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The Monday Media Diet with Ben Dietz
On middle-to-back newspaper reading, New Zealand, and the 1980s skate aesthetic
Ben Dietz (BD) is a longtime friend of WITI and publishes the [SIC] Weekly newsletter. After a long stint leading commercial partnerships at VICE Media, he now consults with media and consumer brands, and co-hosts the Culture Club Show on Clubhouse on Wednesday nights. He’s everywhere @dietznutz.
Tell us about yourself.
I hail from Syracuse, but have lived in Greenpoint, Brooklyn more-or-less continuously since 1998, now with my wife and two teenage-ish kids. I started in the music business but have spent the last 18 years working on the commercial side of digital media, mostly at VICE, but back in the early days at Heavy (IYKYK) and most recently as GM for the relaunch of Departures. Outside of my main gigs I’ve always been a dabbler - DJing, throwing parties, advising friends’ companies, and occasionally writing - which collectively led me to start publishing my newsletter three years ago.
Describe your media diet.
It’s pretty catholic; I always say my newsletter is a cross-section of my brain, since it’s compiling links across a bunch of industries and interests that are pertinent to me. I start every day with coffee and WNYC on while I spend a couple hours of newsletters delivered via email, scanning and pulling tabs that catch my eye, a habit I picked up from my first boss and mentor, Randy Irwin. There are a zillion good ones, but a few of my most consistent sources include daily newsletters from Business of Fashion, It’s Nice That (graphic design), Dezeen (design & architecture) Hyperallergic (art), Public Announcement (arts & entertainment), Future Party (digital media & entertainment), Protocol (tech) and Morning Consult (my secret weapon, aggregating everything). Today in Tabs, Garbage Day and After School (which I discovered through WITI, shout out Casey) are guilty pleasures in the afternoon, and of course, there’s WITI itself, the GOAT. Some favorite weekly guys are Jonah & Erin’s Blackbird Spyplane, Matt Klein’s Zine, Sean Monahan’s 8Ball, the Tiktok geniuses from High Tea, Rachel Tashjian’s Opulent Tips, Andrea Hernandez’s foodery Snaxshot and Alex Danco’s Dancoland.
I should hasten to mention that I am still hopelessly devoted to newspapers in print, but only on the weekends. I look forward all week to going to the newsstand on Saturdays for the the WSJ Weekend and the FT Weekend – special shout out to Jo Ellison’s How to Spend It magazine, which combined with the paper for $3 is the best value in media, for my money.
Sundays, it’s the NY Times. My wife and I subscribe to The New Yorker, New York, AD, Vogue, Vanity Fair, Bon Appetit, and Monocle, so there’s a lot of print hanging around the house. Elsewhere in mags, 032c, Jaime Perlman’s More or Less, and Apartamento are on the coffee table, and when upstate it’s new issues of YOLO Journal and Wm Brown, grabbed from David and Laurie at Spruce Homegoods in Callicoon.
I don’t watch tons of TV but when it’s on it’s the shows everybody’s into on HBO Max, Hulu , and Netflix so I can keep up with conversations, or a constantly failing attempt to get my money’s worth from the Criterion Channel - which I love but find very hard to watch anything beginning to end on.
Finally, can’t forget Instagram as a source - I’m pasting links into my newsletter notes constantly. And I have audio going in the background pretty constantly - aside from NPR I pod along with How Long Gone, Pivot, and Group Chat (for the Penn bro in me), and rely heavily on my Discover Weekly.
What’s the last great book you read?
I want to say the Vernon Subutex trilogy by Virginie Despentes, a great ensemble cast story about a French record store owner turned mysterious messiah, which is so, so fun to read (and is my favorite cover design in a minute) but I don’t know if it can be called “great” – it’s a little too pulpy and ridiculous, at times. So I guess the last “great” book was Denis Johnson’s novella “Train Dreams,” a gift from my friend George Rogers. Johnson’s economy with words is truly admirable.
What are you reading now?
I just finished Haruki Murakami’s “Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki,” which I thought was fine; I really wanted it to get weird and it just refused. Next up is Jenny O’Dell’s “How to Do Nothing,” a gift from Gillian Schwartz, whose stealth-mode startup Elsewhere I’m contributing to.
What’s your reading strategy when you pick up a print copy of your favorite publication?
I was going to say I go front to back, page over page, and then start over and read everything from beginning to end – including the ads – but I just realized I actually read the weekend newspapers from the middle-out. And The New Yorker is table of contents first, then selective picking, typically a couple of stories per issue (though Kyle Chayka’s column is a must online).
Who should everyone be reading that they’re not?
I think Jing Daily and its sister Jing Culture and Commerce are both really fantastic in translating what’s happening in China’s youth culture brands and fashion worlds for Western audiences. I had a great chat with Avery Booker from Jing on my IG live a few weeks back, if you want a sense of their approach. The other one is Apology Magazine’s new newsletter, which just launched but is going to be really special, if the magazine and podcast are any indication. Jesse Pearson is an exceptional curator of subject and talent.
What is the best non-famous app you love on your phone?
Plane or train?
Plane, though I have to say a post-pandemic to Copenhagen recently has challenged my habits in a major way. My body isn’t used to sitting for that long anymore and I really had a hard time moving around afterward. Then again, maybe I’m just old.
What is one place everyone should visit?
New Zealand. I lived for a year in Australia and while I had a good time there it was a little too California-esque to feel special for me - but New Zealand is truly something else. The scenery is really mindblowing; straight out of Lord of the Rings, for real. There’s amazing outdoor recreation in the South Island, but in contrast, Auckland’s a real cosmopolitan city. The people are great too. Get there, once they open it back up.
Tell us the story of a rabbit hole you fell deep into.
This is less a rabbit hole I fell into once than one I am constantly falling into via the IG algo - which is old skateboard decks, photos, and paraphernalia. Growing up a skateboarder permanently altered my worldview (as explained in my “Skate Gaze” contribution to WITI) and there are a gang of IG handles that traffic in visuals from my halcyon days (in the best way). A few off the top of my head include @deadhippie, @dearskating, @caribobbo, @elpatosk8og and @joedlamb, a collector who specializes in boards by Vision, which were deeply uncool when I was a teen, but bring back unbelievable associations now.
Thanks for reading,
Noah (NRB) & Colin (CJN) & Ben (BD)
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