Three to read: Jonathan Katz, Shauna Ahern, Christine Sismondo & Adam McDowell

This week’s three Substack publications to read are... 

Jonathan Katz, The Long Version

What’s it about? A blend of investigative reporting and historical analysis that brings insights on foreign policy, national politics, conflict, climate, and disaster. 

Worth reading: Concentrate on the camps

Key line: “You might balk at my use of ‘concentration camp.’ That’s good, it’s something to balk at. Hannah Arendt knew the concept too well: She was imprisoned by the Gestapo and later interned by the French ahead of the German invasion. She wrote that concentration camps ranged from the extreme Nazi extermination camps to ‘relatively mild forms, once popular even in non-totalitarian countries, for getting undesirable elements … out of the way.’”

Jonathan’s credits: New York Times, Associated Press, Slate, The Atlantic, fellow at New America, and author of The Big Truck That Went By.

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Shauna Ahern, Enough

What’s it about? Love letters about finding joy in enough, with an emphasis on food

Worth reading:She knew what to do

Key line: “There is no security in the world. We are all going to leave it. The least we can do is live fully while we are here, instead of cowering in fear.”

Shauna’s credits: Founder of Gluten-Free Girl, author of cookbooks including Gluten-Free Girl Every Day and Gluten-Free Girl American Classics, and the upcoming Enough.

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Christine Sismondo & Adam McDowell, Moose Milk

What’s it about? A newsletter for Canadians who want to drink well.

Worth reading: Vodka (still) pays the bills

Key line: “Is this a worthy subject for a drinks writer to explore? I think summer warrants it, since nobody wants to muddle a bitters-soaked sugar cube into a glass at Trinity-Bellwoods. Plus, there’s a Brio Hard Soda ($2.95) that I really wanted to know more about.”

Christine & Adam’s credits: Christine has written for the Toronto Star, Globe and Mail, and Quench, and is author of America Walks into a Bar. Adam has written and edited for Toronto Life, the Globe and Mail, the Toronto Star, and the National Post, and is author of Drinks: A User’s Guide

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Three to read: Cari Wade Gervin, Adam Wren, Tony Mecia

This week we’ve been thinking a lot about the future of local news, so here are three great local news publications to check out. 

Cari Wade Gervin, The Dog and Pony Show

What’s it about? News, gossip, and other ruminations on Tennessee politics and events.

Worth reading: “While Voting for Anti-LGBT Bills, Rep. Bill Sanderson Used Grindr to Meet Men

Key line: “Sanderson denies everything in this story. I will have a second newsletter later today with a longer account of the interview we had last night, in which he begged me not to run this. Sanderson plans to resign at 12 p.m. CT today, but he has known about the content of this story since last Friday, July 19. The timing of his stepping down is not a coincidence.”

Cari’s credits: Slate, NPR, Deadspin, Eater, Bon Appetit, Nashville Scene, and many more, in both print and radio production.

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Adam Wren, Importantville

What’s it about? Detailed insider coverage of Indiana politics and business in the Trump era.

Worth reading: How Pete Buttigieg Reframed the Debate

Key line: “But for much of the second Democratic debate Tuesday, Buttigieg’s biggest foe wasn’t one of his fellow primary contenders but a gnat that buzzed around the candidate’s forehead. When he wasn’t swatting it away, he was evading easy categorization in a contest whose central conflict seemed to be between progressives and moderates.”

Adam’s credits: Politico Magazine, Indianapolis Monthly, The Daily Beast.

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Tony Mecia, The Charlotte Ledger

What’s it about? Original reporting and insight on Charlotte business news, following trends in banking, real estate, retail, tech, and more.

Worth reading: “Who Local Bigwigs are Backing for President

Key line: “The Ledger reviewed the records and found no Charlotte mega-tycoons who donated to presidential candidates — no Hugh McColls or Johnny Harrises. But there were still plenty of recognizable names. Here are some of the Democratic presidential candidates and the notable Charlotte folks who donated to them…”

Tony’s credits: Former senior writer at The Weekly Standard, more than a decade as a business editor and reporter at the Charlotte Observer.

