What I Read: Dave Dederer

Presidents of the United States of America guitarist and singer Dave Dederer isn’t just a musician.

He’s also active in the business world. Dederer develops digital music projects for HP and oversees the Presidents’ business dealings. He calls himself “both a small business owner and a corporate soldier.”

Dederer’s reading list reflects his diverse interests. He’s regularly checking out NPR, local and national newspapers, magazines, tennis web sites, bike blogs, and novels.

So far, he’s still passing on Facebook and Twitter, neither of which he considers real news sources.

Here’s what Dederer told me about what he’s reading.

1. What are your favorite local news outlets? Why?

RIP, my all-time favorite local news source was Emmett Watson’s daily column in The P-I and The Seattle Times, in which he was forever championing his vision for Lesser Seattle.  We could use more Lesser Seattle these days.

I suppose I get most of my local news without realizing it, picking it up mixed in with the NPR programming on KUOW or KPLU.  I listen to the radio in the morning while shaving and such and I guess that’s where I find out about explosions and scandals and other must-know items, whether local or otherwise.

I tend to check in at seattletimes.com once a day to look at local news and local sports.  And I pick up The Stranger and the Seattle Weekly and give them each the three minutes they deserve once a week.  Got to stay au courant, you know.

2. What do you consider “must reads” every day? Must watch? Must hear?

The older I get the less I care about news in general.  If something truly important happens, I figure I’m going to hear about it.

That said, here are some things I look at absolutely every day:

  • nytimes.com‘s’ “most emailed” list — one or more of the articles is always worth reading; this is where I take the pulse of the nation, as it were, and stay up to date on national politics and opinion
  • digitalmusicnews.com‘s daily email newsletter — the most up-to-date oracle for my particular business sector
  • finance.yahoo.com — am I broke yet?
  • tennis.com home page — I took up tennis in earnest two years ago and I’m a pathetic, helpless addict

I end up listening to KUOW or KPLU every day at some point, and usually KING-FM, too, though not much news there, just actual music played by people with actual talent.

I never really thought about it before answering these questions, but I go WAY out of my way to tune into NPR, KBCS and KEXP for certain programs.  I listen to Car Talk and A Prairie Home Companion pretty much every week.  I love the funk and old school R&B on KBCS on Friday and Saturday nights, and I also like Tuesday night’s Americana Road Songs show and the transportive Hawaii Radio Connection Saturdays at noon.  My favorite KEXP program is also their longest-running: Saturday’s Positive Vibrations reggae show.

I don’t watch anything on a normal TV because we don’t have a TV.  On a good night, I get to watch All My Children on Hulu with my wife after our kids are asleep.

3. Do you consume news through: print, television, radio, laptop, smart phone, ipad, podcasts, other?


4. Do you use Facebook, LinkedIn, and/or Twitter for news and information?

No!  “About to board flight to Houston” and “OMG we just ordered 50 shots of Jagermeister” don’t count as news to me.

5. What online news sites or aggregators do you visit regularly?

nytimes.com, seattletimes.com, billboard.biz, tennis.com, cyclingnews.com,

6. Do you regularly visit any individual blogs for news, analysis and opinion?

I’m a bike commuter and I very much enjoy local legend Kent Peterson’s Kent’s Bike Blog: http://kentsbike.blogspot.com/

7. Have your news consumption habits changed in the last few years? If so, how?

I realize in answering these questions that my news reading has gone from nearly 100% print 5-6 years ago to 100% digital today.  I think the only things I still regularly read in print are The Economist, The New Yorker and Vanity Fair.

8. Do you read for fun? If so, what? Last novel you read? Non-fiction book?

Yes, every day. This just in, kids, reading is FUN!

I read lots and lots of magazines.  More and more I read them or their equivalents online.  Disturbingly, often on my Palm Pre or iPod Touch while sitting in bed.

I just finished reading the galleys for my sister Claire Dederer’s forthcoming book, Poser: My Life in Twenty-Three Yoga Poses, due from Farrar, Straus and Giroux in a couple of months.  It’s a fine memoir — a memoir’s a risky proposition, especially when all the principals are still alive, as they are in this case — and I’m so proud of her.

