This week I reminded my students that if they are serious about getting a good job in writing or communications then they need to get serious about their media consumption. That means: a daily newspaper with an international focus, a weekly news magazine, and two to three high-quality monthly magazines. ‘But that doesn’t require you to read everything cover-to-cover’, I assured 22 horrified faces. Rather, a good media consumption strategy gives you the framework to dip in and out of the most important events in the world, and allows you to feel connected to ideas bigger than yourself. During interviews for the jobs that students with an English Studies degree will go into–marketing, journalism, PR, publishing, teaching, to name merely a few–the question of ‘how do you consume your media?’ is becoming an increasingly common starting point. And the response needs to be a bit more developed than ‘oh, I read Heat every Tuesday.’
It is advice that I give to students every year, but with the recent announcement that later this summer Google will be dropping Google Reader–their pleasingly functional and well-connected RSS reading platform–I began to think once again about how I consume my media. I will be the first to admit that my methods of media consumption have been, until recently, what might be called… shady. I’m of the generation of Napster and torrents, after all. I’m part of the first generation of people who had computers in their bedrooms as children, paving the way for a bit of illegal downloading beginning with the era of Sugar Ray and Savage Garden and moving onward. When a good friend of mine introduced me to the world of illegal .epub files for my Kindle, I was hooked. But putting aside all the economic and moral arguments against illegal file sharing–and I do have a profound respect for musicians and writers, and believe they are owed fair compensation for their work–I have my own personal reasons for recently taking my media consumption more seriously. And by that, I mean, exchanging cold, hard (digital) cash for the pleasure of consuming.