy for that. Sometimes I long for a low-end Kindle but then I would have to lug around yet another device.

But still, the interface for digital versions of magazines isn’t good enough. We need more research into what a digital magazine (or book for that matter) should be. I do not think that having nifty swiping and embedded videos or animation is good enough. A lot of what is there is too distracting or interrupts the flow of original content.

As for TV news, I never watch it except when I’m on the treadmill working out. When I’m focused on running, I can’t really do anything else but watch video on a screen in front of me. The occasions when I can just receive passive feeding of news doesn’t happen very often now. It is much more efficient for me to scan things via text then it is to listen to someone deliver the news.

That’s not to say that certain types of content or stories aren’t better delivered via video. I just don’t have time to sit and watch an hour of news video, especially when I can get the same news in 5-10 minutes of scanning/reading news text.

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

I read a great post today by Cory Doctorow titled “A Vocabulary for Speaking about the Future.” It’s about how science fiction writers are terrible predictors of the future, but are still great at “inspiring, inoculating, reflecting, and exposing.” This one came through a tweet by Brad Feld of Techstars fame. Since I use Twitter as a major driver of news, this came through my typical pattern of news consumption.

Twitter is great for serendipity. But not all news is about serendipity; in my job, for example, I go looking for news about startups and venture capital. In my personal finances, I am interested in the economy and what the experts think about where the world is going. I train for triathlons and am interested in the latest thinking in training and sport.

Filtering in this way is important to wade through the chaos of everyday news; there is so much going on in the world and the internet has only exploded the availability of news. We desperately need products and services that help us figure out what to read when we want to read it and present it in an easily digestible form.

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

I posted a rant on my blog about how news hasn’t been innovated much at all, or at least in the deeper, more important, aspects.

Back when I was at Yahoo!, one of the first things we did was to bring news online. I think we launched Yahoo! News back in late 1995 and it was just a page of links, which opened up into text only story pages. This quickly expanded into multiple categories of news, and then into a whole bunch of new data sets like sports scores and stock quotes.

It was pretty innovative back then — but hasn’t changed much since. In fact, all every major news outlet has done is put their content online. Then they added a few other enhancements, like emailing stories, commenting, Facebook likes — is that innovation or just following the crowd?

I have serendipitous and directed news reading habits. I want to remember what I have read and be able to look up something I read, far into the past if need be. I want to clip quotes, share them, and discuss them with friends and strangers. I want to find out about breaking news as fast as it happens. I want to know what is truth and what is not, and what is just an opinion. And I want to be able to find out the latest news about any topic I’m interested in, at any time. I’m convinced the Internet has set the platform for this all to happen; I’m just waiting now for someone to make it real.

Getting the News — Megan Garber

(This post is part of 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, from writers and thinkers like Anil Dash, Khoi Vinh, and Gordon Crovitz, here.)

To kick off 2012, we interviewed Megan Garber, assistant editor at the Nieman Journalism Lab. Next week, she’ll be a staff writer at The Atlantic. But today, she’s answering questions about how she reads the news. Megan writes about the future of journalism for a living, so we had to ask her where she thinks journalism is heading — and what she’s missing from her news consumption.

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

The first thing I’ll check in the morning is Twitter — which has pretty much replaced my old standby, RSS. (I use Tweetdeck, which allows me to check streams from both @NiemanLab and my personal account.)

Beyond that, I’ll usually visit Mediagazer, Poynter, and, now, Romenesko at least a few times over the course of a day to check in on the biggest stories of the moment. Techmeme, as well. I’m also a regular at The Atlantic’s Tech channel, which covers media innovation in the context of technology more broadly. (I’ll be writing for them starting in January.) And for even more in-depth future-of-news news, one of the best resources I know of is Nieman Lab’s Fuego, a Twitter bot that aggregates the moment’s most talked-about stories among the meta-media crowd. It’s a great, efficient way of staying current with the media zeitgeist.

Beyond those, though, there are fewer and fewer sites that I’ll visit directly at this point; most of what I get, I get from Twitter. The main exceptions are The Awl and Gawker, which I have bookmarked for those occasions when I need something brain-clearing and/or fun to read, and The New York Times, which has been my various browsers’ homepage for as long as I can remember.

