What you need to know about WTF Just Happened Today?
Is this free? Yes, WTFJHT is free, but 100% supported your optional contributions. If you find this resource to be a valuable part of your news diet, then consider supporting my work.
Why are you doing this? Like many, I found the 2016 election cycle to be deeply confusing and frustrating. I’m a news junkie, but struggled to keep up with all the articles, blogs, tweets, Facebook posts, newsletters, podcasts, and broadcast news segments – and still make sense of everything. I don’t see how any “normal” person with a job and/or family could actually make sense of things. They have a scarcity of time available to consume news, but the media environment is optimized for an abundance of news. I started WTFJHT as a personal project to log the biggest stories of the day so that I could keep track of what was going on. It was originally supposed to be more of a save-for-later checklist of articles to read when I got home from work, but quickly morphed into the current, daily compendium.
How do you decide what’s in the daily update? I try to approach the daily update like a front page editor at a newspaper would: focus on timeliness, impact, prominence, importance, conflict, and unexpectedness. This is further refined by framing WTFJHT’s scope of coverage to the curiouser and curiouser news from in and around the Trump and Biden administrations in particular – not politics in general. Together, WTFJHT serves as a single, daily summary of the most important events regarding the Trump and Biden administrations.
Where do you get your information? I read broadly, visiting the homepages of (in no particular order) the New York Times, Washington Post, Politico, NPR, CNN, NBC News, CNBC, ABC News, CBS News, Wall Street Journal, Bloomberg, Axios, Daily Beast, Reuters, Associated Press, the Atlantic, the Guardian, and a lot more. I use several tools to surface links frequently shared across the social web. And, finally, I built Current Status to aggregate recent, highly-cited stories, with an emphasis on original reqporting, depth, and accuracy. Together I try to triangulate on the most important stories of the day.
Hey, you’re biased! Humans making decisions about the relative importance of information is inherently biased. WTFJHT is the news through the lens of a person making those decisions. With every summary I write and article I cite, I’m make a news-value judgement. Journalism is a set of ethics based on trust, truthfulness, fairness, integrity, independence, and accountability. WTF Just Happened Today is a reflection of these ethics, but with the following standards and practices applied:
WTFJHT takes a neutral-ish position. It’s not intentionally partisan. It’s purposefully fact-based. It focuses on clearly saying what happened, concisely presenting the facts, citing the primary and secondary sources, and moving on.
WTFJHT does not offer commentary, opinion, or analysis. Adjectives and adverbs are generally stripped out of the writing so facts are framed as fact. It’s unncessary to add a “just” in front of 38% of Americans approve of the job the president is doing. Any reasonable person can understand that that’s probably not a good job approval rating, right?
With WTFJHT, you will find an independent voice that is personally accountable and considerate for how the editorial choices impact others. I go to great lengths to cite the original source of news and draw from a diversity of sources.
Why do you include polls? Don’t you know that polls are biased, inaccurate, and not to be trusted??? I include polls as a sort of gut check on your worldview, because we could all benefit from updating our priors from time to time. Think of polls not as a harbinger of the shape of things to come, but rather as a point-in-time temperature reading. They’re useful for providing some directional evidence in the same way it’s useful knowing there’s a 40% chance of rain today. Polls aren’t an exact science. They’re also not a crystal ball. So don’t get mad if they challenge your perspective or don’t reinforce your existing views or you disagree with their methodology or whatever. Instead of putting too much stock in polls or ignoring them outright, we should give them the appropriate weight they deserve.
When you link to multiple articles, how do you choose the order of the links? What is your criteria for doing so? I try to cite the primary source of news whenever possible. This is often the large media organizations that are staffed to break news, like the New York Times, Washington Post, CNN, NBC News, Wall Street Journal, Bloomberg, the Guardian, etc. After citing primary sources, I like to cite secondary sources that are either A) confirming the news or B) adding additional reporting. I try to “rank” the order of sources in parentheses based on how much impact they had on my written abstract summary (i.e. source that broke news, added additional reporting, or confirmed it).
What does the 📌 mean? Where possible, I like to “re-up” news from the past to contextulize a current story without having to regurgitate all the past information. By pinning past abstract summaries in a sequential order below a new news story, we can tell a richer narrative without repeating information you may already know. And if you haven’t been following along or you forgot, then the most salient background information is right there for ya.
What are the ✏️ Notables? WTFJHT is (usually) comprised of two parts: the main section, which is a numbered list of abstract summaries, and the Notables. The main section is typically your largest, most impactful stories of the day threaded together to form some sort of narrative. The Notables, however, are a noting of all the other important stories that happened, but didn’t fit the larger daily narrative. The Notables section was created following reader feedback for more stories in the daily update.
