A couple of days ago, an email arrived from longtime TGB reader and elderblogger Marion Vermazen, saying,
“I would love a blog post about which news shows you enjoy and watch regularly. Do you watch Fareed Zakaria?”
Marion did not convince me in her short note that what I watch and read is worth a blog post but then I realized that I'm curious about what news sources you use and it would be fun to compare notes.
Sort of - I'll show you mine if you show me yours.
To get Fareed Zakaria out of the way – I watched his Sunday TV show for several months after it began and enjoyed the guests he books. But the goal for me is always to cut down on news reading and watching time and since Mr. Zakaria is primarily concerned with foreign affairs, I stopped. I suppose if we get into another war (Iran?), I'll go back to watching him.
I organize most of my news consumption around my twin interests: aging and U.S. politics both of which, by their nature and my concern, also involve social issues.
My day begins with coffee at the computer, The New York Times, of course. It is the closest thing we have to a national newspaper and even with the myriad complaints that legitimately can be made about its reporting, it is still the best, most comprehensive and most fair, if not necessarily balanced, of the major papers, with some excellent beat reporters.
I glance at Washington Post headlines and occasionally read its opinion page, but the paper so often mixes opinion within news stories that I ignore most of it.
But let me get to Marion's exact question – what news do I watch (or not).
It has been years since I last tuned in any of the network evening news broadcasts. With the internet breaking news all day, they can't tell me anything new and they don't deal in opinion about the news so they have become irrelevant for me, a waste of time.
Mostly, I get hard news and facts from the internet, a variety of sources. I use television for perspective and context – that is, opinion and discussion.
I keep a small television set next to my desk in the living room and usually turn on MSNBC at about 4PM for Chris Matthews while I'm doing other things. There is a lot to argue against with Matthews but I like his enthusiasm for Washington politics and enjoy some of his regular pundits – Ron Reagan among them.
I stop what I'm doing to pay closer attention when there is an issue or guests I care about or I sometimes click over to Fox News because I keep telling myself I should listen to the opposition. But the presenters there are so deeply stupid and superficial that to stick around would rot my brain.
It needs to be noted that for cable television, west coast residents like me are second-class citizens. Chris Matthews opens his program every day by saying, “Good evening”, when it's only 4PM because it is 7PM where he is in Washington, D.C. (Actually, that 4PM show is a rebroadcast which originally airs at 2PM Pacific time, 5PM eastern.)
Other people I watch regularly or spotcheck during the week are Reverend Al Sharpton, Rachel Maddow and Lawrence O'Donnell – all on MSNBC. (Several months ago, I gave up CNN which I had watched only now and then anyway.)
I've gone off Maddow in the past month or two. Have you noticed that she drones on forever without getting to a point?
Whatever her topic, she finds it necessary to regurgitate everything she ever learned about it whether it applies to the current news or not and her rat-a-tat-tat delivery of irrelevant information exhausts me without providing useful insight. So I don't watch as often as I once did.
Al Sharpton is a – well, sharp, old pol. What he lacks in television presence he makes up in subtle and sometimes cunning political insights that many reporters don't take notice of. And Lawrence O'Donnell is smart, smart, smart. I particularly like his (as with Matthews) insider government knowledge from having worked as a Congressional aide.
As I mentioned above, I've given up on Zakaria and also on most Sunday political television not necessarily because I don't like it but I want more time away from both politics and aging and those Congress people they book mostly sit there and lie to us – amusing, but not when I'd rather be doing something else. And on the rare occasional anything beyond the party line is said, it is reported elsewhere.
However, I have a new news crush. Since September, Chris Hayes has been hosting Up on MSNBC on Saturday and Sunday mornings. He is young, engaging, compelling, whip smart and immensely likable.
Hayes, just 32 years old, is also editor-at-large for The Nation magazine and before being given his own show, frequently appeared on or substituted for Rachel Maddow, Lawrence O'Donnell, Ed Schultz and Keith Olbermann before he left MSNBC.
He is the freshest voice on news television right now, obviously curious about all things political with a broad and often deep knowledge of the topics he chooses. His guests range from the usual suspects to some surprises from outside the punditry business who have a different spin on politics and government.
At the end of each show, Chris and each of his guests tell us what they know now that they did not know a week ago. It's a fun idea but also useful in pinpointing what happened in the past few days that is more than noise and actually adds to our knowledge or understanding.
If you live on west coast, you have be dedicated to watch Chris Hayes' show live. It begins at 4AM on Saturdays and 5AM on Sundays. I wake early so I usually see a few minutes of Saturday and most of Sunday.
Or, if you have a DVR, you could record it. And you can watch full episodes online at the Up with Chris Hayes website.
Television is, however, the least of my news consumption. Most is print/internet where I have about 40 to 50 daily or weekly feeds and newsletters and a dozen Google Alerts.
If you think that's excessive, you're right and no, I don't keep up with them all and I've actually deleted a few in the past couple of weeks. Maybe I'll get it down to a manageable number soon.
Now it's your turn. What do you watch and where else do you get your news.
At The Elder Storytelling Place today, Johna Ferguson: Food in China