Information Diet: Rev. Al Sharpton

The MSNBC talk show loves Twitter but not conservative content

Age 58

Accomplishments Host of MSNBC's PoliticsNation (nightly at 6 p.m.) and afternoon radio talk show Keepin' It Real; civil rights activist and founder of the National Action Network; Baptist minister; former presidential candidate

Base New York

What’s the first information you consume in the morning?

I’m an early riser. I get up at 5:30, go through my ministerial duties of prayer, read the Bible. Then I open my laptop, search Google News, Huff Post, Politico, The Root and The Grio. I pick up my BlackBerry and go through my emails, get my schedule and tweet out whatever I’m doing on my TV show and my radio show, or some thought of the day. Then I make a notation of what photo I want to put on Instagram. I literally start my day on social media.

When you ran your presidential campaign in 2004, social media wasn’t a big factor. How has that changed?

It gives you a way of reaching a core group of supporters or people that are interested in you. It’s like target marketing. Now, I have over 200,000 people I can talk to on Twitter, whether I’m saying I’m going to have a Tyler Perry on my show tonight or that I’m having a rally for Trayvon Martin. I couldn’t do that in 2004.

Are you a TV junkie or on an airtime-restricted diet?

I watch a lot of news, but I’m not a real TV watcher. I couldn’t tell you about the reality shows. I’d say that 90 percent of the time I watch MSNBC, but I flip around on weekends, especially when Lockup is on. I love Bill Maher—if I can’t watch him live, I’ll try to get a tape—and I watch Colbert and Jon Stewart. I think Jon Stewart is absolutely another world.

Do you ever follow Fox News or conservative outlets to see what’s going on with them?

I will sometimes see what they’re doing, but not on a daily basis. You don’t get a good night’s sleep reading right-wing stuff before you go to bed.

Give us the skinny on your favorite app.

I keep about 40 books on my iPad. Right now, I’m reading The Oath by Jeffrey Toobin. I like to use iTunes on my iPad. I listen to R&B and gospel—I love James Brown, Aretha Franklin, Whitney Houston, Luther Vandross, but I like listening to Jay-Z and stuff that is more contemporary. I also like Barbra Streisand and Celine Dion. I’m a mild kind of guy—I don’t like hard stuff.

What’s your biggest digital indulgence?

My biggest is probably just consuming news. I’m always Googling what’s going on in a particular area. I think I drive my staffs at National Action Network and MSNBC crazy because I’m always looking to find stuff that they didn’t find.

With such a bloated media universe, how do you cut out the fat?

I think that you go to where you know you can find reliable information. There’s a lot of places that give you puff and no substance, and I’m not interested in that.