On Starting a Newsletter

I’m starting an email newsletter. Hurray!


Since the start of the Covid-19 lockdown, I’ve tried to minimize any and all media consumption. Before, I wasn’t a big ‘follower of the news’ by any means. But now I’ve clamped down hard on every transient media channel. I got off Facebook for the most part, retreated from chat groups, and importantly, stopped doomscrolling on Reddit. Two reasons were relevant for this decision.

Firstly, I hate ads. Always hated them. Since forever, I’ve had adblock installed on every device and browser - I even rooted my phone just to install AdAway. But the psychological weapon that is marketing is not just limited to ads. Every single news piece, every expert opinion and ‘fact summary’ are pushing for one narrative or other, I’ve noticed. Not all of them are necessarily evil. Some are benign, some transparent. But often, there are some sheathed directives for conformity hidden in them, like the promotion of upgrade culture in unboxing videos, for instance. So, to escape my brain running on these dominant narrative grooves, it seemed prudent to distance myself from mainstream media.

The second reason is that most of the news seemed frankly unimportant. Of course, big things are always going on in society, but much of that is simply oscillatory noise. Only a small fraction of stories in the public discourse mattered. A smaller fraction mattered to me. I have this addiction of quoting Sir Terry Pratchett everywhere, but this one might be forgiven:

In short, what people think they want is news, but what they really crave is olds.

Then, I happened upon something that is slowly bringing me out of my hermit crab phase. MIT Technology Review is a complete magazine, but they put out this daily email newsletter called The Download that’s just neat. It’s standard of journalism, brevity and noticeable lack of sensationalism is commendable. And it introduced me to publications like Axios. Five stars.

Other newsletters I’ve since started to follow are hackernewsletter, Nextdraft and some from Vox.


So, in my highest form of flattery, what will I include in this newsletter?

First, I thought about a weekly roundup of everything notable. I love recommending things to people, and I’m always finding new, interesting things I’m sure will change the way people look at the world.

This seemed problematic at second glance. A newsletter trying to do everything might achieve nothing. People alredy resort to their newsfeeds for such an experience anyway. While I might be okay with completely changing my outlook and preferences on a weekly basis, other will not be okay. I myself wouldn’t subscribe to such a channel.

So a better option seemed to be to focus on my surroundings. I’m not a big news buff, but I can usually spot what seems consequential in the long run. Adding to that, I seem to be an early adopter for quite a few things (I bought Mheecha bags before they were cool, yo). I’ll also likely include some miscellaneous things, including upcoming Nepali creators/critics/advocates to keep an eye on, and anything else that really compels me to share it.

In short, द्रष्टव्य will be a weekly roundup of what is notable and impactful in and around Nepal. It’ll be a bird’s eye view of issues and how they interact with each other. I’ll attempt to present different viewpoints, and minimize personal bias. Few sectors will be off-limits - only the hateful, offensive and deeply controversial ones.

Moving Forward

This is a side project that is sure to be dynamic. I might change the format completely within a few weeks, so I apologize to any readers in advance for the shake-ups.

It’s too early to tell how long I’ll continue making the newsletter, or whether I’ll hate it soon. But for the sake of pushing past the pain, I commit myself to pushing out weekly emails for at least 3 months, so about 12 issues in total. I don’t expect more than a dozen people to actually subscribe - taking feedback will be simpler due to this fact.

In case someone is curious about the naming, द्रष्टव्य could be translated as notable or nota bene. Although, there seems to be an etymological component relating to दृश्य (sight/vision) so ‘fit to be seen’ might have some common ground as well.


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Written on 04 July 2020