Chris Bouton: Welcome to our new Thursday feature, where we (the editors) start with a question and in true historian fashion, ignore it, and talk about whatever we want. With the rise of Kellyanne Conway’s “alternative facts,” we figured it would be a good idea to discuss our favorite sources of news and what we specifically like about them.
So let’s start with TV. I’ll out myself as a millennial and admit that I don’t get my news from TV apart from when my barber is watching Fox News, which is all the time.
Erin Bartram: Same here. I will watch clips of news/commentary online if they’re interesting and if that’s the only format they’re available in, but I’m largely a digital print person.
Chris: So, what’s your primary online source of news? I’m thinking along the lines of, “Trump just did what?” where do you go?
Erin: For “breaking” news or things I don’t particularly want to or need to know about in depth, my main source is actually Twitter. I’m on it a lot because of the #twitterstorian community, but during the election I started following a bunch of reporters and writers.
I was just thinking of the people I follow and how I don’t know who they all work for now because so many of them seemed to get new/better gigs on the strength of their election coverage and writing.
Chris: Same here. Generally, I get a sense of what’s going on and then click through to an article or link. Between the comedians (who have become increasingly engaged) and the few newspeople that I follow, Twitter is where I get most of my initial information.
For example, the article about Karen Pence today and how the Vice President won’t eat alone with a woman who’s not his wife, I heard about that from Twitter.
Mostly because of jokes that people were making about the horror of a married man eating with a woman who wasn’t his wife.
Erin: I follow Jamil Smith and Ana Marie Cox, both at MTV News. I follow Sopan Deb who I think is now at the Times but was with CBS during the campaign.
Same here, and I actually first saw it because I follow a lot of women historians who were talking about how they couldn’t exist in our profession if men held to that rule.
Chris: Okay, so how about news sources for a little bit more depth? or even… context? (I’ll show myself out)
Erin: I follow Jamelle Bouie on Twitter as well, and I not only subscribe to his weekly newsletter, I pay a few bucks a year for the “deluxe” edition which comes with a few more recipes and photos than the basic one. Each week he shares a bunch of news stories and bits of writing he’s been reading, usually longer-form stuff, and it’s always new to me.
Of course, I follow Yoni Appelbaum as well, whose journey from the anonymity of history grad life to an editorship at The Atlantic is stuff of legends.
I used to subscribe to The Atlantic itself, in hard copy form, but I found that I had often read much of it online before the print edition got to me.
Chris: I’ve been a long-time reader of Talking Points Memo. The editor, Josh Marshall, has a PhD in history from Brown. He broke the U.S. attorneys scandal back in the Bush days. I find that TPM’s reporting is strong, covering the big issues of the day.
Erin: Oh yes, I follow him too! I think I actually got into TPM on your recommendation, years ago.
Chris: Additionally, Marshall had a strong grasp of the Trump phenomenon from the beginning. Back in 2015, he identified Trump’s reliance on dominance/winning as the key to understanding his personality and campaign behavior.
Erin: That’s one reason I liked following the reporters covering Trump on the campaign trail. They were immersed and therefore had a much richer analysis, but they were also a bit more transparent on Twitter than in print or on the teevee.
Chris: Marshall cut through the nonsense of Trump as some kind of 3-dimensional chess player where everything he did was somehow brilliant. He offered the best theory of Trump’s behavior and as a historian I love a good explanatory theory.
The Washington Post has been doing some really great reporting, especially David Farenthold’s work on Trump’s charity (or lack thereof).
Erin: I also follow Chris Hayes on Twitter and will, at times, watch clips of interviews. Same with Maddow. No chance if it’s Hardball – Matthews may have gone to the same college I did, but even the intense connection between all Crusaders can’t make me comfortable with his style. I don’t need to see men talking over women, I live it.
Chris: SNL parodied Matthews years ago and I could never take him seriously after that.
Erin: The Washington Post is actually the one newspaper I subscribe to, digitally. I had the discount 6 months through Amazon Prime and it rolled over to a full subscription right after the election. I almost canceled it because I couldn’t read a newspaper till about Christmas. Now I’m glad I kept it. I am particularly enjoying reading Jennifer Rubin’s pieces, both because I’m trying to expose myself more to viewpoints I disagree with and because I’m fascinated by how much she seems shocked! shocked! to find that there is gambling going on in the Republican party.
I am still a sustaining member of my local NPR, but I haven’t listened to Morning Edition or ATC very much in the past year. I can’t *listen* to these interviews and speeches.
