Sol Villarreal aims to help Americans better understand each other and the news through a newsletter that aggregates stories from mainstream, liberal and conservative news sources.
What is it now? He hung up on Australia? The new “Apprentice” sucks? A former member of the “Fascist Forever” club is being fitted for a justice’s robe, and wait: Is Frederick Douglass alive and well and living in Georgetown?
Just two weeks in and it’s an Olympic sport keeping up with President Donald J. Trump and the ripples — and reeling — resulting from his executive orders and upside-down diplomacy.
Sol Villarreal aims to help with “Last Week in Trump,” an email newsletter that aggregates news stories from mainstream, liberal and conservative sources so we can all understand what’s going on — and, hopefully, eventually, each other.
Hence, the tagline: “The Best of Both Bubbles.”
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Each issue contains brief summaries and links to the top news stories of the week, culled from verified, mainstream sources like The New York Times, The Washington Post and The Wall Street Journal, but also conservative publications like The National Review, American Conservative, Red State and The Blaze.
“Having both gives you a more nuanced view of the world,” Villarreal said the other day, between travels across the internet and real-estate appointments around town. He’s an agent with Windermere, and works on the newsletter for about 20 hours a week.
Last week, the top story was supposed to be about how Trump counselor Kellyanne Conway defended White House press secretary Sean Spicer’s use of “alternative facts.” But by Saturday, “that was a miscellaneous item,” Villarreal said, knocked out of the top space by Trump’s executive order to ban people entering the United States from seven predominantly Muslim countries. The second story listed his 11 other executive orders that week.
“When people ask, ‘What can I do?’ this is my answer to that question,” Villarreal said. “I’m trying to cut through all the noise and say, ‘These are the facts.’ ”
Villarreal, 36, grew up in Texas, the son of fundamentalist Christians, and cast his first presidential vote for George W. Bush. After what he calls a “conversion,” he worked as a field organizer for Barack Obama’s 2008 campaign and returned to Seattle to attend nursing school. At a party, he ran into former Seattle Mayor Mike McGinn, who offered him a job as a community-engagement coordinator.
When McGinn left City Hall in 2014, Villarreal went into real estate and started “Sol’s Civic Minute,” an email newsletter that rounded up political action around the city — and helped him stay connected with, and grow, his real-estate client base. (Their sharing has helped “Civic Minute” grow to 2,300 subscribers.)
After the November election, Villarreal noticed that his posts about President-elect Trump were being opened more than others. So he decided to start another newsletter devoted to the 45th president of the United States, starting the Sunday after Trump took the oath of office.
Villarreal sent a beta version to 240 of his “Civic Minute” subscribers, who helped to nearly double his list the following week. That grew to 860 subscribers. And so on.
He has no plans to monetize.
“This, to me, is what I can do to give back,” he said. “It’s a volunteer exercise.”
What would really pay dividends, he said, would be to have people on either side of the aisle learn how the other half thinks.
“People read because they want to have understanding and empathy for the other side,” he said. “It’s important to listen to Americans that are not like you.
“We have to understand where they are coming from. That’s the goal.”