How can I contribute? Invest in the continued production of WTF Just Happened Today and become a supporting member right here! The goal is to make WTFJHT a sustainable, member-funded project that exists for as long as necessary. To do that we need to cover all the costs associated with writing and producing the daily update.
I don’t have any money. How can I help? Non-financial forms of membership are just as important and impactful as financial forms of membership. The best way to contribute to the success is to share it with your friends and family. It’s free and has a big impact. Tweet about it or share it on Facebook. The next best way to contribute is to participate in the WTF community forum, submitting links to news and collaborating with other members to make sense of the news. And, finally, you can submit copyedits and fact checks using the “Improve this article” link on every blog post.
I don’t like the word “fuck.” If you’re offended by the word “fuck” on the internet in today’s political climate, then I don’t know what to tell ya.
What are your core values? WTFJHT values transparency, which is why it’s open sourced and hosted as a public repository on GitHub. Anybody can view the change log at anytime for any post. They can make pull requests to fix grammar, typos, facts, sources, etc., as well as contribute code. WTFJHT believes choice is deeply important, so I cite every reference by the name of the original source and link to it clearly so you know exactly where something came from and where you’re going. Where appropriate, I’ll include additional sources. WTFJHT sets clear expectations by answering what happened, what the facts are, cite the sources, and moving on. WTFJHT values consistency in order to earn trust with readers and deliver exactly what’s been promised. Nobody is getting rich running WTFJHT, but the goal is to create more value than you capture so that there are no strings attached. There’s no business model trickery here. No ads. No content gates. No selling of data. WTFJHT is a website, a newsletter, and a podcast that’s supported by its members. That’s it. Why the fuck would I want to sell out my audience anyway?
I’m running for office, will you share my campaign with your audience? No, sorry. My promise to readers is that I’ll tell them WTF just happened today in Trump’s America and not push my personal politics. In exchange, members invest in WTFJHT to tell them what happened; not what to think.
Why do you use serif font and not sans-serif? Don’t you know sans-serif is the superior typeface? And, yo, what’s up with the red links? Blue links are the standard on the web. Like a newspaper, WTFJHT is black and white and read all over.
What is the technology behind WTFJHT? WTFJHT is built using Jekyll, Cloudflare, Travis CI, Amazon S3, and MailChimp. This project is open sourced and hosted as a public GitHub repository. Log new issues, comments, feedback here.
Why don’t you publish WTF Just Happened Today in the morning? It’s not called WTF Just Happened Yesterday.
What’s your publishing schedule? WTF Just Happened Today publishes Monday-Thursday, except for federal, market holidays, and some random holidays, including Trump’s and Biden’s birthdays. Below is the 2023 publishing schedule (and I reserve the right to take additional days off or amend the schedule as I see fit):
- New Year’s Day – January 2
- Martin Luther King, Jr. Day – January 16
- WTF Just Happened Today?’s Birthday – January 20
- President’s Day – February 20
- Good Friday – April 7
- Memorial Day – May 29
- Flag Day / Trump’s Birthday – June 14 (observed June 16)
- Juneteenth – June 19
- Independence Day – July 4
- Labor Day – September 4
- Indigenous Peoples’ Day – October 9
- Veterans Day – November 11 (observed November 10)
- Biden’s Birthday – November (observed November 24)
- Thanksgiving Day – November 23
- Christmas Eve – December 24
- Christmas Day – December 25
- New Year’s Eve – December 31
- New Year’s Day 2024 – January 1
WTF Does It Cost To Run This Thing?
The cost of running What The Fuck Just Happened Today isn’t free. It’s my full-time job and I’m determined to keep this ad-free and sustainable.
Here’s a rough estimate of the monthly costs required to run WTFJHT:
Hosting: The site is hosted on Amazon S3 because it’s highly scalable, reliable, fast, and generally an inexpensive data storage infrastructure option. I also use CloudFlare to manage my DNS, SSL certificate, and handle caching. Monthly Cost: ~$125
Podcast and Hosting: I use AWS S3 to host the daily podcast and cache the files with AWS CloudFront. I also pay Joe for producing and recording the daily podcast. Although he loves doing it, I strongly feel that people deserve to be compensated for their work. I provide him with a monthly stipend. Monthly Cost: ~$2000
Python Anywhere: I built a news aggregator called Current Status to help me source the top political news from across the web. I host it on Python Anywhere. Monthly Cost: $25
S3 Stat: Spending all this money hosting a podcast doesn’t mean much if you can’t measure it. Using S3 Stat lets me easily understand who is playing what pod on what device. Monthly Cost: $10
Site Search: This giant repository of news isn’t very valuable if you can’t find what you’re looking for. I’ve implemented Algolia, the best instant search option out there. Monthly Cost: $69
Email Service: Oh boy, here’s one of the most expensive parts of running the site. I use MailChimp because the ease of use, templating, reporting, and pre-built forms are the best in the business. While there are cheaper options out there, the time-savings is worth it. MailChimp charges based on the number of subscribers you have AND the number of monthly emails sent. WTFJHT sends more than 2.5M emails/month. The costs of sending email will continue to go up as WTFJHT grows. MailChimp is an awesome company and they’ve provided us with a 15% discount. Monthly Cost: At least $900; usually more.
