For better or for worse, one of the most effective ways to learn a lot about someone in a quick matter of time these days might be to pose the question shown above.
I remember at my first Onward State meeting Davis had everyone introduce themselves by answering a short list of questions. It went something like: Name, Year, Major, Hometown, Job Title within OS, and Favorite Website.
I typically hate these ice breaker type of exercises. No one takes them too seriously and most don’t even remember what people say, but the last category was intriguing to me. I had never been asked that one before.
Unfortunately, I think I responded with something lame, probably “Twitter.” I love Twitter, but we all love Twitter. We might not all love Facebook, but most of us have those two social media websites open whenever they’re at a computer for a sustained period of time.
We all keep tabs up for Twitter, Facebook, Gmail, some service that plays music, and whatever sites we play fantasy sports through. What else do you do?
In my mind, Twitter serves as a way for news and information to be delivered to us on a silver platter. If I see the New York Times, Washington Post, Boston Globe, or some other outlet tweet a link to some feature I find interesting, click. While what I just mentioned is a somewhat regular exercise of mine, I don’t constantly reserve a precious tab for those sites.
There’s news like that where it’s brought to us, and then there’s news that we proactively seek. We make it a point to visit particular websites as part of our daily routine and spend some time once we get there, reading more than just one piece of content.
This past Thanksgiving, I was trying to explain my news consumption habits to my aunt who I see maybe once a year. “That’s lazy,” she said to me after I went over the basics. “I still read the newspaper.”
Now, my aunt is a pretty brilliant woman who works as an accountant in New York City, and the newspaper that she was specifically referring to is The Wall Street Journal so safe to say she’s getting some quality stuff. Her “that’s lazy” line, however, doesn’t hold much water.
At least not in my eyes when it comes to younger, more Internet savvy news consumers. If anything, I think it’s more efficient. I often feel like there’s too much information on the Internet. We need a way to filter it, otherwise you never get anything done and wander into a sea of mindless reading. No one wants that.
The screenshot above is what my tabs usually look like within five minutes of firing up the Internet. Gmail is the only thing not pictured. The tabs obviously increase from there, but it’s a good, not too messy nor overwhelming start.
Below is a list of the websites I most frequently visit — In other words, How I Internet:
Onward State — So this one is pretty obviously since I worked for the site for two years. Onward State gives you fresh Penn State news, features, and sports every day in an engaging student voice. One day they break the story about the next Penn State president and 72 hours later publish a hilarious video series. That’s how we roll.
Birds 24/7 — This blog is affiliated with Philadelphia Magazine and my personal favorite place to get my Eagles news. The reporters who cover the Eagles are all generally pretty good, but Sheil Kapadia and Tim McManus easily do the best job. They’re everything you want in a beat writer as a fan — Online savvy, not arrogant, respond to questions on Twitter. They have the perfect mix of news, features, statistical analysis, and All-22 film studies. They break news, but they’re not afraid to credit reports if someone gets it before them. College football All-22 breakdowns haven’t completely caught on yet as far as media goes, but I think it’s only a matter of time with sports becoming more visual.
I never found the time to attempt one when I covered Penn State, and it likely would have been a big work in progress, but Birds 24/7 is what I tried to model Onward State’s football coverage after during my time on the beat.
Quick aside: Last summer when I returned home, they posted that they were looking for an intern. I fired off a resume and cover letter as fast as I could. About an hour later, a Philly Mag editor responded to my email with something along the lines of You seem very qualified but unfortunately only current students are eligible for this, not recent graduates. I will keep your resume on file for the future.
Damn. If I was a student at Drexel, Temple, St. Joe’s, etc, I would have been all over that.
Deadspin: What an amazing website. I love Deadspin. They do everything in terms of sports news from viral GIFs to compelling features, to holding mainstream experts and pundits accountable for their work. Deadspin is the site you wish you had thought of to create a decade ago but didn’t. I feel like a lot of places have tried to recreate the idea of Deadspin, but they can’t pull it off because there’s only one Deadspin.
FiveThirtyEight: I love Nate Silver’s site under ESPN ownership. Obviously I’m drawn to the sports articles,, specifically Neil Payne’s baseball content, but I try to read their politics and economics analysis too. If I’m being honest, the site occasionally makes me feel stupid. Some of the data and methods they used to collect it will go over my head, but that doesn’t stop me from trying to understand. If I was smart enough, I would try to produce similar stuff that they do on a regular basis.
Crossing Broad — Crossing Broad is branded as “Philly’s most irreverent sports blog.” Full disclosure: I was one of the blog’s early readers before it started to grow into what it is today. I once won NFL Draft tickets through a random contest on the site and have become Internet friends with Kyle Scott. He has his share of haters, but I’ve found that most people who dislike the site can’t really provide a concrete reason as to why. He definitely pushes some boundaries, and I don’t agree with all of his takes, but more often that not, he’s right. His trolling of Flyers beat writers is always on point.
FanGraphs — In this day and age, it’s tough to hold your own in a baseball conversation without acknowledging sabermetrics. I didn’t hop aboard the sabermetric train as early as some others and have some good friends who know more than I do, but it’s a vast, interesting world when you dive into it. Anyone who writes about baseball should know basic stuff such as WAR, FIP, and BABIP.
Arguments that center around traditional vs. advanced statistics in sports can be unbearable. Ultimately there’s room for both, and I think reporters have a point that they should use the access they’re afforded to ask questions as opposed to just relying on numbers. You’re not going to stick a chart of random data in a newspaper or the digital equivalent of one and call it a day, There’s still value in a traditional approach, but for too long, people heard the 4-syllable word “sabermetrics” and thought it was some scary term. Then, Moneyball came out and made some more people aware. You don’t have to hug and kiss the concept, but blatantly dismissing it at this point is a big mistake and just comes off as way out of touch.
A few more Penn State related sites:
Black Shoe Diaries — Black Shoe Diaries is Penn State’s SB Nation site. My two biggest haters write for the site in addition to a few good friends friends. There are times when I think some of BSD could do a better job embracing community management and less of a “you need me more than I need you, commenters suck and shouldn’t be allowed on the Internet” attitude.
Now, the past two and a half years have obviously been a volatile time for the Penn State fanbase and some opinions can be — for lack of a better adjective — crazy. I just think when SB Nation blogs as a whole are branded right on the front page as “a [insert team here] community,” they could be a little more patient. My slight bias aside though, it’s a good site for news on Penn State sports.
The Daily Collegian — So Onward State technically competes against the Collegian for news and readership, but we have vastly different approaches when it comes to social media and delivering content. This USA Today feature expands on this more. All that aside, I’m good friends with a number of people who either have written for the Collegian in the past or currently write for the paper. My friends do good work, and I make sure to check it out.
The School Philly — I probably read The School Philly more for their Philadelphia sports opinions than Penn State stuff. Some Onward State writers and a few of their writers have gotten into it in the past, and I don’t agree with all of their views on student life at Penn State, but I’ve become friends with their creator, Andrew Porter, who does good work. Some of their content isn’t always my cup of tea, but they definitely have a solid Penn State following.
Honorable Mention: BuzzFeed, Huffington Post
Vox is a site that I would like to get into, but I haven’t explored it a ton yet since the launch, so I can’t comment too much there.
If you didn’t know me and just looked at this list sans descriptions, you could make the inference that I’m a big Eagles fan who went to Penn State and enjoys football, baseball, and data journalism. That doesn’t cover all of my interests, but it hits on most of them, especially the primary ones.
With that, I give you the floor. How do you Internet? What would your screenshot of tabs look like and does it accurately portray you as a person? Let me know in the comments!