The case for the email newsletter

Assuming most of your life falls between 1990 and 2022, I’ll get going and guess you read most of your news online: unless you’re a Mennonite, a newspaper purist, or some masochist of some sort, who enjoys causing great inconvenience to himself – and/or my journalism professor. Whatever the case, you do it.

A 2021 Pew Research Center poll found that the overwhelming majority of Americans who get their news online most directly go to websites or apps to read their media. The only exception was the 18-29 age group, who reported receiving more social media messages.

But newsletters have four major advantages over social media and aggregated services like Google News or Apple News, or just on a newspaper’s website:

(1) The newsletter is a finite experience; There’s a set start and end point, meaning you don’t have to endlessly scroll through an app.

(2) It’s much easier to establish a routine around reading newsletters. Perhaps you read a morning newsletter at breakfast and then an evening newsletter as you get ready for bed. There’s no pressure to check the news throughout the day as long as you commit to getting your news almost entirely from these emails.

(3) A team of journalists choose the stories you read, not the whims of a social media algorithm that keeps you in a bubble.

(4) you see the day’s stories in context, side-by-side with other headlines; a newsletter is a kind of time capsule of the period it covers.

Here the Mennonites say, “Why not just read a printed newspaper? Wouldn’t that solve all these problems?” To which I reply: Broadsheet newspapers are a pain in the ass. They’re huge, the text is tiny, the ink smudges, the pages are awkward to turn, and so on and so forth. Newsletters combine almost everything that is good about broadsheets with the added benefit of being convenient.

So let’s say you’re starting from scratch: you don’t have any newspaper subscriptions, you’re not signed up for a newsletter, and maybe you don’t even read the news that often. Where to look

Start with the basics. As a bare minimum, subscribe to a major, high-circulation national newspaper—think The New York Times, The Washington Post, and The Wall Street Journal.

These are generally thought of as the American newspapers, but depending on who you ask, the Los Angeles Times could also fall into this category. If you’re a USC student, you should be able to get free subscriptions to all but the Post.

If you really don’t want to spend money on a subscription, you can only read from news services like the Associated Press or Reuters, which don’t have paywalls on their websites, but you’ll likely miss out on original investigative journalism. New digital publications such as Axios or Semafor are also a good option.

Once you have that covered, look for a local newspaper. The Los Angeles Times does a good job of reporting in the LA area, but if you want a more hyper-local look, consider subscribing to the Los Angeles Daily News, which gives you access to journalism from the Southern California News Group. Perhaps you would like to subscribe to your home newspaper or subscribe to magazines or the foreign press.

You’ve probably also heard time and again that it’s important to get your news from a variety of sources so you have a diverse view of the world. Honestly, I think if you want any view of the world at all, it’s more important to subscribe to newspapers that break the news at different levels (national, state, local, conservative, etc).

If you never touch the opinion sections, the hard news reports in the major national newspapers will give you more or less the same stories.

When choosing your subscriptions, consider looking at the suite of newsletters that each offers – if there’s a newsletter that you particularly like the format or spelling of, subscribe to that newspaper so you can read the stories the e- link emails. Also, keep in mind that it’s important not to overwhelm yourself with so much media that you don’t read any of it.

Another option is to read a third-party newsletter like Morning Brew, a “daily email newsletter with the latest news from Wall Street to Silicon Valley,” or one I’m writing called Morning, Trojan , in which I summarize and link campus stories from Daily Trojan and Annenberg Media, alongside LA County and state news from professional outlets.

I should probably confess that as part of my job as a writer for Morning, Trojan, I scour dozens of websites and social media accounts every night to find the best stories, so a large chunk of my messages don’t come from newsletters — but when if I read it just for myself, it would.

And another quick bonus tip: I haven’t downloaded any newspaper apps to my phone. When I see a story in a newsletter that I find interesting, I add it to my Safari reading list. This means there is one place I can go on multiple devices to view all of my saved stories across all of my subscriptions instead of having to open each website or app individually.

It’s entirely possible that your news reading routine is similar to mine, and it’s also entirely possible that what I’m doing just isn’t working for you. All that matters is that you come up with a solution that walks the fine line between being informed and sane—and that line will be different for everyone.

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