"If it wasn't so harmful, it would be hilarious how stupid the way we treat healthcare is" - Luke O'Neil


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On today’s episode, we have Luke O’Neil, author of the Welcome to Hell World newsletter and the book Hell World: Dispatches from the American Dystopia. The discussion was recorded on May 14th, 2020.

I have been a Hell World subscriber for about a year to a year and a half. I believe I found it through Luke’s Twitter account coming up in my feed every so often before I hit “follow.”

Luke’s voice and the Hell World publication overall captivated me. The voice has a fresh perspective but it can undoubtedly take some getting used to as you wade into a mixture of journalism, personal essay, interviews, poetry, and random musings on the Deftones.

Most of the pieces describe how Americans struggle with daily life in the face of capitalism. As an example, a recent piece collected thoughts from service workers about their view into “reopening” America in the face of the coronavirus pandemic.

I admire Luke’s work and appreciate the time he spent with me discussing journalism and his views on the healthcare industry.

Hell World is also one of the first newsletter success stories on the Substack platform. “Newsletters” have been getting a fair amount of press recently. It’s not surprising.

Reports have estimated that more than 37.2 million Americans could be out of work, according to a data round-up of unemployment claims (Axios). Many of those layoffs have occurred in media, including The Athletic, The Atlantic, TheSkimm, and more.

Some writers may turn to Substack platforms to pursue financial and creative freedom. With Hell World, O’Neil — who has been freelance writing for two decades — said it was one of the most creatively fulfilling decisions he’s made and, because of that decision, he finds himself more financially stable.

"It’s uncomfortable to actually not be panicking over when my next $300 check is going to get here, which is a situation that any freelance writer will be all too familiar with,” O’Neil said.

Newsletters also are helping to create better relationships with readers. It’s a topic that I spoke about with Out of Pocket’s Nikhil Krishnan last week.

Substack is offering support in exploring what’s possible for any writer recently laid off. A number of Substack writers — including Luke — have volunteered to offer advice calls. Check out the Substack Blog for more information.

Thanks for listening. Get in touch at jeff@magnetcoilmedia.com.