I’m also big on email newsletters; one of my favorites is the daily link-list from 3 Quarks Daily, which my editor, Josh, turned me on to, and which curates assorted smartness from around the web. And I always look forward to the Brainpickings email on the weekend; it’s generally more evergreen than newsy, but is consistently fantastic.

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

Though I’m not systematic about it at all, I’ll usually end up — through social media and the aggregators I mentioned — at HuffPost, The Atlantic Wire, CJR, the New York Observer, Slate, the Guardian, the New Yorker, HiLoBrow, NPR, Reddit, New York Magazine, the Paris Review, Gizmodo, or some combination of those in a given day. GOOD has been doing some especially fantastic stuff of late, as has Mother Jones. That said, though, I’m generally (and increasingly) excited about topics more than I am about particular publications; one of the things I appreciate about social media platforms (and their general treatment of users as curators) is their ability to combine filtration and serendipity within the content they provide. With each link, you never know quite what you’re going to get … but you can pretty much assume it’ll be good.

I also get a lot of my information — particularly the week-in-review type content — from podcasts, which I’ll listen to while grabbing lunch or on the commute home. Shows like On the Media and Slate’s Gabfests offer great roundups and analysis of the week’s events; for more lighthearted stuff, I’m a big fan of Marc Marron’s WTF and NPR’s Wait, Wait, Don’t Tell Me, and — of course — standbys like This American Life. The Philosophy Bites podcast is consistently provocative and occasionally delightful. And (even farther afield from breaking news!) iTunes U, with its free lectures from universities across the globe, is one of the most valuable — and, from what I can tell, under-utlized — information services on the web.

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?

This is a horrible thing to admit, given that I cover digital media, but I am (still!) a paper-holdout. I almost always have a book or magazine in my bag; when I’m on a plane or waiting in a long line or otherwise in a situation that lends itself to nomadic reading, my impulse is to turn to them rather than to my mobile devices. I like the tactile quality of paper-based reading; I like the way that, say, a New Yorker can roll in your hand or spread on your lap as the situation requires. I also almost always have a pencil with me — I think I’m one of the few people left who uses the mechanical version — and I like the easy note-taking that print reading allows. Over the years, I’ve developed a weird, nerdy shorthand (lots of symbols, asterisks, etc.) that probably looks like chicken scratch and/or insane ravings to anyone who might come across it, but which is in fact pretty perfect for marginalia … and uniquely awful for digital note-taking, particularly with touchscreen keyboards. Though I’d love a system that makes digital notation as easy as analog, I’ve yet to find anything that beats a yellow Bic pencil and an empty margin. (ProTip: Never loan me a magazine.)

And I don’t watch TV news anymore — local is too depressing, and national is too infuriating. (Unless you count The Daily Show or The Colbert Report, that is, in which case I watch TV news all the time.)

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

Popular Mechanics had an incredible piece recently recreating the final moments of Air France’s Flight 447, based on recently recovered black boxes. Not only is the article remarkable for its ability to inject tension into a story whose ending we know all too well — a state-of-the-art airplane, brought down by bad decisions and even worse luck — but it’s also almost allegoric in its scope. A story of the convergence of powerful technology and frail humanity, told in a way that lets tragedy, and humanity, speak for themselves.

I discovered the article through Longreads, which — along with Longform.org — is a stellar source of engaging, engrossing articles across subject areas.

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

I wish I had a better, more dynamic web archiving system. I still use Delicious, and rely on it pretty heavily … despite that, though, I often find myself frustrated with the reductiveness of the tagging system: Read an article, tell Delicious that it’s about The New York Times and also paywalls and also business models, that it’s by Mathew Ingram and via GigaOm, and move on. I could make myself a more detailed tag taxonomy — and occasionally do — but the overall system isn’t really one that invites either expansion or nuance, particularly when it comes to the vague, tag-resistent concepts that are often the most interesting and important to save. I’d love a service that allows for the relatively dynamic and connection-oriented capture of content — an archive for the semantic web. Delicious, only tastier.

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.

Getting the News — Ken Fisher

(This post is the sixth 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.)

