How Legendary Editor Tina Brown Consumes the News
Being inquisitive is not just her profession, it’s a way of life.
I’ve always been insatiably curious. Even as a child I would interrogate people to find out their stories. I suppose that’s one of the main reasons I became a journalist, as it gives you the excuse to ask people questions about their lives.
Switching up what you’re doing is a great way to stay engaged too. I’ve edited magazines, had a TV show, written books, and produced live events, but I hadn’t done much work with audio, so in November I launched a podcast [TBD with Tina Brown] with Wondery. I wanted to see if I could master this form. It’s fantastic to have a new outlet to dive into books, movies, and ideas and become a student of somebody’s life quickly. That keeps me on my toes.
I also like to start my day with an intense news buffet. I read the obvious ones, like The New York Times, The Washington Post, The Wall Street Journal, the New York Post. Then I’ll head to the international papers, such as The Guardian, the Daily Mail, the Evening Standard, and The Times of India, for a broader perspective. Then I’ll look at the various Twitter feeds I follow. It’s two hours of complete foraging.
But really I love learning, especially about politics, crime, and history. I’m very curious about what motivates people to commit a crime. For instance, the Golden State Killer, whose DNA was used to hunt him down more than 40 years after he attacked his victims, was a real obsession for me. As [the founding] editor in chief of The Daily Beast [circa 2008], I used to immerse myself in what I call “obsessional stories,” stories that readers literally couldn’t get enough of. Right now the Jeff Bezos divorce would be one. The murder of Saudi Arabian author and journalist Jamal Khashoggi would be another. I must have read 40 stories on that topic.
As time goes by, though, I find that I’m more intellectually curious and less interested in hacking my way through the ego jungle of celebrity achievers. If I could do anything, I would spend my time rotating through literary festivals. I would start with the Jaipur Literature Festival in India and then go on to the Hay festivals in Cartagena, Colombia, and in Wales, followed by the Cliveden Literary Festival outside London. I love listening to writers talk about their books. In the Trump era all I want is brain food as an antidote.
The key to staying curious is getting out of your comfort zone. Do something you haven’t done before. Go to a place you haven’t been before. I’m a fan of live events big and small, whether at libraries or festivals or in arenas like The Moth. My company, Tina Brown Live Media, produces the annual Women in the World summit and multiple smaller salons. There’s a ton of incredible content out there. The important thing is to get off your screens and go out to hear and see captivating speakers who can expose you to something you didn’t know. Get engaged. That kind of connection feels good. It broadens your mind and your spirit. That’s the best way to be human. — As-told-to Sarah Cristobal
For more stories like this, pick up the March issue of InStyle, available on newsstands, on Amazon, and for digital download Feb. 15.