As a political commentator, Laura Washington wants as much news as soon as it becomes available from as many different sources as possible. “In today’s news environment, you can’t depend on only one source,” Washington says. “Print, radio, TV, web, email—you have got to read it all.”
Washington starts her morning with her iPhone checking her email for news alerts and Twitter to see what’s come in overnight. At breakfast she moves onto the physical paper, scanning the Chicago Sun-Times, Chicago Tribune, and New York Times for interesting stories that aren’t necessarily breaking news and to see what the columnists are saying. “I like the physical feel of the paper and seeing the placement of stories—what’s on the front page; what’s next to what—tells me how my colleagues are thinking about the stories.”
After breakfast, Washington turns to her laptop to check the political blogosphere and then fans out to other websites from there. Key sources include: Politico, The Note, The Hill, Real Clear Politics, Romensko, Capital Fax, The Sixth Ward, Chicagoist, Progress Illinois, and Daily Whale. “Websites have become so attractive and accessible. It’s an efficient way to gather news: they have video, sound, good content, jazzy, sexy headlines. It’s like a smorgasbord. I never get enough of it.”
News directly from sources is also important to Washington. She reads press releases and other information from politicians to get their version of the story, and she believes that government agencies have become much more savvy—and effective—in their media relations.
Throughout the day, Washington continues to monitor her emails and check Twitter and Facebook. Twitter is an especially important source. “I get stuff on Twitter I don’t get anywhere else and I get stories sooner. Before the breaking news alert is out, the reporter has already tweeted the story.” Washington also tweets regularly under the name of @mediadervish. One challenge Washington faces: making sure that she is exposed to viewpoints different from her own. “Let’s face it, people follow you because they agree with you. I need to make sure I challenge myself to see the other side.” To that end, Washington regularly looks at conservative sites such as the Drudge Report, Illinois Policy Institute and Chicago Observer.
Washington also follows a number of weekly and monthly publications including Newstips, Defender, Windy City Times, Reader, Timeout, Chicago Magazine blogs, Crain’s Chicago Business and The New Yorker. WBEZ and WVON are frequent radio listens. Her day ends with TV news, where she favors ABC Channel 7 and NBC Channel 5. “There is no media more compelling when it comes to telling a story that can make you cry than TV. You just can’t get that on a small screen.”
Washington feels well informed about Chicago but says there is still a big gap when it comes to covering communities of color. “There’s very little out there covering stories in the black community and much reporting of these communities is ill-informed or misinformed. The establishment media try, but they have a different mission.”
Guilty pleasures: “I shop; I don’t buy much, but I love to window shop.”
By Valerie Denney