Once, it was the most widely read daily publication in Washington. Each morning, before 6AM, a White House driver picked up the first printing. Also in line: the personal driver for the Vice President, couriers from the State Department and the CIA, and runners for the chiefs of each branch of the military. The earlier you received it, the more important you were.  By noon, it had reached every corner of Washington, from the Pentagon to Capitol Hill. It was read by the most important people in the US government, and it was also read by those who wanted to know what those important people were reading.

What was inside that was so important? Was it sensitive national security intelligence, classified summaries of world hot spots, or encrypted diplomatic cables? Who wrote it and where did it come from?

Actually, it contained nothing classified, nothing sensitive, and nothing unavailable to the general public!  It was called the “Early Bird,” and it was simply a collection of news clippings and summaries, put together by a grandmother of nine, along with her small team at the Pentagon. It allowed readers to quickly digest the day’s news sources (mostly related to national defense), free of unrelated articles and advertisements.1

The “Early Bird” began in the 1960s as a collection of news clippings and summaries, printed every morning. Over the years, readership grew and the “Early Bird” eventually transitioned to online publication.

Today, you have access to tools that would make those “Early Bird” readers drool with envy. Think the Internet is plagued with useless noise and irrelevant distractions? “Early Bird” readers felt the same way about the countless newspapers, magazines, and nightly telecasts. They didn’t have time to consume them all. They needed a quick way to sift through the noise. They needed to uncover, what Nate Silver calls, the “signals in the noise.”

Today, modern technology gives you the power to create your own “Early Bird,” tailored to you!

Why you need your own “Early Bird:”

-Support real journalists doing important work.

-Support researchers and colleagues doing important work.

-No one is entitled to your time; stop giving it away.

-Filter useless noise and distracting “click bait.”

-Ensure you don’t miss what’s most important.

-Needle in a haystack? Use a big magnet!


Create your own “Early Bird” with these screening tools:


-Just like the afternoon “Early Bird” readers, you can see what’s being read (and said) by people you consider important. Kim Kardashian shares her thoughts with millions of Twitter followers every day. So what! You won’t see it because you’re an educated professional who’s not going to follow her.

-Still think Twitter is a silly and unimaginable waste of time? Not if you use it correctly. Use Twitter as a noise filter, not a noise feed!


RSS Feed:

-RSS is nothing new. There are countless options and apps available online.

-How to start one: https://support.office.com/en-us/article/Add-an-RSS-Feed-0b91cfc4-0efc-4d11-be28-9a5da2382347


Google Alerts:

-Simple way to keep up with anything important to you. Google will alert you anytime a particular keyword (such as your name) appears online.


Ideas to use for alerts:

-Your name

-Your practice name

-Your hospital name

-Your competitors’ names


Pubmed alerts for peer-reviewed journals:

-Use Pubmed to set up custom RSS Feeds or E-mail alerts

-How to: https://www.nlm.nih.gov/bsd/viewlet/myncbi/jourup/index.html

Ideas for alerts:

-Updates from peer reviewed journals in your specialty

-Updates when your mentor/ colleague publishes something

-Updates when a specific pathology, treatment or medical device is mentioned

-Updates when you or your published works are mentioned


Curious for more? The Early Bird has an interesting history, and you can read more below. Where can you find the “Early Bird” today, you might ask? Well, after transitioning to the Internet, the Early Bird continued publication until the 2013 government shutdown. When the government reopened two weeks later, the Early Bird vanished and it hasn’t been seen since.


Written by Colin Miller

PeerSpectrum Podcast



Links to more:

“U.S. Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates reads the early bird while holding for a meeting during a recent visit to Krakow, Poland, Feb. 20, 2009. Gates was in Poland to attend the Krakow Defense Ministerial Conference. DoD photo by U.S. Air Force Tech. Sgt. Jerry Morrison”: http://archive.defense.gov/PhotoEssays/PhotoEssaySS.aspx?ID=1102


With demise of Pentagon’s ‘Early Bird,’ military readers hunt bootleg copies of ‘Morning News’”http://www.washingtontimes.com/news/2013/dec/24/demise-pentagons-early-bird-military-reads-hunt-bo/


Smith, Hedrick. The Power Game: How Washington Works. New York City: Random House, 1988. pp 160

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