About Culture Study:
The name “Culture Study” is a modification of “Cultural Studies,” a term used to describe an academic field — and general posture — towards the culture that surrounds us. The scholars of this early field believed that if people found meaning or pleasure in a cultural object, no matter how high or low brow, it was worth thinking about. My approach to Culture is a mix of my training as a cultural studies professor, where I learned that everything is interesting if you just spend some time analyzing and contextualizing it, and my years as a Culture Writer for BuzzFeed News, where I found that everything is even more interesting if you do some reporting and actually talking to people about it.
“Culture” can expand to include pretty much anything. Politics can be culture, celebrity can be culture, tourism and feminism and consumerism and work practices — all culture. Sometimes I’ll write things that take weeks to research and report. Sometimes I’ll do Q&As with my other favorite cultural thinkers. The beauty of a newsletter is that I can still write about things even if I can’t think of a headline that will perform well on Facebook, and you can decide — instead of a Facebook algorithm — whether or not it’s interesting to you.
I love reader story ideas and rely heavily on reader assistance when I report stories. If you have an idea for a future story (or a future thread!) just email me at email@example.com with “story idea” or “thread idea” in the subject line. You can also reach me at that email with any other concerns or problems with your subscription.
Journalism Keeps Breaking
Nearly every news organization that is not the New York Times or funded by a billionaire is struggling, even as everyone can agree that local and national news has never felt more essential. Digital media funding models are often just as unsustainable as old school advertising. Private equity has bought up and sucked the lifeblood from some of the best sites on the internet. Many of the remaining companies are union busters who refuse to address systemic pay inequalities, cultures of harassment, and general histories of ugliness at their organizations. And it’s incredibly difficult to make ends meet as a freelancer.
So how do you support good writing that covers things you care about — and introduces you to new ones? You can and should keep subscribing (if you’re able) to local and national publications. But you can also pay writers directly on Substack. That support might look like a traditional subscription. Or, depending on your financial situation, it might also look like sharing posts and telling people about the newsletter.
Newsletters are an imperfect and temporary fix for the broken and continually breaking journalism model; our entire model for supporting and producing journalism on all levels demands rethinking, similar to what the former Deadspin writers are doing with The Defector. In time, maybe Substack will start bundling newsletters so that you can pay several different authors under one subscription…almost like….a magazine (?!?!)
I grew up in North Idaho, received my PhD in media studies from the University of Texas, and spent a few precarious years in academia before building an equally precarious life raft out of getting paid to write on the internet. In 2014, I gave my last final in Walla Walla, Washington, got on a plane, and moved to New York to start writing full-time for BuzzFeed News, which started out as a lot of celebrity analysis and has expanded into what you see here. (If you’re curious, you can find my BuzzFeed archive here). In 2017, I convinced my editors to let me move to Montana to cover the midterms from a place that was not New York. In 2021, I moved with my partner, Charlie Warzel, to a small island off the coast of Washington State. I wrote a bit about it (and the community we moved here to cultivate) here.
I started writing this newsletter, then called The Collected AHP, back in 2016 — in part because I missed the casual, digression-heavy style of early blogging. For four years, I wrote it irregularly, and for free, usually on Sunday mornings, simply because it gave me pleasure. In the summer of 2020, I realized I could try and spread that feeling across my entire week. Think of this as a full-time experiment in figuring that out.
I used to have a three-legged mutt named Peggy but she died and taught me a lot. Now I have a four-legged mutt named Steve and a four-legged puppy named Bev. You can follow me and them on Instagram here.
But Why Would I Pay For This When I Could Get Most of It For Free?
Do you pay for your clothes? For your food? For your housing? For your books? Even if you get your books from the library, you’re still paying for them — in some way — via your taxes. Services and products cost money. When I was writing this newsletter for free, I was getting paid by a corporation who made money through affiliate links, through Tasty merch, and by selling ads that filled the articles you were reading. But now I’m relying on you.
Your $5 a month (or $50 a year) pays for, well, everything. It allows me to pay guest writers an above-industry rate for their essays. It allows me to pay for design work. It helps me cover the student loan payment for the PhD that helps me analyze things the way that I do. It pays for the books and subscriptions that make me a better thinker and writer. It covers the hours I spend on Twitter (which is how I find the best pieces to link to, and also just watching shit roll by) and reading and writing and editing and responding to your emails and staring into space. It helps cover my health insurance payment and my internet bill and all the other things that a company would provide. You’re making it possible for me to do my best work — and send it directly to your inbox.
But I also understand that not everyone can afford an additional payment. If you are a contingent or gig worker (that includes graduate students and adjuncts), if you’re making minimum wage, if you’re an undergrad with no discretionary income, email me. You don’t have to tell me your story or make a case. Just ask. (I do these in batches, so don’t be surprised if it doesn’t happen for a few weeks).
And if you do have the means to fund an additional subscription — or to gift one to someone in your life — you can do that, too. To donate a subscription, click here. To give it to someone in your life, click here. And you can check out group subscriptions here.
What a Subscription Gets You:
The weekly posts go out to everyone. But subscribing is how you’ll receive the weekly recommendations/links at the end of every Sunday’s newsletter (and the full-blown links and recs post once a month).
You’ll also be able to comment on posts, and participate in the heart of the Culture Study Community in the form of the interesting, bonkers, thoughtful and generative weekly discussion threads, which you can find here.