Today we’re featuring Ken Fisher, founder and editor-in-chief of Ars Technica, one of the web’s leading tech publications. Early on, Ars distinguished itself with highly educated authors and sharp commentary, and in 2008 was acquired by Condé Nast. Ken is a brilliant and critical thinker — he holds two masters’ degrees from Harvard, and in addition to his work at Ars, he’s writing a book on online communities and the changing landscape of property and business on the web. Ken’s immersed in media issues daily, so we asked this self-described “cranky Editor” how he gets the news.

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

When I first wake-up, the most important news is in my inbox, accessible to me by whatever phone I am using at the moment. I’ve checked it within five minutes of getting up, probably while I am brushing my teeth. What’s there? From there, I usually load up AP and scan headlines. I’m still pretty groggy at this point, and I may walk right into a wall while trying to turn a corner reading the AP.  At this point in my day, I’m looking for day-altering news. I don’t read much at this hour, I just mostly note its existence.

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

Since I’m the Editor of Ars, I’m pretty much on a news site all the time, namely, Ars. I don’t get to read much news from elsewhere during the day. I normally have a spate of discovery at lunch, but generally I’m a “flag and read later” guy, with later usually being quittin’ time.

I’m a skeptic by nature (to say nothing of being a cranky Editor) and so its difficult for me to describe my relationship with any news source as ”trust.” That said, I believe that the Financial Times, the Christian Science Monitor, the New York Times, and the BBC are all top notch. The Wall Street Journal is usually excellent, except when it’s not. Why these news organizations? They’re all very light on the fluff, very good about corrections, typically very well edited, and properly researched.

In the tech space, I don’t get to enjoy the work of others nearly as often as I like. When I do, I tend to read the hardcore tech news, and not the speculation, gossip, cheerleading cycle that’s out there chasing after mainstream readers. There’s none I read on a daily basis, but it would be rare for me not to have read some AllThingsD, Tested, BoingBoing, and The Register over the course of the week.

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?

Most of my work is done in Windows, and most of my reading in Chrome.  I don’t like reading on my iPad, frankly. I strongly prefer the Kindle, although I am happiest with Kindle Reader on a PC. I read Barron’s weekly, in print. It’s the only paper I still read, part of a Saturday ritual.

I’ll read on an iPhone or Android phone, but I won’t savor it. It’s better than nothing, but not a great experience for me.

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

The last great article I read was this piece [“The Research Bust,” in the Chronicle of Higher Education] about the broken system of higher ed in the United States.

Nate Anderson passed me the link. Really, our virtual office (and IRC channel) is where I find the best stuff, because we have such a diverse and well-read staff. I am a firm believer that the best stuff doesn’t show up on people-powered aggregators at scale. At least not yet. It still pays to just know people with a passion for knowledge.

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

I wish there was an aggregation website out there that somehow could filter out the claptrap that currently dominates them, while still having plenty of content. The closest destinations I know of fitting that bill today would be specific sub-reddits on niche topics. Claptrap can be fun, but it’s usually also sloppy, and more often than not, irrelevant. It’s a crying shame when that stuff takes up mental bandwidth and serious work sits unread.

Alongside this, I’m ready to throw in the towel on RSS. More convenient than reading the web, it’s also completely overwhelming and frustrating to work with. No one seems to mind, either. The state of RSS readers is one of stasis.

Getting the News — Anil Dash

(This post is the fifth 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 interviewed Anil Dash, founder of Expert Labs, co-founder of Activate, and publisher of dashes.com. Anil is a social media master, constantly looking for new solutions to global problems through media interaction. He’s both hilarious and thoughtful at his Twitter account, @anildash. He’s also an adviser to several startups and a United Nations Social Media Envoy. With all of this experience and insight, why wouldn’t we want to know how he reads the news?

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

I have a fairly baroque set of news-gathering rituals, most of which formed in the early days of blogging, especially when I used to maintain a link blog. These days the newest parts of my reading habit are that I check my Twitter and Facebook streams (of course), then go into Stellar.io, which is a site my friend Jason Kottke (of kottke.org) made, which tracks what content my friends have favorited across Twitter, Flickr, Vimeo, YouTube and other sites.