My undergraduate degree is in American and English Literature.  I read almost nothing but novels from about age 12 until I finished my B.A.at 22.  I don’t believe I’ve read one since.  Wait a second, I take that back — at my mother’s recommendation, I recently read Somerset Maugham’s The Razor’s Edge, which I very much enjoyed.  But it didn’t make me want to read more novels and, in fact, reminded me in its greatness of just how bad most novels are.

Most of my reading focuses on figuring out how to get really good at whatever sport I’m currently obsessed with and/or how to be less of an asshole.  My recent tennis addiction has me reading and re-reading Winning Ugly by Brad Gilbert, Think To Win by Dr. Allen Fox, Open by Andrew Agassi, Hardcourt Confidential by Patrick McEnroe, etc., etc, etc. ad nauseam, except not to me and I can’t seem to find enough tennis books to feed my appetite.  On the asshole front, I lean toward the Zen approach and I’m currently re-reading Eckhart Tolle’s The Power of Now and A New Earth.  Not sure if it’s working, but I keep reading regardless.


Burbank juggles TBTL podcast with life back on commercial radio

Just when Luke Burbank thought he’d left mainstream radio behind for good, KIRO came calling.

Burbank, known for his The Too Beautiful To Live podcast, signed on last week to join Dave Ross as co-host of KIRO’s mid-morning news and talk program.

While Burbank didn’t plan out his move back to commercial radio, he’s discovering he relishes the opportunity.

“It’s pretty cool having my mom and girlfriend listen to me on the radio each day again,” Burbank said. “I’m enjoying it more than I thought.”

Burbank was first approached by KIRO in September. At the time, he was happily riding the rising popularity of his podcast, which is known to listeners as TBTL. Since KIRO canceled his show by the same name late last year, Burbank had been producing it on his own.

By this fall, TBTL was pulling in an impressive 1.7 million downloads each month. Burbank loved having control of his on-air future, and figured he’d never need to work for commercial radio again.

But KIRO’s station leaders had other plans. About six months ago, Burbank started calling into the Dave Ross show every Tuesday for a chat and update on TBTL. In September, KIRO called Burbank and said they thought the conversations were going so well, would Luke be interested in sitting in with Dave on the show on a trial basis?

Burbank didn’t know if the gig would be permanent, but he decided to give it a whirl. And just last week, he was offered the formal co-host position.

Burbank didn’t take the decision to move back to KIRO lightly. He didn’t want to compromise the rising success of TBTL. And he also didn’t want to put the fate of his career back in the fickle hands of commercial radio.

“I think I’d talked myself into believing there was no benefit to being on commercial radio,” Burbank said. “But that was also probably partly because no one was offering me a job.”

Burbank decided that he would join Ross, but he wouldn’t end TBTL. With advertisers now paying for spots on TBTL, the podcast has become its own self-sustaining enterprise. Burbank didn’t want to give that up.

“TBTL is my baby,” Burbank said.

To keep TBTL running, Burbank brought back Jen Andrews as a producer. She helped Burbank start the show at KIRO, but didn’t stay on once it became a podcast. With TBTL pulling in large audiences and such high profile guests as Adam Carolla, David Sedaris, Ben Gibbard, and Ira Glass, Burbank figures he can afford to pay a producer.

Even with Andrews on board, Burbank’s days are hectic. He’s at KIRO by 7 a.m. to plan the day’s show with Ross, and goes on the air from 9 a.m. to noon. In the afternoon, he records the TBTL podcast, either from KIRO’s studio or from his house. Burbank also juggles voice over gigs and a regular role on NPR’s “Wait Wait Don’t Tell Me.” His many roles means he’s now talking for a full four to six hours a day.

“My schedule is a little crazy right now,” Burbank said.

This marks the first time that Ross has taken on a permanent co-host since he began doing The Dave Ross Show in 1987. Ross said it’s inherently less natural to maintain a monologue alone in a studio, so he welcomes the new addition. Not only is Burbank smart and talented, Ross said, but he’s far younger and brings the perspective of another generation.

“It’s probably tougher on him because I make him explain his obscure cultural references,” Ross said. “I’m working on an iPhone app that can translate them in real time.”

