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As California goes, so goes the nation.

The Golden State has never been more important or influential, and with the Essential California newsletter, you’ll get quickly up to speed on the stories shaping the state, from our pages and beyond. You’ll also get original reporting and in-depth conversations.

We’ll explore California and highlight communities that haven’t received the attention they deserve. We’re committed to bringing you compelling coverage of the issues affecting the 40 million people in our state — and the many millions more elsewhere who look to its example.

Look for Essential California in your inbox each morning from Monday through Friday, with a week in review on Saturday.

Your host

I’m Justin Ray, a Metro reporter for The Times.

Before taking on this newsletter, my job was as audience engagement editor — a weird title for a social media editor with more responsibilities, chief among them finding new ways to connect with readers. Previously, I was an editor at Columbia Journalism Review and at NBC-owned stations in New York and Chicago. I have bachelor’s degrees in English and journalism from Loyola University Chicago and a master’s in magazine journalism from New York University.

Los Angeles Times staff writer Justin Ray (June 2, 2021)
(Justin Ray / Los Angeles Times)

Throughout my career, my strength has been in asking questions — questions that have led to stories that might otherwise have been overlooked. Expect me to explore those kinds of questions in Essential California.

What’s on your mind? I’d love to hear from you. Email me at justin.ray@latimes.com, or get in touch on Twitter.

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