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Sonya Mann's active website is Sonya, Supposedly.

One Millennial Spends This Much On Journalism

pile of newspapers
Photo by Jon S.

Writing “Case Study Of A Magazine Purchase” made me consider the amount of money I spend on media every month. I suspect that I’m more extravagant than most people, but I’ve never added up the $$$. Here’s my list, in no particular order:

This is all for digital material. $36.17 per month; debatably actually $26.17 because The Marshall Project is a nonprofit and the donation comes off my taxes. Either way, it’s really not much. I could easily drop $36.17 on dinner or drinks.

I also periodically buy books and I benefit from my parents’ subscriptions to The New York Times, the New YorkerThe Sun (print), and Funny Times (print). I suppose you could include Netflix, but that erodes the focus on journalism.

weathered stack of newspapers
Photo by Dave Crosby.

Currently I’m considering a subscription to The Economist. Their one-year bundle would run me $13.33 per month, whereas the two-year option comes out to $11.63 per month. Either package includes Espresso, their “daily briefing” app, which I really want (Nieman Lab did a fascinating interview with Tom Standage re: digital strategy). I’ll pull the trigger if I get a raise.

Case Study of a Magazine Purchase

snapshot of Monocle Magazine
Snapshot via New York on Instagram.

I don’t remember the exact moment I discovered the existence of global culture magazine Monocle. But recently I bought a copy. (So sue me, I like luxury.) Tracing my progress toward that decision is interesting.

  1. Months ago I read a Nieman Lab interview with Monocle founder Tyler Brûlé.
  2. Last week I started a project about modern cities. The magazine’s radio station Monocle 24 has a show called The Urbanist, which I knew because Jessica Bridger mentioned contributing on her website. I listened and liked it.
  3. I sampled some of their other podcasts. Enjoyed them.
  4. I downloaded the Monocle 24 app, which alternates trendy multi-continent music shows with various talk segments. (The music lineup is slightly more repetitive than I’d prefer.)
  5. I thought, “If I like the audio this much, maybe I would like the magazine too.”
  6. I searched the web for other articles about Tyler Brûlé (found and read: 1, 2, 3, 4).
  7. I wrestled with Monocle’s ecommerce interface.
  8. I wanted the magazine enough that I tried again.
  9. Success! Received this email:

successful Monocle order

By the way, the cost wasn’t negligible: £6 copy + £16.75 shipping = $35 (roughly). If I had realized how expensive shipping would be before sending the purchase through, I would have found another way to get the magazine. I think Pegasus Books carries it…

If the magazine is pleasurable enough, I will probably subscribe. That’s $150+ dollars per year. Not nothing!

Being Mentored by the Longform Podcast

I am a young writer by every definition, twenty-one and relatively inexperienced. My ideas for my career are half-formed. Accordingly, this is an education-heavy portion of my life, which is good. I’m not going to college like many of my peers, but I am actively learning and developing myself as an editorial professional (broadly speaking).

the Longform podcast

Part of that is working, part of it is reading, and an increasingly large part is listening — not only to people in my “real” life, but also listening to wise strangers who aren’t addressing me specifically. For instance, I pay close attention to the journalists interviewed by Max Linsky, Aaron Lammer, and Evan Ratliff on the Longform podcast. (Only a few months ago, I didn’t like podcasts, but that opinion changed quickly after I acquired a commute.)

I don’t have access to many professional writers in my “real” life. Sure, occasionally I hang out with Adam Brinklow and I got to meet Yael Grauer the other day, but mostly I encounter regular people with a bunch of different types of jobs. Which is fine — variety is the spice of life, right? Only interacting with one type of person would be like having salt on your food and eschewing all over flavors.

But I dearly want to feel connected to people who do the work I aspire to. The Longform podcast gives me a window into the circumstances and habits of journalists I admire, and it feels… nourishing. It makes me believe the career I’m in love with is possible.