Burbank, for his part, enjoys working with Ross. He finds his co-host “smart, flexible and level headed.” Burbank also commends Ross for not resorting to loud, fake outrage, as so many radio hosts tend to do.

“That kind of personality would be really hard for me,” Burbank said. “I really like Dave.”


Bill Radke back on Seattle airwaves

When Bill Radke returned to Seattle two weeks ago, he needed to hit the ground running.

Radke stepped into his new job as morning host on KIRO-FM at the height of election season. After six years working for NPR out of Los Angeles, he needed to catch up on Washington politics in a hurry.

He also needed to embrace 2 a.m. wake-ups, four-hour stints on the air, and Seattle-style rain.

“It’s a shock to the system after living in the San Fernando Valley for six years,” Radke said.

Drizzle and all, it’s been a welcome homecoming for Radke. He became a familiar voice for Seattleites during the 1990s, when he hosted NPR’s Morning Edition on KUOW. Radke also was known around town for his stand-up comedy work and humor column in the Seattle Post-Intelligencer.

Radke didn’t plan to return to Seattle this year. He enjoyed his gig with NPR’s Marketplace, and his wife felt equally satisfied with her job at a law firm. The couple and their three children were settled in a house in the sunny San Fernando Valley.

But when KIRO on-air talent Luke Burbank called Radke up with a tip that the station wanted a new morning co-host to join Linda Thomas, Radke began to seriously consider the idea. His parents live in Lacey and his seven siblings all still reside in the Seattle-area. Radke envisioned his children growing up around their cousins.

Radke even welcomed the chance to return to Northwest weather. He missed the lush, green landscape. He thought fondly of cozy days indoors, book in hand, with rain pounding down outside.

His wife, however, was a different story.

“I said, ‘I know you don’t like the rain, but what if we give it a shot?’” Radke said. “In the end, she was game.”

Radke also liked the idea of working for KIRO again. He’d listened to the station since high school and interned there at the beginning of his radio career. Radke knew and respected Linda Thomas, and looked forward to getting the chance to team up with her.

“Linda is warm, funny, and knows so much about this area,” Radke said.

Though Thomas has only known Radke for a couple of weeks, she’s gung ho on the partnership so far. She said he’s smart, can be both serious and funny, and doesn’t take himself too seriously.

“He’s exactly what I would want to listen to on the radio, so it’s going to be so much fun to do the show with him every morning,” Thomas said.

Thomas and Radke don’t plan a major overhaul of the show’s current events content, but the flavor and delivery may shift a bit. Radke wants to spend more time on feature stories, rather than just present the facts in a fast paced manner. Thomas said the team will continue trying to find unique stories someone won’t hear anywhere else.

In the past two weeks, Radke’s life has been a whirlwind of catching up on the Seattle scene and learning his new role. At Marketplace, he was on the air for just seven minutes at a time. At KIRO, he and Thomas control the airwaves for four hours straight.

Radke also must live with constant sleep deprivation. He’s at the studio each day between 2:30 and 3 a.m. He tries to catch a mid-day nap, and then picks up his three-year-old daughter and six-month-old twins. Oftentimes, Radke is in bed for the night before his wife or children.

But Radke is embracing his hectic life. He reasons he’s lucky to re-enter Seattle radio at the height of an exciting political season.

“I’m playing catch-up, but that’s part of the fun in this businss,” Radke said. “I’m always learning.”


What I Read: Nancy Leson

Nancy Leson is one serious reader.

The Seattle Times food columnist devours everything from the Wednesday food section of The New York Times to Seattle Weekly’s Voracious column to the daily print edition of The Seattle Times.

She’s also regularly listening to NPR, scrolling through news feeds on Twitter and Facebook, and surfing the web on her Macbook. Leson doesn’t own an iPad yet, but it’s on her wish list.

When she isn’t checking out food columns and other news, Leson is devouring novels, cookbooks, and nonfiction books. As one might expect of a writer and journalist, Leson is always reading.

