2021iii1, Monday: One person to read re The Bug.

A US publication has two writers I revere. One is simply the best reporter on Covid-19 that I know of.

2021iii1, Monday: One person to read re The Bug.

Someone is right on the internet: I’ve only a few minutes, ahead of a hearing this afternoon. So a short word only today, about a writer whose work I adore.

The Atlantic, for anyone who doesn’t know, is a US publication of more than 150 years’ standing. It mostly writes about US stuff, from a US perspective.

And despite the fact that I live in Essex and haven’t been to the US for years, I pay $50 a year to subscribe. For two reasons.

Both reasons are writers. The first is James Fallows. One of the smartest and most thoughtful politics and society writers I know, a guy whose work I’ve followed since university (he used to live in and write about Japan). He’s had a line over recent years in examining towns and cities across the US, and how they are revitalising themselves (or sadly sometimes not). Important, ground-up journalism that honours the trade. He’s humble, he writes like a dream, and I love his work.

But the second is the key right now. Zeynep Tufecki made her name on big data, the attention economy and AI, and has been consistently on point on those topics. Equally, she’s had interesting and sobering things to say about the trend towards authoritarianism and populism. But her true value right now - and the reason why I read literally (I’m a pedant - I mean this, ahem, literally) everything she writes - is in her coverage of The Bug. It’s been consistently accurate, ahead of the curve, pragmatic, free of hyperbole and helpful. Her latest, on the pandemic communication mistakes that keep getting made - is brilliant, and is an example of the rest. It makes the point, for instance, that harm reduction should be a primary goal - so since human beings need to meet one another, encourage them to do so outside. Even mid-lockdown. Help people understand how to reduce the risk, to themselves and others, and most will take the advice - rather than meet in secret, indoors, and run a far higher risk.

Unsurprisingly, she’s got a newsletter. I never fail to learn from it. I recommend it warmly.

In the meantime, though, skim through her more recent work. As we crawl towards a vaccinated world, with all the pitfalls and traps ahead of us, I promise you’ll come away smarter, better prepared, and as a result safer.