13 newsletters for upping your media IQ

Like any other industry, media is an amalgamation; a pulsating admixture of anxiety, ideology, cacophony and pure green envy.

The products churned out by the Media Machine—everything from Twitter posts and Instagram stories to long-form features and investigative reports—are often the end result of thousands of hours of labor and trillions of dollars of research, development, designers, and endless platoons of white- and blue-collar peons.

The Machine needs these armies, too. If there’s a screen in your life, you’re part of an audience of seven billion-and-counting. That’s a lot of minds to feed and, more importantly, a lot of behaviors to exploit. Those who do it well can convince you that Coke has health benefits, or that $100 is a good deal for a t-shirt, or to elect a fascist president.

This is why I’ve become an advocate of media IQ; or, the degree of your ability to understand that your opinion is manufactured – and to interpret how this actually happens.

In a media age dominated by fake news, conspiracy theories and nuclear dick fights, your media IQ can literally mean the difference between life and death. And whether you’re a journalist, writer, videographer, PR agent, publicist, or just an everyday user, a strong media IQ help you become both a competent communications professional and a conscientious consumer.

So to help build your media IQ, I’ve assembled this list of media, journalism and PR newsletters worth a few minutes of your daily time. Together they form an inside look at the trends, tactics and tricks the machine uses to make you think that you’re thinking for yourself. (Listed alphabetically and linked directly to the sign-up forms, so you don’t need to click around):

American Press Institute: Need to Know
If you only subscribe to one newsletter on this list, make it this. A daily newsletter with inside takes on trending news, and outside views of journalism’s inner workings.

Columbia Journalism Review: The Media Today
“A daily look at the biggest stories in journalism” from one of the top journalism schools in the country. Always well written and packed with original research.

Eurotopics
A twice-weekly newsletter from the European press review, with content categorized into debates and dossiers, both about the state of European journalism and major news.

Institute for Public Relations: Research Letter
The IPR is a half-century old PR research organization, staking claim on “the science beneath the art of public relations™. A strong (and occasionally stuffy) trove of valuable research.

Journalism.co.uk Daily Newsletter
Though technically a UK jobs site lacking a clever name, Journalism.co.uk also serves as a center for media tips, guides, events, training and other services. Not a must-read, but useful.

Journalist’s Resource (Harvard Kennedy School)
Similar to the CJR newsletter, but with more Ivy League pretense. Lots of original research, studies-of-studies, and “tip sheets” loaded with journalism advice and resources.

Muck Rack Daily
Muck Rack is one of the top PR and journalism platforms and this newsletter is a handsome bit of content marketing, but it has a lot of smart insights and pontifications on trending topics.

Nieman Lab: Daily Email Updates
Hands down the best way to understand the ever-evolving state of modern media media is continually evolving. A must read for anyone, regardless of profession.

Pew Research: Media & News Briefings
Data nerds already know about Pew Research, but their media and news briefings always give you a first-hand look into major news trends, usually before they hit the headlines.

Poynter Institute: Morning MediaWire
Another newsletter from another journalism school. API will often pick up Poynter stories and vice-versa, but it’s informative background a smart way to start the day.

PR News: The Skinny
PR News is the main trade rag for the PR industry, but The Skinny is weekly, so it doesn’t overburden. Covers the trends and conversations around social media, marketing PR.

PR Week: Weekly Online Edition
Similar to PR News, PR Week covers a lot of trade topics, but also offers a PR view of major news topics. Relevant for people working on the politics and public affairs side of PR.

Ragan’s PR Daily: News Feed
If you subscribe to any of Ragan’s newsletters, you might get ten emails per day. Lots of “thought leadership” from budding professionals, but sometimes the advice is useful.

High Concept Labs

I’m excited to announce that I’m now a board member for High Concept Labs! We’re an arts service organization based in Chicago with a mission to support artists and facilitate dialogue between artists, audiences, and staff. This increases access and transparency to the artistic process and fosters transformational experiences in an environment of experimentation and discovery. Check out the full press release at BroadwayWorld.

It’s my first-ever board position and one made possible by the OnBOARD training and matching program of the Arts & Business Council of Chicago. OnBOARD not only provides you training for what’s involved in being a board member at an arts organization, but it also matches you with small- and mid-sized nonprofits looking for new members.

This is just another way for me to continue serving both the arts and business sides of culture in Chicago. Check out the HCL website to stay updated on all the great stuff we have coming up.

My Top 13 Albums of 2017

If my top 13 albums of 2017 were donuts, they’d have everything from rainbow sprinkles to lab-grade PCP.

These were albums that played like my personal soundtrack for the past year. That’s it. We got a horseshit president. I had a death in the family. I started a new job. I roadtripped across New Mexico, twice. I camped in the north woods of Wisconsin and got sniffed by a bear. I drank whiskey gingers in the humid summer shade on the shores of Lake Michigan near my apartment. I rode the CTA to work, to home, and back again, and back again, and back again. I wrote, a lot. I walked in the rain. Each of these things had beat and a rhythm, or a mind-numbing drone. And sometimes, it all blended together.

The only criteria I’ve used for this list is that the album was released within the past calendar year. The rest is music. And why 13? Because it comes after 12 and before 14. Listen while you read.

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Full Nerd: 2017 in Books

I’ve almost always kept a running list of the books I read, but this year I decided to go Full Nerd.

I used Google Sheets to log each book I’ve read since October 2016—66 books in total, spread over 384 days.

I tracked titles, authors, author genders, copyright and publish dates, genres, page counts, format, dates started and ended, days between books. Starting at this new data year, I’ll also begin tracking author race, to hold myself accountable to hearing equal voice.

Accountability is one of the main reasons I began tracking this data. For example, based on the names on my bookshelf, it was clear I wasn’t reading enough books by women. And the data don’t lie. It was only through conscious intention this past year that I read the women I did; Rebecca Solnit, Jane Goodall, Janna Levin, Hannah Arendt, Ayaan Hirsi Ali. In most cases, their work was also the most urgent and profound. My goal is to keep building up this percentage. Hearing, listening, and understanding more.

I also used a five-star ranking system for the books I read. I usually thinking rankings are bullshit, so I didn’t put much thought into the rationale. If the book affected me or prompted me to think differently, it got more stars. This helped me identify what were my “favorite” books from the past year, and which ones sucked.

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New Mexico Road Trip

For the second time in as many months, my wife and I headed back to the high New Mexican desert to see some new sites and find ourselves at some old ones. Every time I go back to the Chihuahua, I leave part of myself behind and I take something different back with me.

New Mexico isn’t really a place people think about. It’s the epitome of flyover country. Round-trip flights from Chicago to Albuquerque rarely fluctuate in price or schedule, and nothing in New Mexico ever really changes. It has its own spirit that’s weathered regime changes and climate shifts for centuries and chances are that it will outlive the looming death of American empire. Fine with me, as long as I can buy some land there before it happens (one of my few life goals, along with eating bear meat and setting foot on Antarctica).

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