Here are her thoughts on where she finds her news and entertainment:

1. What are your favorite local news outlets? Why?

I’m not only a Seattle Times columnist, I’m also a subscriber of 20 years longstanding, and I look forward to hearing the paper’s thump on my doorstep (if I’m lucky and the guy’s aim is good) at o’dark-thirty each morning. While I drink coffee and read the Seattle Times, my husband sips tea and reads the New York Times (ditto on the subscription, and the thump), which I regularly scour for great local news, like the swell story I read last week about the family that lives (who knew?) at the top of the Smith Tower. I’m also a big fan of our local NPR affiliates KPLU (jazz with Dick Stein, plus Terry Gross? nothin’ bettah!) and KUOW (national news and Marcie Sillman? dig that, too).

2. What do you consider “must reads” every day? Must watch? Must hear?

My Twitter feed: I “follow” a wide world of food writers, food folks and journalists, and I consider them my personal clipping service: they’re always good for the “gotta-read-it” links to all the news I need to know. Plus, I get lots of fodder for my blog from news that breaks on a variety of neighborhood blogs — which I also follow via Twitter. I don’t watch any TV (if you don’t count downloading Grey’s Anatomy via Netflix — dirty little secret!) and I try valiantly to ignore the sound of the anime channel my kid’s so fond of. I’m crazy for radio and think there’s nothing like it, and I can’t tell you how many times I have those “driveway moments” listening to one story or another on NPR (you know, where you’re so engrossed in a tale, it doesn’t matter that you’ve pulled into your driveway because you want to hear every last word of it). I much appreciate shows like “This American Life,” “Fresh Air,” “The Splendid Table” and other weekly and daily features, which I catch-as-catch-can.

3. Do you consume news through: print, television, radio, laptop, smart phone, ipad, podcasts, other?

I used to roll my eyes at people who always have their face stuck in a laptop or smart phone, but since I switched over to the Dark Side and hooked up with a new MacBook Pro and (be still my beating heart!) wireless access at home, I find myself consuming much more news electronically. I have an iPhone, but rarely read news on it and I’m jonesing for an iPad, big-time. At heart, though, I’m a print fiend, and subscribe to at least a dozen magazines (the great majority are food-related). I relish the crazy-long in-depth pieces in the New Yorker (and wish I had more time to read it), never miss the Wednesday food section in the New York Times, and always check out the competition’s food coverage at Seattle Weekly, Seattle Magazine and Seattle Metropolitan.

4. Do you use Facebook, LinkedIn, and/or Twitter for news and information?

Yes to Twitter (see above), and Facebook, which I’m relatively new to. I very much like the ease with which I can see video via Facebook, whether it’s the news clips I didn’t catch on TV (see: anime) or the funny stuff (Obama: the Musical? Dyin’ here.) I’m on LinkedIn, but rarely check it.

5. What online news sites or aggregators do you visit regularly?

I don’t visit many with regularity (The Seattle Times notwithstanding), but do occasionally check in to Serious Eats, Culinate and a few other food-oriented sites. Also: the journalism news-site Romenesko

6. Do you regularly visit any individual blogs for news, analysis and

Seattle Weekly’s Voracious blog for food news: they’ve got a hefty stable of writers, and offer a lot of posts on a variety of food- and drink-related news and opinion, though I could live without the sex-related food content. (“Huh?” you say. Exactly.)

7. Have your news consumption habits changed in the last few years? If so,

Most definitely: see laptop/wireless usage, above.

8. Do you read for fun? If so, what? Last novel you read? Non-fiction book?

Do I read for fun? Are you kidding? Yes. Always. But still not often enough. I have stacks of cookbooks and food-reference books on tables everywhere, and read them the way other people read novels. Speaking of which: the last novel I read (and it was fabulous) was “The Man in the Wooden Hat.” No relation to “The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, by the way. Non-fiction? I’m struggling through “Salt in our Blood: The Memoir of a Fisherman’s Wife.” OK, now ask me which book I recently read that I’d like to read again, immediately. That would be “The Help.” And which non-fiction book I’d suggest you read. That would be “The Last Days of Haute Cuisine,” by L.A.-based food writer Patric Kuh.


Onward to AOL

Heidi DietrichAfter nearly a year of working as a freelance journalist, blogger, and contract writer, I’m heading back to the world of full-time work.

