New Year, NewslettersJan 10, 2018
One form of content that made a resurgence in my media diet last year was the newsletter. Like podcasts, newsletters have been around since the early years of the internet. Their appeal is obvious: instead of regularly visiting a website to read the news, just have it emailed straight to your inbox. I’ve found that newsletters are often better at providing context and perspective than traditional news outlets, which are often too busy breathlessly reporting latest-breaking updates.
Here are five newsletters that I’m currently subscribed to that I think are worth your time:
Reliable Sources is a Sunday morning talk show on CNN hosted by Brian Stelter. I’ve never spent my Sunday mornings watching the news, so I can’t comment on the show, but Stelter also publishes a daily newsletter called “Reliable Sources”, and it’s kind of incredible. Take every story relating to any form of media that occurred in the last 24 hours (Robert Siegel retires, Oprah Winfrey gives a remarkable speech at the Golden Globes, Trump tweets about Fire and Fury), add a dash of incisive commentary, sprinkle in a few inside scoops and you’ve got a good approximation of Reliable Sources. This is by far the most prolific digest I’m subscribed to, and reading it gives you a really good sense of many changes occurring to our media landscape.
The Intepreter is a newsletter for people interested in better understanding big, global events (the Iranian protests, North Korea’s nukes, the Rohingya genocide). New York Times columnists Amanda Taub and Max Fisher do their best to give their subscribers context for better understanding these foreign affairs. It’s published weekly-ish and it’s also relatively short, so it’s a good choice if you’re time-strapped.
I first subscribed to CRYPTO-GRAM all the way back in 2009; at the time, I was a middle schooler who had just started considering infosec as a potential career path, and I was hungry to learn more about all the goings-on in the security landscape at the time. CRYPTO-GRAM, is a monthly news digest published by noted cryptographer / security luminary Bruce Schneier. It generally consists of two parts: a large collection of links related to the security news of the month, and a collection of opinion pieces that Schneier has published in various venues commenting on some of the more impactful events.
Learned Action is a bi-weekly newsletter written by Drew Bent, an MIT undergraduate who along with Ray Wang and a couple other former journalists at The Tech, reported on Boston Marathon bombing trial. Each issue picks a current problem (“Prison Recidivism”, “Hunger on College Campuses”) and discusses associated challenges and potential solutions. I generally find it thoughtful and fairly well-researched.
I think the thing I’m looking for most in a newsletter is the experience of having someone who understands a subject much better than I unpack and explain a bunch of important stories in the news right now. This is what I get every time I read an issue of Money Stuff, a newsletter from Matt Levine, former investment banker at Goldman Sachs and current Bloomberg columnist. Money Stuff is published daily and talks about all of the major stories relating to finance and the economy. It’s also hilarious:
I am worried that the unicorns are developing eating disorders, based on this article about “The Silicon Valley execs who don’t eat for days: ‘It’s not dieting, it’s biohacking.’” There is a pleasing universalism to the Silicon Valley technology industry: If a venture-backed Bay-area company does something, then that something is “tech,” even if it is delivering groceries or whatever. Similarly, if a Silicon Valley executive does something, it is “hacking.” Doing your laundry? That’s a life hack. Eating lunch? A biohack. Not eating lunch? Sure, yes, also a biohack.
These days, Money Stuff always includes at least one section discussing cryptocurrencies. These are always a joy to read because Levine is one of the few journalists who actually understands how Bitcoin works. Other frequent subjects include financial regulation, insider trading, and Silicon Valley.