It’s awesome that the internet enables this. I know it was technically possible back when people mainly read words on paper, but not in the same way, at the same scale, or on demand. In 1985 I couldn’t have Twitter-followed everyone who wrote an article I liked, to keep up with their future posts and maybe talk to them personally. Being able to do that is so cool — and it helps me stay motivated.

the internet is a ship
The Flying Dutchman by Dean Meyers.

Learning To Be An Editorial Project Manager, Week #1 Recap

I just finished my first week of full-time work at a “normal” job. Before this Monday I was freelancing, which is very different from being part of an office team. Now I drive to Novato every morning, talk to the same people all day, and figure out new processes that will hopefully become second nature soon… After seven days of doing this, I’m still scared and excited. Also tired and invigorated.

The company is small, so I have a lot of responsibility — meaning a lot of power. Not in the sense that I order other people around, but in the sense that my choices matter. Thankfully my decisions don’t have life-or-death repercussions, but they do affect success or failure. Correctly deployed, my skills and focus can make the business function better. That’s a very cool feeling. Freelancing didn’t feel that way, except pertaining to my own ability to keep writing for money. In this new job, people are counting on me to take care of their projects — both my boss and our clients.

I have so, so much to learn. On Friday the boss treated everyone to dinner at a local restaurant, and he said to me and the other new employee, “You guys had a big download this week.” That’s a good way to put it. The sheer amount of information we were given was overwhelming and at first the content was incomprehensible. Slowly, I’m getting the hang of things.

baby sitting at a big computer
I’m slightly more useful at work than a toddler. But not, like, a lot more useful. Photo by Mario Antonio Pena Zapatería.

I am an editorial project manager. That’s my title. Basically, my job is to bring books into being. Which is awesome! As I said at the interview, “This is a dream job. I didn’t know this job still existed.” I assumed that most of the publishing jobs were gone because there’s so much pressure on the industry now. Luckily, I was wrong!

The company I work for is ORO Editions, which publishes architecture and design books by some damn prestigious authors. (For example: the journal Landscape Architecture Plus, which I’ll be proofreading.) We also have two other imprints, academically focused Applied Research and Design Publishing and popular-interest Goff Books. Some of the subjects our authors address are totally fascinating.

So far, the only downside is that I miss writing. I’ll have to figure out how to keep it in my daily schedule.

freelance writing -- now it's my hobby instead of work
Me on Twitter.

Farhad Manjoo Explains How Oblivious We Are To Self-Deception

“I’ve examined what happens to audiences — that is, we ordinary people — in a world of unprecedented media choice: we begin to select our reality according to our biases, and we interpret evidence (such as photos and videos) and solicit expertise in a way that pleases us.” So writes Farhad Manjoo in his book True Enough, which documents how the internet has eroded the standards for informational accuracy.

Farhad Manjoo's Twitter headshot
Illustration via Twitter.

Using case studies from the news, Manjoo points to selection bias, perception bias, and lack of context as factors influencing the public’s persistent wrongness about some issues, especially politics. He overviews convincing research and explains that if you interpreted things based on first impressions, you would frequently misunderstand complex events. Which is exactly what happens! We listen to an ostensible expert’s credentials, respond to their personal charisma or lack of it, and decide whether to believe them over the other guy based on nothing more than charm.

The problem is, you can’t know what you don’t know. (Thanks, Rumsfeld.) If you’re not an expert in a certain field, you can’t tell who’s a real authority and who is inflating their own importance and credibility.

What’s ironic is that I believe Manjoo’s assessment of this whole situation — not because I’ve independently combed through the documents and consulted other authorities on the topics at hand. I believe him because he writes well, his ideas appeal to common sense, and he’s a columnist for The New York Times. The back of the book carries praise from another journalist and an academic, whose opinions I also did not independently verify.

I find Manjoo’s work compelling for exactly the reasons he cites as being behind many scandals, conspiracies, and other misconceptions.

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