Starting November 7th, I’ll be working for Patch, AOL’s new, ambitious nation-wide network of local news sites.

Like many of the best opportunities in life, I somewhat stumbled into this one. It took a phone interview with Seattle journalist Mike Lewis to turn me on to the possibility of working for AOL.

I first connected with Lewis earlier this year, when I wrote a Washington News Council blog item about his decision to buy the Streamline Tavern on Lower Queen Anne. The move from Seattle P-I columnist to bar owner wasn’t typical, and I was intrigued by how Lewis felt about the career shift.

During our conversation, Lewis told me about everything he embraced about life behind the bar, and also everything he missed about journalism.

Fast forward several months, and I found myself once again on the phone with Lewis. This time, I wanted to talk to him about his decision to take a job as regional editor for Patch.

As we discussed his reasoning for joining the AOL team, I became more and more intrigued by what the company was doing. AOL, I learned, planned to spend $100 million and hire 1,000 editors to build its nationwide Patch effort. The company was positioning itself to become one of the country’s largest employers of journalists.

In the Seattle area, AOL would be rolling out 24 local news sites. Lewis was brought on to oversee 12 South Seattle Patch local editors, plus a roving editor, sports editor, calendar editor and copy editor for the cluster. A still-to-be-hired second regional editor would oversee the same size team for North Seattle.

I found that I shared many of Lewis’ reasons for being interested in Patch. AOL is investing significant money and effort in the venture. Lewis compared the job so far to working for a fast moving tech start-up, with all the excitement and uncertainty of launching someone new. Lewis and I both agreed that the chance to be part of a massive journalism experiment, in a time when no one knows for sure where the industry is going, was intriguing.

When Lewis asked if I’d have any interest in a local editor job, I told him I did. I liked the fact that local editors were given the autonomy and independence to run their own site, manage their freelance writers, and decide what news content to post every day. I’ve never been an office person and love the freedom of making my own decisions. Patch would give me the chance to take a project and run with it.

While I’d be making a web site my own, I’d also have the perks of working for a big corporation. Weekly team meetings, an editor, a regular paycheck, and benefits. A sense of stability freelance journalism can never provide.

Late last week, while in Boston for the Head of the Charles regatta, I accepted AOL’s offer to become the local editor for the Patch Edmonds site. I chose Edmonds because I already know the community. I grew up in the neighboring city of Shoreline, have friends and relatives in Edmonds, and currently live in North Seattle. I love the passion and loyalty Edmonds residents feel for the waterfront community.

Since Patch remains a new and untested venture, I can’t yet predict what will happen with the sites. But I’m excited to be part of such an ambitious effort, and I’m glad to be part of the early development process.

I plan to continue to blog for the Washington News Council, so long as it doesn’t conflict with my work and coverage area at Patch. I enjoy keeping up on happenings in Seattle’s broader media world, and the WNC blog provides a great outlet for me to do so.

On November 7th, I’ll head down to San Francisco to join all of the west coast Patch team for a conference. I’m looking forward to finding out more about AOL’s plans for Patch, and to meeting all of my future colleagues.


New online publication The Seattle Lesbian hopes to fill news niche

The creators of Seattle’s first lesbian news site believe the city is long overdue for such a publication.

Last week, Kate West and Sarah Toce launched The Seattle Lesbian. Though Seattle already has more than one gay news outlet (Seattle Gay News and Seattlegayscene.com), West and Toce saw demand for a site aimed just at women.

Toce, The Seattle Lesbian’s editor-in-chief, already wrote for national lesbian publications when she and West started talking about a local site. When Toce contacted publicists about stories, they often asked her why there were no media outlets in Seattle to pitch to.

Toce and West’s lesbian friends, in turn, complained about local gay news sites not devoting enough ink to the lesbian community.

“There was definitely a void,” said West, who acts as executive editor for The Seattle Lesbian.

With The Seattle Lesbian, West and Toce plan to cover Seattle news, politics, celebrity gossip, and local lesbians of note. Toce, who already regularly writes about Hollywood’s gay stars, will continue to cover the beat for The Seattle Lesbian. West wants to feature local gay performers, singers, and writers.

“There’s no press being done on them,” West said.

