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A Look at California Today, and Tomorrow

A Look at California Today, and Tomorrow

Times Insider explains who we are and what we do and delivers behind-the-scenes insights into how our journalism comes together.

When Soumya Karlamangla, who lives in San Francisco, tells someone she works for The New York Times, the reaction is often the same: a look of confusion.

“People that I’m interviewing in the field will say, ‘Oh, they flew you out here for this?’” she said in a recent conversation. “I usually tell them that there’s a good number of Times reporters in California. We have two bureaus.”

Ms. Karlamangla, who writes the California Today newsletter, joined The Times in July 2021 from The Los Angeles Times, where she covered health care news.

“I was tired of writing about Covid-19,” she said. When The Times approached her with an opportunity to cover news in the Golden State, she didn’t hesitate.

Ms. Karlamangla grew up in a suburb of Los Angeles, where she moved from the Midwest when she was 4. Now living in the Richmond neighborhood of San Francisco, she finds much of her inspiration for the newsletter, which publishes every weekday, in her surroundings. Last year, for example, she observed a number of Burmese restaurants in her neighborhood and wrote about the rise of the cuisine. She recently reported on how California got its name, answering a question she’d long had.

In a phone interview, Ms. Karlamangla shared her favorite part about reporting from California and her pursuit to report from all 58 of its counties. The conversation below has been edited and condensed.

How do you decide what to cover for the newsletter?

It’s a combination of what I find interesting, what I think readers could benefit from and what my editors are paying attention to. One thing that’s different about writing a newsletter versus being a beat reporter is that I think about the newsletter on a weekly basis. We have five newsletters a week, so are they all adding something of value to readers? Are we leaning too hard on light news or too hard on heavier news? Because this is a newsletter that lands in people’s inbox first thing in the morning, you have to be a little bit more gentle. People don’t want to click on a newsletter at 6:30 a.m. and find out the world is going to catch on fire in a year.

I want to help explain things to people who have seen headlines about certain news but maybe don’t have the full context, like why U.C.L.A.’s chancellor is testifying on Capitol Hill, or what the Santa Cruz City Council is doing…

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