Welcome to MeatEater’s new column, Media Diet. In this feature, Zero Point Zero Production will ask prominent hunters about their reading and media consumption habits. What hunting magazines are they reading? How do they get their news when they’re at home? What about when on a hunting trip? What is on their Netflix queues? The answers to all these questions, and more, lie ahead. First up, outdoorsman, writer and television host Steven Rinella.
ZPZ: What book are you reading?
SR: I’m reading the Oxford History of the United States series. I just started the Republic volume, called Empire of Liberty. I wanted to skip ahead to the one that has to do with 1815 upwards– What Hath God Wrought – but then I got nervous about skipping one and started Empire, which deals with Post-Revolution. I believe that What Hath God Wrought won the Pulitzer, and several ones out of the series have won major awards.
Are you a big history fan?
I am. But 75% of what I read is work-related. I’m beginning to write a book that has to do with a very small aspect of American history that went from about 1810-1840. I want to understand that era a little better, but I’m only beginning to think about it. I am not yet into primary source material. For now, I’m trying to understand what was going on in the world and in the country at that time, in a very general sense, in order to better understand the little piece I need to understand. The volume after What Hath God Wrought deals with the Civil War and I will probably skip that. With all due respect, the Civil War has been well explained so many times. Some writer or another once joked that you’ll never meet someone whose ancestor was just a grunt in the Civil War. They were all officers! [laughs].
What about magazines?
I think that the best magazine ever made is The New Yorker. I got turned onto it when I was in school and read it all the time. I used to read Harper’s but it was a little too hysterically left-wing for me, like weirdly hysterically left-wing. I like The Week – I can’t say that I read it read it – but I’m glad when I find one. I like to at least look at the Table of Contents of National Geographic. It’s good to know what has that magazine’s attention. I read some hunting and fishing magazines. I read Western Hunter Magazine – that’s the kind of hunting that I’m most interested in. As far as other print magazines that you hold in your hand, I read Outside and Field & Stream all the time. Other ones, I’m just glad when I run into on someone’s coffee table. I also skim a handful of academic journals.
Which websites do you go to regularly?
If I’ve been out of touch for a week and want to know generally what sort of awful things have happened, I’ll go look at The New York Times, The Drudge Report, CNN and The Huffington Post. I lived in Anchorage for a short spell and so I’ll look at the Anchorage Daily News. I like to look at the Missoulian because I lived in Montana for a long time, and at The Billings Gazette. I’m even curious about the weather – I just like to know what’s going on in my favorite places! I can’t stand watching the news, because I don’t like the way that they structure the stories. If someone goes and murders his wife, that’s very interesting to CNN – little, sensational incidents are very interesting to them. It drives me nuts.
Is it difficult to keep up with the news while hunting?
I remember going on a hunting trip the morning after after the Bush-Gore election. They hadn’t yet called the election, and then we were gone for four days. When we got back to phone service, we were dying to know who the president was. But they still hadn’t figured it out! And then 9/11 increased my anxiety about being away from the news. On September 12, 2001, there were a lot of hunters in the Alaska bush waiting for planes that never showed up. For years after that, I worried that something bad was happening whenever I was out in the mountains.
How else do you get news and other media?
You get emailed so many links now. I wind up reading stuff that I couldn’t even tell you where I read it. If you work in TV production, you know who produced what, or who produced which movies. But most people don’t care and don’t have allegiances to record labels or production companies. I read so many news stories that have been passed down – so-and-so linked to it – that I really have no idea what specific publication I’m reading. I’ll be like, “I read this in…” and I can’t remember where. I just say that someone emailed it to me and I read it. I have so many friends who share my interests, who will send me emails about wildlife issues and anthropology stuff. Then there’s people who I have interviewed or written about in the past who are experts in a field and understand that I am interested in similar things and will send me links. They’ll say, “Remember how we were talking about ‘blank,’” and I will get links from them to obscure things. A friend who recently passed away would always send me these great links about Ice Age hunters. I knew that if he sent me something, I would be interested. I miss his links almost as much as I miss him. If someone sends you a link and you trust them and know what they are interested in, it’s almost like a vetting process. It works better than letting CNN or Fox figure out what you’d like to read.
Do you watch TV? What shows do you watch?
I don’t like things that are serial, that go on and on and on. I try a few of them out, but after five or six episodes, I can just smell the writers trying to keep it going. I watched nine episodes of Deadwood long ago and that’s as far as I’ve ever gotten into a serial. I’m always way behind on TV – I just ordered a Sopranos DVD from Netflix. I watched one episode and said to myself, “this is good.” I could see why it was appealing, but really had no interest in watching any more. I do love half-hour comedies, especially the stuff on HBO. I like Curb Your Enthusiasm and Veep. Louie is another favorite, especially the most recent season. No one believes me when I say this, but it’s an honest statement: I have never in my life watched a single episode of a reality TV show. I’ve never even watched the one where you go on a island – Survivor? Never, not even once. No Bachelor, no Duck Dynasty, no Kardashians. I’ve caught glimpses of them in the airport, but I just can’t go near that phony stuff.
Do you ever go to the movies?
I love going to the movies, but I have young kids and the first thing that gives is movie theaters. I watch all my movies at home, after everyone is done talking about them. I have a very carefully curated Netflix queue. When a movie comes out, I add it to my list and then anxiously watch for them to go to DVD. Right now I’m waiting for Lone Survivor and Dallas Buyers Club. I just saw Herzog’s documentary Happy People, about Siberian fur trappers, and was blown away. He’s the guy who made Grizzly Man, another great documentary. A Prophet was one of the best films I’ve seen in a long, long time, though it came out quite a while ago. And I feel like I deserve an honorary doctorate in Danish thrillers [laughs]. Really, though, I’m a pretty typical film guy. That is, I think Apocalypse Now is the best film ever made. And my 3-year-old and I are slowly working through a 6-pack of Star Wars movies.
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