Meckel Reads

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Our Trusty Reporter recently sat down with David Meckel, FAIA, to learn how the Bay Area cognoscento keeps up with the news . . . in print. His method is elegantly refined.

“I subscribe to two dailies and three Sunday editions: the Wall Street Journal and the San Jose Mercury News, and—because you have to read your local paper, whether you like it or not—the San Francisco Chronicle, plus the New York Times on Sunday. Before I leave the house in the morning, I scan through them, read some of the lighter stuff (The Wall Street Journal summaries column, you read that, and you’re set for the day), pull out things I want to read, fold them, and put them in my bag. I’m looking at the news for who would benefit if I shared it with them.” He doesn’t bother with The New York Times on weekdays, confident that everybody else will keep him abreast of it.

David stops for coffee each morning at one of his favorite San Francisco spots. Once at Caffe Centro on South Park, Sightglass in SOMA, or Piccino in Dogpatch, he pulls out the stack of neatly folded articles, reads them, and saves the good ones to share. “Almost everything I love is in the business section, because it’s there first, before it hits ‘Arts & Leisure.’ The Mercury News business section is awesome, the Chron . . . not so great.” He notes that business writers write more from research, so their observations are more useful. He’s interested to know why things happen in the physical world; for example, he is fascinated by the expanding use of alternative fuels and the ripple effect this creates.

Arriving at his desk at California College of the Arts (where, by choice, he’s the only upper-level administrator without a private office) he cuts out the articles and photocopies them, resizing them to 8 ½” x 11”. Some, he posts on his “news wall”—a ten-foot row of photocopies at eye level in one of the campus’ most trafficked passageways—items about design, architecture, and art, often in their business context, with the names of alumni, faculty, and students highlighted or encircled with his trademark cloud. As the school term progresses, the pages stack up.

David also subscribes to a number of blogs, including Kristen Richard’s ArchNewsNow and Core77. His current favorite in this category is The Atlantic Cities. Even though he reads the print version of the Atlantic, he likes the urban focus and data visualization featured in the blog. “When I’ve sent a link to a colleague from ArchNewsNow or other link aggregation sites, in addition to ‘thanks,’ the second most common response has been, ‘I didn’t know you read Der Spiegel.’”

Articles go into folders at his desk, in categories such as interactive technologies, energy, and new business models.

And the originals? They go into envelopes, tagged with Post-Its with elaborate messages like, “Bob—look—DM,” and into the mail to colleagues near and far. He likes to send the originals, because they often include graphics that web versions omit. “It’s a great way to keep your business relationships alive. It’s non-threatening, and it doesn’t require a response.” Yet he does get responses, often gratifying, and sometimes much later: “We’re doing this now, and we found out about it through the thing you sent us.”


Tim Culvahouse, FAIA

Tim Culvahouse, FAIA, is Editor-in-Chief of the AIA California Council and an architect specializing in the public communication of design ideas through his firm, Culvahouse Consulting.

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  1. avatar
    John Loomis

    so THAT’S how he does it !

    – john

  2. avatar

    Really fun to read! Wish I could join you both at Caffe Centro for a cup o’ joe, and have the daily opportunity to walk past David’s news wall.

    Thank you for this great piece!

  3. avatar
    Gregory Blackburn


    Great story. Love the news wall and everything about your gathering process. Thanks!

  4. avatar
    Grace Kang

    Tim – thanks to you and David for this great organized method of sharing information. I have also found that multiple sources offer different viewpoints on a topic, which is very useful.

  5. avatar
    Julie Milburn

    Davis and Time — now THAT’S a team !!!!

  6. avatar
    Paul Adamson

    Great article. I’ve found that, when researching a topic, there are lots of daily news items that relate one way or another or lead to new sources or avenues to pursue. Surveying several papers looks like a good way to gain a view of the “bigger picture,” so I’m going to look at the WSJ again now and the business section elsewhere.
    Thanks, Tim

  7. avatar
    Doug Wittnebel

    Great little article and good to read about David’s propensity for printed material. I am a member of the same herd.


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