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How to do something about local news

Hi, this is Hamish, one of Substack’s founders and a former journalist. Like a lot of other people interested in the news business, I’ve been watching the merger between newspaper giants Gannett and GateHouse Media with concern. This is the latest development in a sustained period of consolidations, job losses, and closures that’s contributing to a heightened sense of insecurity about the future of local news. But I don’t think we should feel defeated. The old model for local news is dying, but in every crisis there is an opportunity. I believe that a more promising model for local news is just emerging. 

Substack has been around only a couple of years, but we now know that there is a model for independent writers that works. The top writers on Substack are making hundreds of thousands of dollars a year from subscriptions, and many others are making tens of thousands a year. The economics of the Substack model are such that your audience doesn’t have to be huge to make meaningful money. As you can see from the revenue calculator on our publisher page, 400 subscribers who pay $10 a month results in about $37,000 a year – which, as a Twitter friend recently noted, is the US median income. Yes, those are not easy numbers to attain – but with the right focus, the right approach, and a lot of determination, they are more than possible. 

So far, analysts, opinion writers, and curators have been the most financially successful publishers on Substack, but I believe this model has enormous potential for local news. A single reporter can cover a beat with zero startup expenses, no tech or design costs, no distraction from ads, no need to reach a mass audience, and few other overheads. Just as importantly, reporters using this model need to be loyal only to their readers, which means they can guarantee editorial independence. If I weren’t helping to build Substack the company, I’d probably be publishing my own substack. 

With Substack, you can publish posts that are free to everyone or available only to paying subscribers. If you have a big scoop, you can make sure anyone can read it, but you can also make money by publishing more service-oriented stories – legislative updates, staffing changes at City Hall, what’s going on around town, notices – just for paying subscribers. The more you serve your community, the more you’ll get paid. 

From the evidence we’ve seen, four or five posts a week is enough. Each post can be a story, a digest, a round-up, a photo essay, a video, or a podcast episode – whatever best fits the purpose. Doing a good job with the subscription model means respecting your readers’ attention, so quality is more important than inundation. Meanwhile, your stories live on the web so they can be found by everyone, but they also enjoy the benefit of the world’s most effective distribution system: email. By owning a mailing list, you control your relationship with your audience. Your stories won’t be mediated by an algorithm or influenced by anyone’s conflicting interests. 

Reporters are already taking advantage of Substack to cover their communities and beyond. Cari Gervin, a veteran political reporter, is holding power to account in Tennessee for her newsletter, The Dog and Pony Show (she plans to add paid subscriptions soon). In Toronto, Matt Elliott applies deep scrutiny to local government in City Hall Watcher. Former Weekly Standard reporter Tony Mecia focuses on Charlotte business news in The Charlotte Ledger. Gordon Chaffin writes about local transportation issues in Washington DC with Street Justice. Political journalist Adam Wren covers the ins and outs of Indiana politics in Importantville. And Luke O’Neil covers local and national issues by mixing first-person opinion with boot-leather reporting in Hell World. I’d love to see many thousands more.

As anyone who has worked as a reporter knows, though, a publishing tool is not enough. To do their best work, reporters also need access to legal resources, affordable health insurance, and editorial support. As Substack grows, we intend to work on solutions on all these fronts, but we need help. If you’re a lawyer with a creative idea for how to provide support for independent reporters at scale, or an investor interested in directly funding subscription news enterprises, or someone who knows anything at all about how the hell to offer affordable health insurance to independent writers, please get in touch: hello@substack.com

And if you’re a reporter who is interested in getting started on Substack, let’s talk. I’ll get on a 30-minute call with you to talk through best practices and workshop ideas for your news publication. I can also connect you to people – Substack publishers, independent writers, editors, social media influencers, lawyers, and others – who might be able to help. Once you get started in earnest, Substack will give you priority consideration when it comes to featuring your publication on our website, in our newsletter, and on social media.