The pair will also write about politics. This week, for instance, they’re attending rallies and news conferences for Patty Murray. They’ll cover issues and pen columns on topics important to lesbians.

“We want to be a voice for people who don’t have a voice,” Toce said.

Whether The Seattle Lesbian will become financially viable remains to be seen. Right now, West is keeping her other full-time job as a claims analyst for an insurance company. Toce, on the other hand, is devoting her attention entirely to the site. In addition to their own work, they are relying on Toce’s partner for the site’s photography and several local writers for regular columns. They’d like to be able to pay freelancers, but they aren’t there yet.

The two are just beginning to build their advertising base. Since they’ve launched the site last week, several organizations and companies interested in ad spots have contacted them, Toce said. They believe political organizations, such as Equal Rights Washington, and gay-friendly or gay-owned local businesses would be prime candidates for advertisers.

Toce and West say they are also receiving a steady stream of emails from local lesbians who welcome the site’s arrival.

“We’re getting quite a little fan base,” Toce said.


What I Read: Christine Chen

Seattleites came to know Christine Chen as a news anchor on KCPQ-13.

These days, she’s left her television career behind to run her own communications and public relations firm, Chen Communications. (Small disclosure: In the past I did website copy for a client of Chen Communications, but no longer work for them). Chen doesn’t miss her time in front of the camera, and instead relishes the fact that she’s now her own boss and can put her business smarts to work.

Though she no longer works as a journalist, Chen is no less up on the news. She’s a regular at online news sites, Twitter, blogs, and every other possible media outlet. Chen figures she needs to be current on communication trends if she wants to pass on the best advice to clients.

When not reading about current events, the devoted yogi can be found curled up with books on yoga instruction.

Here are Chen’s responses on what she’s reading:

1. What are your favorite local news outlets? Why?
My favorite local news outlets, as always, are ones that honor traditional fact-checking best practices and training to balance out the speed of today’s information gathering… ones that are thoughtful/contextual with their local coverage for their own specific audiences.  With the proliferation of many hyper-local news sites and twitter feeds for news consumption, trust/credibility remains paramount.  Listen/watch with an educated filter.  Who’s talking?  Why?  How?

2. What do you consider “must reads” every day? Must watch? Must hear?
Must read: 1) USA Today for efficient, mainstream roundup of stories-it’s so quick, 2) WSJ Marketplace – fantastic take on consumer-facing topics, 3) what my friends on Facebook are discussing, linking to, commenting on.. because I have many smart friends in/from the media world, and 4) Entertainment Weekly to clear my brain of all the news clutter.   I’ll admit it.  This is pure junk reading of the best kind.   It also works for some client work, as well. :)

3. Do you consume news through: print, television, radio, laptop, smart phone, ipad, podcasts, other?
Yes, yes, yes, yes, yes, yes, yes, yes +++  Build the mix that works for you!  Just listen carefully and use your Brain (capital B). Then, turn it off periodically to let it rest and have fresh perspective for a whole new round.

4. Do you use Facebook, LinkedIn, and/or Twitter for news and information?
Yes.  In so many different ways – for myself and for clients.  But, I think it’s important to make sure these tools don’t take over your full range of communication.  It’s still important to talk (really!) to people for information and look around for other perspectives.  Integrate!  I learn more, leverage more, share more, and grow more by connecting with the larger information ecosystem.

5. What online news sites or aggregators do you visit regularly?
This varies widely.  Usually, I’m searching for work-related/client topics I hear about through various people/channels.  Then, I follow the flow of the information. My info journey is different each day.

6. Do you regularly visit any individual blogs for news, analysis and opinion?
This varies widely – my time is usually spent gathering useful info for client work, so blog visitation usually depends on projects.  Right now, I’m working on two video game industry projects, so I’m reading “fan boi” and consumer electronics blogs a lot.  I’m also working with an international hospital, so…health blogs.

7. Have your news consumption habits changed in the last few years? If so, how?
For many years, my job was in local news as an aggregator, so I absorbed a ton of information across a range of topics, at rapid pace, aggregating/editing it for delivery to viewers.  Today, that same “habit” is more focused on specific news topics for clients.  There’s still rapid absorption, but the aggregation is used a little differently in the execution of projects.

