Note: This is an exercise I assign to students in my Digital Media Literacy course at Arizona State University. I ask them to keep a record of how they use media in a 24-hour stretch.
5:30 a.m.: Wake up and (I should not do this) check emails on my phone to see if there’s anything urgent. There never is. So far, anyway.
6:30am: At breakfast, after we watch the first few minutes of a morning TV news program, I browse a number of journalism websites including the home pages of the New York Times, Guardian, Wall Street Journal, Washington Post, and Japan Times. Because I care a lot about the technology scene, I look at several of the best tech sites, notably ArsTechnica. The other regular media check-in each day is the private Facebook group for my small town in Northern California; that group is the closest thing to news we’ll ever have in a town that’s too small to support a news organization and is almost never noticed by the bigger media organizations in our vicinity.
7 a.m.: At the desk after breakfast, I usually have several Zoom meetings.
9 a.m.: I launch TweetDeck in a web browser to see what’s up on Twitter. The people I follow there always send me to a variety of other sites, via links they post. Twitter isn’t a great spot for original content, but it’s superb (if you follow the right people) as a place where people will point you to articles, videos, etc. that help you understand the world.
I get more serious reading done at the desk, using my personal computer, than on my phone. Among the media organizations I’ve bookmarked are the Atlantic, which has become a must-read for coronavirus information. (It was sad to see that the billionaires who own the Atlantic felt it necessary to lay off roughly a sixth of the staff in May; if they can’t see this through, who can?)
9, 10, 11 a.m., 12, 1, 2, etc. p.m.: Like many others at this point, I spend several hours a day in my email, Slack channels, and other communications venues that are critical to my work. Those often lead me to other reading — research papers, news articles, and more. It never stops, and I will never reach the fabled “Inbox Zero.”
Several times a day I am in Zoom video meetings with colleagues, family, or friends. This is a major shift, and I suspect it may be longer-lasting than I’d originally imagined. Various family members gather each Sunday on video, and we’ve become closer than we were before. The vast improvements in these tools in recent years has made it possible, as has better Internet bandwidth that (so far) hasn’t failed during the pandemic.
3 p.m.: I write a fair amount each day, though not nearly as much as I did when I was a working journalist. Beyond emails, Slack, and other messaging applications that dominate work life, I spend way too much time posting on Twitter. I also write in my personal blog from time to time, and post about once a day — usually a photo — to Facebook.
I don’t listen to much music while I work. When I do it’s usually from my own collection of MP3s, ripped from my CD collection. I prefer instrumentals that aren’t musically challenging to accompany work, because otherwise I’d actively listen to the sounds, defeating the purpose of background music.
7 p.m.: We often watch videos in the evening — primarily films and TV programs via Netflix and Amazon Prime Video. At the moment we’re going through all five seasons (starting in the late 1970s) of the Muppet Show on Disney Plus. It is great.
9 p.m.: My main book reading is in the evening, on a Kindle. Currently I’m immersed in a near-future science-fiction novel (by someone I know) that will be released in a few weeks. I read about two books a week, fiction and nonfiction. Reading gives me a lot of satisfaction, and I wish I could do more.
How do I rate news outlets?
I give the news outlets I regularly follow an A score. That includes the New York Times, Guardian, Washington Post, Wall Street Journal (except the editorial pages), and several others. They are not perfect — far from it in every case — but they have practices that are visibly aimed at quality and integrity. And they (almost always) correct their errors.
Big Journalism often frustrates me. But I still rely on it.