I also go into ThinkUp, the open-source app that our team at Expert Labs leads the development of, and it has a view that shows me links posted by my friends on Twitter. Finally, I check out things I meant to catch up on that I’ve saved in Readability to revisit later. I also get a lot of stuff emailed to me or sent by friends via instant messenger or direct messages throughout the day.

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

These days, my affinity is more for sources of curation than for particular publications, but I trust friends like Jason Kottke’s kottke.org or John Gruber’s Daring Fireball or Andy Baio’s Waxy.org to curate a lot of what I’m interested in. I tend to check Google Reader infrequently these days, and always love diving in to the Ask MetaFilter Q&A section of MetaFilter. Each of those is a daily visit, and it’s telling that most of those have been around for a decade.

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?

I read a *lot* on my iPhone, which is why I’m so gung-ho on Readability. I almost never read print anymore, which is amazing because I remember when I started my first company I would constantly be going to the newsstand because I read two or more magazines every day, along with the newspaper. I of course am reading in the browser all day every day, and try to consume as much as I have time for, and I do own an iPad, but that’s mostly just used to check in on Mixel and Words with Friends before I go to sleep.

I hate, hate, hate television news. Hate it. I stopped watching it entirely after 9/11 and hadn’t turned it back on for more than a year after that for any reason. Even now it makes me frustrated and angry and annoyed, even just in the short doses I get when I’m passing through an airport or whatever. I think it’s generally irresponsible and destructive to society.

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

This is a *wonderful* question! It’s hard for me to say what the last great article was that I read — I see so many! But I can pick an example, Jamie Zawinski’s rant about venture capitalists and his words being used to justify overwork.

I know jwz a little bit, but mostly know him through having read his blog and LiveJournal for more than a decade. When this piece came out, I felt like I saw it everywhere at once — on Facebook and Twitter (and thus Stellar) immediately from a number of my friends, via IM and DM from people who knew it’d be of interest to me, in my Google Reader from people sharing it, on TechMeme for the rare times I check that site, and linked in several other blog posts. I am still very biased towards getting information through the filter of blogs I trust, so the sudden pervasiveness of that piece really exemplified how great personal blogs can have outsized impact.

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

There is still so much to do. I think almost every major news site is dropping the ball on community, allowing all kinds of misbehavior and animosity in their comments while doing little or nothing to encourage the formation of real communities of interest. In blogs, I see a lot of stagnation and complacency as formerly great bloggers pour their ideas into abbreviated messages on social networks that they don’t own, instead of investing in creating content that will have a long, meaningful life which inspires conversations.

The tools are still primitive — we don’t enable sharing by default in contexts where it *could* be useful. While I love (and happily paid for) Pinboard, I also like the Delicious model where sharing bookmarks is something social. I think the transition of many users from Flickr to Instagram is costing us a lot in terms of a shared and relatively open context for connecting around photos. At the same time, mislabeled efforts like Facebook’s “frictionless sharing” (which actually *adds* a lot of friction to sharing) are complicating the simple experience of sharing web links, by polluting it with the installation of unnecessary apps. That’s going to yield terrible long-term effects on the willingness and interest that people have in exploring new content on the web.

In short, the tools need to be more social, but in an authentic and open, uncontrolled way. We’ve traded gatekeepers that sell us irresponsible news (like broadcast TV news) for gatekeepers that sell us to advertisers while allowing community to degenerate to the lowest common denominator (as with Facebook or YouTube). I think there can be a better way, and I’m hoping News.me and others play a part in it.

Getting the News — Jeff Sonderman

(This post is the fourth 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, our interviewee is Jeff Sonderman, Digital Media Fellow at the Poynter Institute. Jeff blogs and trains journalists about using social media and mobile technology for better journalism. He has worked as a reporter and editor at print newspapers and as a community engagement specialist and editor in online local news. Jeff’s always got his ear to the ground looking for the latest innovations in news. We pinned him down for a few minutes to ask him how he stays informed.

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

I grab my iPad pretty much as soon as I wake up to start catching up on the news through a handful of apps, RSS feeds and websites.

Over breakfast I usually turn the TV on to ESPN or "Morning Joe" on MSNBC, depending on whether sports or national news seems most interesting that day. 