8. Do you read for fun? If so, what? Last novel you read? Non-fiction book?
Currently, I’m training for yoga instruction, so I’m reading several yoga-related books simultaneously, such as: The Yoga Sutras of Patanjali (a Hindu scripture and foundational text of yoga ) and The Language of Yoga (learning actual sanskrit).  The last non-fiction book I read was What She’s Not Telling You (what women don’t say in focus groups and why it brings consumer marketing to its knees).  The last fictional book I read was a gift from my husband:  The Art of Racing in the Rain by Seattle author, Garth Stein.  The cover featured a golden retriever that looks just like my dog, but the dog in the book isn’t a golden retriever.  (Hmm…Marketing?)

What I Read: Ben Huh

By launching the popular I Can Has Cheezburger sites, tech entrepreneur Ben Huh made LOLcats and epic Fails household terms. All around the world, web surfers looking for a quick laugh visit the Cheezburger Network for photos of animals, people doing stupid things, misspelled signs, and other quirky topics.

But that doesn’t mean Huh, a former journalist, spends all of his time searching for comic inspiration. While Huh goes to a Cheezburger site, The Daily What, for pop culture news, he’s also a regular online visitor of news sites ranging from The New York Times to the Seattle tech news site TechFlash. And when he finally gets off the laptop, he can be found picking up a copy of The Economist.

Here’s what Ben Huh is reading:

1. What are your favorite local news outlets? Why?

Seattle P-I. I think their experiment and transformation into an online-only newspaper is fascinating to watch.

2. What do you consider “must reads” every day? Must watch? Must hear?

I read one of our sites, The Daily What (http://thedailywh.at), for all my Internet Culture news. After that, I read the NYT or whomever surfaces via Twitter.

3. Do you consume news through: print, television, radio, laptop, smart phone, ipad, podcasts, other?

Mostly via my iPhone and laptop.

4. Do you use Facebook, LinkedIn, and/or Twitter for news and information?

Twitter is the one I use the most.

5. What online news sites or aggregators do you visit regularly?

I visit Techmeme and TechFlash for my tech biz news. I visit The Daily What for Internet Culture and CNN and NYT for the main stream news.

6. Do you regularly visit any individual blogs for news, analysis and opinion?

No, it really depends on what’s being filtered to me.

7. Have your news consumption habits changed in the last few years? If so, how?

90% of all information is gathered via the Web. The remainder comes through analysis in magazines (The Economist and The Week).

8. Do you read for fun? If so, what? Last novel you read? Non-fiction book?
I don’t read for fun, per se. I do that enough online. :)


Mark Matassa on life in the mayor’s office

In the last year, Mark Matassa left journalism behind to steer Mayor Mike McGinn’s communications staff through controversial budget cuts, bike-friendly road policies, and tunnel debates.

And he’s done it all while fighting brain cancer.

Remarkably, Matassa expresses only optimism and gratitude for where he’s at. He’s embracing his hectic life, stress and all.

“I really love working for the mayor,” Matassa said. “I feel lucky to have landed here.”

Matassa didn’t set out to become McGinn’s director of communications. When the mayor’s office reached out to him last December, he’d been working as an editor at online news site Crosscut for only a few months. He’d been a reporter and editor at news outlets up and down the West Coast his entire life, and hadn’t given much thought to leaving journalism.

But out of pure curiosity, Matassa decided to take the invitation for an interview at the mayor’s office anyhow. Upon meeting with McGinn, Matassa instantly took a liking to the man, both for his values and his open, comfortable attitude.

“If Dino Rossi had called looking for a communcations director, I would not have taken the job,” Matassa said. “But I felt a political and personal connection with McGinn.”

Matassa also became intrigued by the idea of witnessing behind-the-scenes operations of city government for the first time. He’d covered politics throughout his journalism career, and wondered about the view from the other side.

Almost a full year later, Matassa isn’t sorry he took the leap away from journalism. For the first time in decades, he feels he can engage in political debate at a party. After years of trying to be objective, he’s happy to say that he feels McGinn’s budget is brilliant, agrees with the mayor’s anti-tunnel stance, and advocates for cycling and mass transit.

