On Wednesday, June 28, 2017, I received an email from The White House announcing a newsletter called “West Wing Reads.” My interpretation of their announcement turned out to be very different from the reality.
The email was very simple.
“Read what the West Wing reads. Each day we round up the best stories the West Wing is reading and share them with you. Sign up above.”
This was all the information in the entire email plus the link to where you can sign up.
My expectation was that the newsletter would list what various members of the staff of the West Wing were reading. Since it was daily, the focus would be on different teams each day. President Donald Trump has written several books but doesn’t consider himself a big reader. The email would need to focus on more than his picks.
My expectations weren’t very high. I assumed this would be political and specifically chosen. There would be at least one person reading a book by President Trump. They would be promoting their friend’s books. The administrative secretaries would be reading current best sellers or books on organization/time management. Nothing earth shattering.
However, my excitement comes from my fascination with what people read. Their choices can be revealing. Even if the list is straight propaganda, it tells you what the exact propaganda they are promoting using other people’s words.
A Valid Expectation
A president listing his favorite books and what he is currently reading is not uncommon. Here are some examples:
- The Favorite Books of All 44 Presidents of the United States by Dave Odegard
I thought that this was more of a one-upmanship. Past presidents gave their lists once a year, but President Trump is going to give us lists every day.
The very first newsletter came out the next day on Thursday, June 29th. Not a single book was listed. Instead, a list of five articles with a short synopsis and a link to the full article populated the email.
These articles are in support of President Trump and the current administration’s policies or negative toward their opposition. They are articles by Forbes, Bloomberg, Real Clear Politics, Fox News, The Hill, Lifezette, and The Washington Times. The second newsletter came out the next day and was more of the same adding more sources such as The Wall Street Journal, Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, The Baltimore Sun, and The Washington Free Beacon.
It appears the West Wing is reading positive reviews of itself from its allies and detractors. There is no review or comment by anyone on staff about why these articles or who chose them. Instead, the list of articles shows us what the West Wing wishes to draw our attention to today.
My expectations were not very high, but the newsletter still managed to disappoint. This is a digital scrapbook of articles which make them happy. They could at least offer some commentary or reasoning behind picking those specific articles.
This is a very new thing and could maybe evolve into something more. As West Wing Reads stands now, it comes off as something a program put together for them and sends out automatically. A junior staffer or an intern could have done a better job by adding more of a human touch.
West Wing Reads could act as a forum to discuss books, essays, and articles. The newsletter could come out weekly instead of daily and be better crafted to illustrate what they want to convey. I can’t be the only person who would want to hear what books the staffers are reading.
I can’t be the only person who would want to hear what books the staffers are reading. If not this West Wing, maybe the next one could use the email. Perhaps if a First Lady or Vice President were supporters of a literacy campaign, this could be a great outlet that supports their cause.
The concept is a good one, but their execution fell a bit flat. The optimist in me hopes West Wing Reads can only get better with every attempt moving forward.
What do you think? Is this the best use of this email outlet?