After breakfast, I switch over to my MacBook Pro in my home office and start checking e-mail alerts and newsletters. All day I have Facebook and Twitter clients loaded in browser tabs that I check frequently. During the day I’m mostly prowling for work-related news stories and blog posts I might write about for Poynter. I’ll often use Instapaper or extra browser tabs to save the stories of personal interest so I can read them later.

Later in the day I’ll return to the iPad and read more casual or personally interesting stories. I’ll often watch a recorded version of “The Daily Show” and might check in on a cable news show briefly in the evening, to see if anything huge broke since I tuned out at work.

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

Maybe I’m in a small minority here, but I still use RSS for a lot of things. There are a few news blogs or writers who I follow directly by subscribing to their RSS feeds — GigaOM, Mashable, TechCrunch, paidContent, Nieman Lab, plus a lot of official company blogs and some smaller sites or personal blogs of really smart journalism and tech people. I also subscribe to a lot of local community bloggers like ARLnow and Clarendon Culture that keep me up to date on everything happening where I live.

But RSS isn’t just for following websites. I also use feeds from Google Alerts, Delicious tags and Twitter searches to pull in more obscure things that I wouldn’t normally see.

There are a few websites I still visit directly once in a while just to see what’s going on there — NYTimes.com, Reddit, All Things D, Forbes. Obviously, I read everything on Poynter.org.

Other than using RSS and visiting a few staple sites, much of my news I discover through other filters — iPad apps that aggregate news and recommend stories I’ll like, links posted to Twitter or Facebook, or services like The Tweeted Times that analyze my social networks and summarize what my friends are sharing.

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?

I don’t subscribe to any printed newspapers or magazines. I do read some of those sources digitally, but in most cases printed news seems inadequate — less timely. interactive and sharable than digital, and lacking links to source information or further context.

While I’m working I end up reading a lot of articles on my laptop screen, but whenever I have the option I read articles and e-books on my iPad. It’s just a much more comfortable, portable and distraction-free reading experience.

I find I don’t actually spend much time getting news on my Android smartphone, but before I had an iPad I did use my phone a lot more for reading and news browsing on the go.

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

I don’t recall a specific article, but I’d say 9 times out of 10 if I find a “great” article it’s through Twitter or Facebook. My other feeds and filters are good at finding a lot of relevant and interesting stuff, but social networks seem to set a higher bar. An actual person who I follow has to read the article first and decide it’s impressive enough to share — that’s a pretty strong signal to me that it’s worth looking at.

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

Two things come to mind. One is that our news system largely lacks an awareness of what I’ve already read, or what I already know, on a subject. Unlike a newspaper or magazine that has to be printed once for mass distribution, digital news can and should be more flexible. Each person should see a report tailored to their interests and knowledge, instead of reading the exact same thing everyone else gets.

The second thing I find missing are measures of quality and style of an article. In many ways it’s a great thing that anyone can publish content online, but it also means we need much better filters to find the content we want. Right now many sites and services match content to my interests by topic, but in the future we’ll need automated measures of how well written, original or authoritative one post is compared to another.

Getting the News — Anthony De Rosa

(This post is the third 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, our interviewee is Anthony De Rosa, social media editor for Reuters and founder of the extremely popular tumblog Soup. We were following Anthony’s tweets closely on Oct. 20, when Moammar Gaddafi was overthrown and killed, and subsequently wrote an overview of how the news broke that day. He did an incredible job of using the medium to get the news out, and we wanted to know more about how he stays informed.

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

First thing I check is Twitter. I scan it to see what I might have missed overnight and what is breaking in the morning. On the train into work I’ll catch up on articles I Instapaper’d and when I get into work I’ll scan our Reuters wire for news that’s starting to come in early. Muckrack is the best email newsletter I get, and it’s a good rundown of what’s happening early on in the day.
 
What publications or news sources do you read and trust? How frequently do you visit them throughout the day?