Yellow Brim: A huge issue with sending newsletters is that it’s easy to mess up the formatting. This is compounded by publishing WTFJHT as a blog post first, then reproducing it in MailChimp as an email second. I use a tool by a startup called Yellow Brim, which allows me to quickly convert the daily update into a perfectly formatted email newsletter. I save at least 45 minutes a day by using this tool. Monthly Cost: $75
WTF Member Forum: The WTF Member Forum is a community that exists 24/7/365 to discuss the news, coordinate actions, share perspectives, and connect with likeminded people. It’s a Discourse community hub, which is amazing, free, and open sourced. It needs to be hosted somewhere, however. The provider of choice is Digital Ocean. Monthly Cost: ~$20
NewsWhip Spike: I recently started using Spike by NewsWhip to help me more quickly source the daily news. Their tool is incredible, but very expensive. They believe in the WTF mission and cut me a deal for access. Monthly Cost: $100
News Subscriptions: Quality journalism ain’t free. I have subscriptions to the New York Times, Washington Post, Wall Street Journal, Bloomberg, The Atlantic, and a few others. Monthly Cost: ~$100
Other Tools and Services: There’s a host of other things that are required to make WTF tick, like a GitHub subscription for hosting the code, Cloudflare for various security and serving issues, Buffer for posting, Canva for quickly creating social images, and Zapier to automate boring tasks, among others. I’m constantly trying new things in an effort to maximize both productivity and cost efficiency. Monthly Cost: ~$120
Freelancers: Being your own boss is great, but nothing gets done if you take a day off. I utilize a network of freelance writer/editors, social media editors, and various jack-of-all-trade help to step in and write and produce WTFJHT when I’m unable to (or when I just need some help). While the actual costs are variable and spread out over the course of a year, the effective cost is about $100-$150/day all-in. Monthly Cost: ~$3000
My Labor: Here’s a daily breakdown of how I generally spend my time:
3 hours researching and collecting stories
3 hours writing and curating the daily post
1 hours producing the newsletter, setting up the post, cutting images, publishing, troubleshooting, fixing typos
1-2 hours community management and social media distribution
1-2 hours site maintenance, help desk/support, etc
And, since I’m both the writer/editor and web developer running this, let’s pretend my salary is the average between the two professions in Seattle, via Glassdoor: News Editor: $71,086. Senior Web Developer: $106,175. Monthly Cost: ($71,086 + $106,175) / 2 = $88,630/year. $7,385
Risk Adjustment: Quitting a salaried job that included full benefits to run a blog and newsletter that’s supported entirely by optional, pay-whatever-you-want memberships comes with substantial personal and professional risk. While I’m prepared to experience some variable income, I’m not prepared to run WTFJHT at a loss for an extended period of time. I’ve also disrupted a career, so who knows what I’ll do after WTF or how long it’ll take to figure that out. This risk adjustment is also responsible for covering cash flow issues and various hard costs, like personal health care, quarterly taxes, and the unknown who-knows-wtf fees that come with running your own business. Monthly cost: 15% of total
Inflation Adjustment: To ensure that my compensation isn’t eroded by inflation, I’ve included an inflation adjustment to reflect the changing cost of living. This is the same as a working person receiving an annual raise or the COLA adjustment to a retiree’s Social Security benefit. I’m using the historical average U.S. inflation rate fort his adjustment. Monthly cost: 2.26% of total
TOTAL MONTHLY COST:
~$3,500 (hosting, email, tools, etc.)
$7,385 (my labor)
+ ~$2,082 (15% risk adjustment)
+ ~$313 (2.26% inflation adjustment)
Grand Total: ~$16,280.
As you can see, nobody is getting rich here. It’s not like there’s a WTF 401(k) plan, vacation benfits, paid sick leave, or other perks, let alone full-time employees. The truth is that while it’s nice to work from home, it’s also lonely. Someday I’d like to afford coworkers and an office that’s not in my basement.
I hope this transparency addresses any concerns you may have and demonstrates why your support is critical to keeping WTF Just Happened Today going strong. So, please become a member today.