The Habits We Harbor

There's a little piece I'm looking forward to sharing with you. It's not ready yet, because it's got to be fact-checked. No matter how small the certifiable fact, this is a discipline I've always considered essential. It's innate to my journalism roots.

Ever seen "Bright Lights, Big City," with Michael J. Fox as fact-checker? I've been a fact-checker. Buy me a big drink, and I'll tell you about it. It's not as grim as one might think, and it's a small art we should never lose.

So, while I waited for a phone call from a source to certify a few facts before I filed anything with my name on it -- a diligence I acknowledge is my own professional quirk -- my mind started wandering. So I decided to write something else -- something about the media habits we harbor.

This also follows my 2009 year-end accounting, through which I got honest and retooled my personal media operations -- my communications, news and media dashboard, as it were.

We are awash in streams of small choices. Because we are media professionals and consumers, these choices have to do with how we produce, consume, and converge our media. Sometimes we  make decisions quickly and get on top of our game. Other times we delay out of habit.

Does my media world look like yours? Yours is probably a bit more consolidated, as I still haven't taken the time to cull my habits. My media hoopla looks like this:

I have a righteous print habit: New York Times to the doorstep, plus five magazine subscriptions. I am not alone. Other kindred digerati share this penchant in spades. (I know who you are.) But as I read what's on my lap throughout the day, I'm also taking in a fairly loaded RSS reader, an array of industry trades every day, and Internet radio streaming. The TV is often on, too.

I watch tons of TV and record more than I get to in a given week. Like most of you, I watch more online and on the road -- thanks to the advance of video distribution and also little things like Sling. Lots of news, miniseries, premium programming and all kinds of strange pleasures, from "Gossip Girl" to "Drunk History" on Funny or Die.

My iPhone bugs me, badly. I felt tricked into getting it. My long fingers and I miss the clear clickity-click of my BlackBerry. But I wouldn't trade the slick application situation of the iPhone for anything. However, the iPhone's multitasking mantra is total mythology, at least in New York, where it barely makes phone calls or sends email in Midtown. At least one day a week, it outright hinders my ability to do business. I crack up when I receive an email that says, "Your AT&T Mobility Bill is Ready." Mobility? In a word: Nope. But, you can update your Facebook status or unleash Tweetdeck any old time you wish.

In addition to the 2009 "communications & media" accounting waking me up, a beloved house guest bought me a supreme television. In the process of setting up this surprise, he saw all my wiring -- across DVR, wireless routers, speakers, Slingbox, modems, DVD and all my computer stuff. Let's just say I called a timeout. Now, I'm in the process of catching my convergence up.

Columbia Journalism Review, The New Yorker and SPIN stay. But, New York Times goes to Saturday and Sunday only; I've got the Reader at my fingertips. My 212 landline: toast as of tomorrow. But, new HD cables and Blu-ray stuff is showing up. And, other boxes go away. Meanwhile, I continue my love-hate relationship with the iPhone.

If not dropped entirely, some media habits can migrate and modernize to better versions of themselves. Some habits will never die. While waiting for my source phone call, and writing this light piece, I couldn't not check the spelling and capitalization of "Blu-ray." And, I determined that it was better to link to Wikipedia than IMDB on the "Bright Lights, Big City" reference, as only the former accurately indicated that Michael J. Fox didn't just work at a magazine -- he was a fact-checker.



7 comments about "The Habits We Harbor".
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  1. Rich Moore from Allison+Partners, April 19, 2010 at 12:21 p.m.

    I concur with you on so much here. But despite all I now consume online I just can't imagine not picking up The New York Times each morning at the end of my driveway. I pray every morning starts that way, plus a cup of coffee, forever!

  2. Mike Einstein from the Brothers Einstein, April 19, 2010 at 12:58 p.m.

    Nice article, Kendall, but you shouldn't lump the newpaper in with the other habits we harbor.

    Slowing down with a newspaper, for me, is more a meaninful ritual than a mere habit. I've been starting my mornings with a newpaper and coffee for longer than I care to admit. And it has nothing to do with the news. In fact, I take a suburban edition of the Chicago Tribune and I don't even get the previous night's late scores. It much more about beginning my day on my terms.

    And you know what? I even find myself looking at the ads. Go figure.

  3. Ken Novak from Sagence Group, April 19, 2010 at 1:04 p.m.

    I don't know about the movie, but in the book, he fact-checked for The New Yorker, which is not as punctilious as it once was, judging from the "igon value" affair.

  4. Kendall Allen Rockwell from WIT Strategy, April 19, 2010 at 1:05 p.m.

    Agreed, Mike. The nuance here for me is that the robe, doorstep, paper habit was/is most complete and satisfying on the weekends. There will never not be a paper on my doorstep, just a matter of how many days.

  5. Jean Renard from TRM Inc., April 19, 2010 at 2:19 p.m.

    Media consumption is more and more about easy access and less about actual merit. The presumption is that what is popular and gets higher visibility in the marketplace and online is the most correct.

    The difficulty with online anything and fact checking in general and wikipedia specifically is that what is believed to be so by the majority ends up as facts and online spin exists more than anyone thinks.

    The assumption is that newspapers do fact checking so what you consume is at least more accurate, but increasingly I find the common beliefs echoed and many of those are flat out wrong. In Texas soon there will be a new generation of students that will not know easily of Thomas Jefferson or of Einstein's beliefs. Because Texas purchases more textbooks and publishers will not create 50 versions of them for each state, the changes will be reflected nationally. Soon it will not matter what media you consume, it will all be the same.

  6. Phillip Djwa from Agentic Communications Inc., April 19, 2010 at 3:45 p.m.

    Love your articles, and this one makes me think about what the best way is for my own media consumption. One thing I've been trying to think about is also reaching for some reading that isn't in my domain. This year I'm trying to be more creative, so maybe some magazines or some regular reading completely outside media and tech. The other thing is that this week is "Digital Detox" week at Adbusters and the premise is also to acknowledge the impact all this media has on our lives. Somewhere in their is a balance we all need to find.

  7. Paula Lynn from Who Else Unlimited, April 19, 2010 at 3:52 p.m.

    Kendall, no wonder your articles are so full of information and wonderful insight. Fact Checking should be a mandatory course in every grade from kindergarten on.

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