Chris: I’ve gained a new respect for David Frum of the Atlantic. He’s a former Bush speechwriter and prominent conservative, but he’s a bit of an apostate right now. Mostly because he supported working with the Democrats on the ACA and opposed Trump.
I got really tired of all those interviews with Trump voters/supporters. It just became voyeuristic.
A little too much of gawking at these people who have different views than us. Meanwhile ignoring all of those who didn’t like Trump, but nonetheless voted for him because they were pro-life or whatever.
Erin: I feel like that coverage has shifted from gawking to desperately searching for reasons they support Trump other than the ones they’re saying in plain English.
Chris: Yeah, I don’t need that first thing in the morning.
I am also a longtime reader of FiveThirtyEight. I’ve been following Nate Silver since he was doing baseball projections at Baseball Prospectus 10+ years ago.
Erin: I can’t go back there yet. I just can’t.
Chris: The data-driven approach is the right way to cut through the 24-news cycle.
Erin: I think if I’d taken stats instead of calc in high school, I’d be better prepared to engage with that website.
Chris: Yeah, I couldn’t read 538 or really any of my favorite news sites for a while after the election.
Erin: I read long-form stuff from all over when I see it recommended on Twitter: TNR, The Nation, New York, The New Yorker, Rolling Stone, Esquire, Elle, Teen Vogue, Vanity Fair. I don’t subscribe to Harper’s anymore (it was a casualty of the dissertation) but I always liked it.
Chris: I also get a lot of good analysis from podcasts.
Erin: During the election, I listened to Keepin’ it 1600 (shoutout to another Crusader, Jon Favreau, who was a year ahead of me) and I liked it a lot.
Chris: The 538 politics podcast provides a great overview of what’s going on that’s not firmly rooted on the left-right spectrum. They’re approaching it from a critical perspective.
Erin: I listen to Reveal for investigative journalism but man is it depressing.
Yeah, I listened to a bit of that one during the election too.
Chris: Okay, Pod Save America (the successor of Keepin’ it 1600) was where I was going next.
If 538 takes care of the analytical side of my brain, Pod Save America reassures my liberal soul.
Erin: I never realized one became the other!
Chris: They started their own company. They have a bunch of podcasts now. Pod Save the World stars Tommy Vietor and, in each episode, he talks to someone who worked on foreign policy for the Obama administration. It’s really wonky (but I like that) and you get to hear from all these passionate people who did remarkable work.
Erin: I think those perspectives are really useful now. People are all of a sudden realizing how much hard work and competence was required for us to not have to worry about the government functioning 24/7. It’s great to hear from the people who helped make it run in previous administrations (R and D)
Chris: Yeah, it’s a nice to be able to hear these people talk about their experiences in government, their frustrations, and small triumphs.
Erin: A couple of other writers I want to mention. Jared Yates Sexton, whose live tweets of Trump rallies first caught my eye. I think he’s an English prof by day, but he writes for a bunch of outlets as well.
Chris: I’m not even going to try to tag all of the people we’ve mentioned in the Tweet about this chat, though apparently, Twitter allows unlimited tagging now.
Erin: And on the historian side, David Perry, who is a medievalist but also writes a lot about disability for a few outlets, including Pacific Standard.
Erin: Can I offer up outlets I don’t actually read that much anymore?
Chris: Sure, why not? It’s our chat, there are NO RULES.
Erin: It’s not that I won’t read pieces I see people recommend from these sources, but…I don’t seek out stuff from Salon or Jacobin anymore
Chris: They were never high on my reading list. Just not my cup of tea.
Erin: I’ve read some great stuff on both, but I think this past election revealed a lot about how editors and reporters were able to grapple with intersectional issues and some of them didn’t come out looking great.
Chris: Is there anything else we should cover? I think we’re winding down.
Erin: I think, on that note, one thing the election has done for me is to cure my desire to hate-read some stuff.
I know that people will say “you need to be aware of the other side and their arguments” but actually I don’t need to read another poorly-thought-out piece on safe spaces/trigger warnings by white dudes who aren’t in college classrooms.
And I don’t need to read another David Brooks column. I just don’t.
Chris: No one needs to read another column by David Brooks. Aren’t they all just the same column repurposed anyway?
Erin: when someone shows you who they are, believe them, and don’t waste your free articles on them
Chris: Nor do I need to hear about Thomas Friedman’s conversations with his cab drivers.
Erin: Nope. For all the mocking we do of “Have you ever heard of Susan B. Anthony?” there’s a whole lot of that among the hard-working hot take writers who think they’re the first to discover everything.
Chris: And on that note, let’s wrap this up. Thanks to everyone for reading and we’ll be back next week.