Aside from our own Reuters news, I’ll go and read The Atlantic which does a good job at gathering what I need to know from all over, I’ll scan the Wall Street Journal, the New York Times, the Washington Post, the Guardian, Al-Jazeera, BBC, CNN, and niche sites like Politico, SB Nation, Mets Blog, All Things Digital, and Gawker’s network of sites (in particular Gizmodo and the main Gawker). I have a RSS reader filled with these sites and more, but I tend to go directly to them. My RSS reader helps me find what I might have missed or a site I might forget to check. I like to read sites across the political spectrum to challenge myself. I don’t like to get into an ideological rut and want to be informed about what all sides are saying. I visit the big sites, the first seven I mentioned, several times a day, especially to see how they’re all reporting a big story.

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?

At work I’m on my desktop all day, but at home I tend to use my iPad and prefer to take that with me on the road as well. I’d say a majority of the longer form reading I do now is on the iPad. I don’t have enough time in the working hours to spend reading long pieces but I will read them later on the iPad, either at home or on the train.

On the weekend, I like to read a real physical newspaper, I like to sit on the couch, grab a coffee and relax and spread the newspaper out and read it. That’s the only two days, other than the amNY or Metro I read on the train sometimes, where I’ll dig into a paper newspaper. I watch a lot of television news. Tends to be CNN but I’ll sometimes see what MSNBC, Fox News or Current TV has on. I watch all the political shows on Sunday along with Howard Kurtz on “Reliable Sources.” If I’m not around or busy I DVR them and watch later.

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

The last great article I read was a great scoop by one of our journalists, Jim Finkle, about how the NSA is helping banks fight hackers. I am aware of what our journalists are working on ahead of time, so I had a heads up.

If you want something from a non-Reuters journalist, I really enjoyed David Carr’s piece [in the New York Times] on how executives at media organizations are making obscene amounts of money and it’s hurting the ability to staff great journalists in the newsroom. I found out about it from Twitter, from someone I follow who saw David’s piece and sent it into my feed.

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

I wish Twitter was able to package all the great bits of information and present it in a more narrative format. I think Storify is helping to do that, and it would be cool to see them partner up and allow Twitter users to create more fully formed stories using social media in that way.

I also wish there were better live-blogging tools available. Some of them are pretty good, but they’re missing an element that allows me to quickly and easily grab the media I want to use or the formatting of the live blog is just not as sharp as I’d like.

Getting the News — Khoi Vinh

(This post is the second 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’re pleased to feature Khoi Vinh (@khoi), former design director at NYTimes.com, blogger at Subtraction.com and co-founder of Mixel. Mixel is the world’s first social collage app, designed to connect people through media in a totally new (and fun!) way. Given his expertise on the intersection between social media and design, we thought we’d ask him about his news habits.

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

I’m a dedicated Google Reader user. I start off in the morning checking my favorite feeds on GR using the awesome Reeder app for iPad. Over the course of the day I read GR directly in the browser. I’ll also graze Twitter frequently, and pick up the items that I find interesting as they arise. In the evening I will skim NYTimes.com. I don’t visit a lot of news sites.

I also listen to NPR every morning, and get the majority of my general news from there.

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

NYTimes.com is pretty much the only one destination site that I return to regularly, and then usually only in the morning or the evening. The rest of my news consumption is a combination of professional reading — TechCrunch, All Things D, Hacker News, etc. — and recreational reading on topics I enjoy, like film, art, sports, comics, etc.

What platforms do you read/get content on?

iPad, iPhone, podcasts, desktop browsers. Email alerts for a few key topics that I want to stay on top of, but no mobile alerts or anything.

Are you into reading content on your iPhone or tablet, or do you still remember how to unfold a newspaper?

I used to read the paper when I was working at The New York Times, and I genuinely enjoyed it, but when I left I realized I didn’t have to do that any more and found that I don’t really miss it.

Do you ever watch television news programs?

Never. We don’t have cable at home, but even if we did, I find the news networks — Fox News obviously, but CNN as well, to be unbearably phony.

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

The best articles I read are almost always from The New York Times. The rest of the stuff I consume is just informational; the Times offers insight.

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

I wish I had a mobile solution that went beyond just peppering me with updates. I would like to keep up with some key stories without being constantly interrupted with alerts. I don’t feel that I need to be connected to a story nonstop, but at the same time I would like to be able to check in to a news story from time to time while on the road. None of the mobile apps right now make that easy.