We don’t yet have all the answers, but we are deeply committed to figuring them out. If you think you can help, please get in touch. Perhaps we can build a new ecosystem that strengthens local news everywhere. 

Find out more: substack.com/about 

Three to read: Katie Hawkins-Gaar, Tse Wei Lim, Simone Polanen

This week’s three publications to read are... 

Katie Hawkins-Gaar, My Sweet Dumb Brain

What’s it about? Facing life’s ups and downs, and how to keep going while grieving

Worth reading:  “Forget a heat wave, I’m in a grief wave

Key line: “The goal is not to stop having sad days. That will never happen, though I hope they’ll continue to be fewer and farther between. What I’m aiming for is to learn how to remove judgment from those days.”

Katie’s credits: Journalism consultant, freelance writer, organizer of #PoynterWomenLeaders, and widow on a quest to normalize grief.

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Tse Wei Lim, Let Them Eat Cake

What’s it about? Essays about contemporary food systems from a chef/restaurateur.  

Worth reading: A supposedly fun thing I keep on having to do.”

Key line: “After you kill a pig the first thing to do is get its hair off. The usual procedure for this is to scald it in hot water then scrape the bristles off with a bell scraper. We did not have a bell scraper, or a tub big enough to fit a 600 pound pig. Instead we had saucepans and kitchen spoons and disposable razors and a propane torch. And Tamworth bristles are embedded in their skin like rebar in concrete.”

Tse Wei’s credits: Owner of Backbar and chef/owner at Journeyman (RIP), both in Somerville, Massachusetts. Published in the Art of Eating and the Boston Globe.

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Simone Polanen, Highbrow/Lowbrow 

What’s it about? A weekly examination of two phenomenons pop culture – one highbrow, one lowbrow – with a healthy dose of K-pop. 

Worth reading: The Internet and I.O.I

Key line: “I really think I.O.I had the potential to be one of the world’s greatest mega-girl groups, joining the likes of Girls’ Generation and TWICE. But alas, they were designed to be temporary. As Aristotle also said, “Don’t cry because it’s over, smile because it happened.”

Simone’s credits: Former producer for Gimlet Media (Reply All, Startup, The Nod), filmmaker, writer. 

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Three to read: Claire Zulkey, Matt Stoller, Louis Peitzman

This week’s three publications to read are... 

Claire Zulkey, Evil Witches

What’s it about? Stories about motherhood, updates about tiny and huge battles at home, and essential journalism about stuff like butt health and good face cream.

Worth reading:  “Would you do it again?

Key line: “I would say ‘yes’ more quickly if I knew I would be better forewarned of the trauma of childbirth and postpartum, that you don’t actually have to like the parts of family life you think you ought to, and that being a woman does not mean you are inherently prepared to be a mother.”

Claire’s credits: New York Times, The Atlantic, ELLE, Forbes, Fast Company, and author of An Off Year

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Matt Stoller, Big

What’s it about? The history and politics of monopoly power.

Worth reading: The coming Boeing bailout?

Key line: “How did Boeing make miracles in civilian aircraft? In short, the the civilian engineers were in charge. And it fell apart because the company, due to a merger, killed its engineering-first culture.”

Matt’s credits: Fellow at the Open Markets Institute, former Senior Policy Advisor and Budget Analyst to the Senate Budget Committee, and author of the upcoming book Goliath: The 100-Year War Between Monopoly Power and Democracy.

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Louis Peitzman, High Drama

What’s it about? Theater, Housewives, and horror.

Worth reading: Get in, loser, we’re going to the Heaviside Layer” 

Key line: “Can we just take a moment to enjoy gathering together in awe and horror at the decision to give humanoid cats boobs that make them look like the furry-inspired fantasy of Catwoman becoming an actual cat on Batman: The Animated Series?”

Louis’s credits: New York Times, Vulture, Time, BuzzFeed.

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