“I Am the Algorithm”: Curating #News With NextDraft’s Dave Pell

Mia Quagliarello / October 19, 2021

“It has to feel like it’s a creation, not just a collection. That keeps you from getting burned out, because if you’re passionate about what you’re making, then you wake up the next morning and you just need to push that publish button.” — Dave Pell

If you’re a news(letter) connoisseur, then you likely already know — and love — NextDraft. Every weekday, at around 12pm PT, a new edition delights the ol’ inbox: 10 of the most fascinating stories of the day, lovingly ensconced in a writeup filled with biting observations and funny quips. 

That voice belongs to Dave Pell — “the internet’s managing editor” and author of the book “Please Scream Inside Your Heart: Breaking News and Nervous Breakdowns in the Year That Wouldn’t End” (out in November 2021). Dave is a lean, one-man operation who’s been curating email newsletters well before they were a trend, and he had much to share about his daily curation process, why he sees himself as a columnist, self-care for news curators, and where he gets all those puns. 

Highlights, inspiration and key learnings:

  • Origins (and meaning of) NextDraft
  • The power of email: it’s asynchronous and is one feed you have control over
  • How the Trump years and news cycles impact(ed) his readership
  • How Dave puts together NextDraft, including sourcing stories, building the email, and any help he gets
  • How he comes up with such punny copy — and his favorite pun he’s ever written (oh, it’s good)
  • The joys and hazards of being the internet’s managing editor
  • Dealing with burnout as a news curator
  • What’s challenging about working on The Next Draft
  • A peek inside his first book, an overview of the surreal year that was 2020
  • How writing a book is different from writing a newsletter
  • What it’s like being in a two-curator household (his wife, Gina, is a founder of The What)

Browse the companion Storyboard to get the episode itself, plus all the non-news media that Dave loves. He says he’s a TV addict, so he’s got a lot of cool recommendations to share. 

And don’t forget to rate and subscribe to our podcast if you like what you hear. You can find “The Art of Curation” on Flipboard and wherever you listen to your podcasts: Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Google Podcasts and Amazon Podcasts. A new episode drops every Tuesday!

Mia Quagliarello is curating the curators in “The Art of Curation” podcast