“I’ve found it really refreshing to come out and say what I think about stuff,” Matassa said.

Matassa won’t talk politics, however, in his own home. His longtime partner, Michelle Nicolosi, is the executive producer at Seattlepi.com. To counter any potential perceived bias in Seattlepi.com’s coverage of City Hall, Matassa and Nicolosi steer away from business and political discussions. Nicolosi, in turn, won’t work on or edit stories that involve the mayor’s office, and Matassa communicates with other reporters at Seattlepi.com.

While Matassa’s political gig marks a shift from the attempted objectivity of reporting to clear bias, he also finds similarities between City Hall and a newsroom. Both jobs carry equal pressure. In the news business, he hurried to meet deadlines, report stories accurately, and produce copy quickly. At the mayor’s office, his stresses come from managing relationships with various groups and people. Both types of pressure, Matassa has found, suit him well.

“I’m good under stress,” Matassa said. “I find the challenges in journalism and at the mayor’s office incredibly invigorating.”

Day to day, Matassa also finds his role as communications director not so different from being an editor. In both jobs, he spends significant time managing other people and sitting in meetings.

For Matassa, the challenge of adapting to a new career pales in comparison to his larger fight. Since 2006, he’s been battling brain cancer. He’s gone through two surgeries, chemotherapy, and radiation.

This summer, Matassa took two months off from his duties at the mayor’s office to undergo radiation therapy. He’s been back at the office for four weeks now, but struggles with fatigue. Matassa credits coworkers with filling in for him when needed.

“Everyone at the mayor’s office has been so cool and helpful,” Matassa said. “They’ve all pitched in.”

Even though he’s constantly tired, Matassa embraced his return to work. He loves being part of Seattle’s political scene, and he missed the action while on sick leave.

“I wake up happy,” Matassa said.


What I Read: Tom Douglas

Tom Douglas is a busy man. The Seattle celebrity chef runs seven restaurants, including the recently opened Seatown Snackbar near Pike Place Market. Douglas’ team is also building out new bread and pastry bakeries in South Lake Union.

Yet the time-pressed restauranteur still finds time for traditional news. Though Douglas dabbles in new technologies, he still prefers the good old fashioned print editions of the Seattle Times and New York Times. He leaves tweeting and blogging to one of his staff members, and while he bought an iPad, he almost never uses it.

Here are Douglas’ responses to my questions on what he’s reading.

What are your favorite local news outlets? Why?
For local, I go to MyNorthwest.com. I got in the habit because I was on the air on Saturday for KIRO for six years. It became the place I went to for local news. I left KIRO in April, but I still read MyNorthwest. I also watch KING-5 and NW Cable News when I can.

What do you consider “must reads” every day? Must watch? Must hear?
I get up every morning, go to the newspaper box, and get the Seattle Times and New York Times. I get up early just so I have time to read the paper with coffee.

Do you consume news through: print, television, radio, laptop, smart phone, ipad, podcasts, other?
I don’t use an iPhone, iPad, or laptop to surf the news. If I’m online, I use a desktop computer. I own an iPad but I never use it. I thought I’d read emails on it when walking between restaurants, but I never carry it with me.

Do you use Facebook, LinkedIn, and/or Twitter for news and information?
I don’t use Twitter or Facebook. I have a person on my staff who handles all of that and blogs for me.

What online news sites or aggregators do you visit regularly?

I like to visit Yahoo for the top stories of the day.

Do you regularly visit any individual blogs for news, analysis and opinion?

I visit the Serious Eats food blog once in a while. The founder is my pal and the co-writer on my second book. I’m rooting for him to succeed. I try not to read too much commentary online. I’m in a very social business, and I’ve found it’s better to not pay too much attention to the comments and chatter on City Search and Yelp.

Have your news consumption habits changed in the last few years? If so, how?
I miss getting the P-I. I miss having that alternative viewpoint. I am a big believer in newspapers.

Do you read for fun? If so, what? Last novel you read? Non-fiction book?
I listen to a ton of books. I tend to read nonfiction. I’ve been reading The Big Short by Michael Lewis and Outliers by Malcolm Gladwell. I also collect old books from antique book stores.