TaskRabbit founder joins a VC firm, as the company continues to explore a sale

Leah Busque heads to Fuel Capital.

As TaskRabbit moves closer to being sold, the company’s founder and executive chairwoman, Leah Busque, has quietly taken a new role at a venture capital firm, Recode has learned.

Busque has joined the seed-focused Fuel Capital, she confirmed, but said that she will remain on the board of the San Francisco-based online marketplace for contract labor. She founded TaskRabbit nine years ago, but stepped down as the company’s CEO in the spring of 2016.

“Today’s founders expect authenticity and transparency and these things that are kind of table stakes,” she said in an interview at Fuel’s offices on Tuesday. “But I feel like there’s a gap in the market right now.”

Busque began at Fuel Capital in July and said the timing of her new role was unrelated to any sale of TaskRabbit. She said she began looking for a role in venture last summer.

Although unrelated, the departure comes as TaskRabbit moves closer to a sale, according to multiple people with knowledge of the process. Recode could not learn the identity of the buyer.

The deal is being advised by Bank of America Merrill Lynch, the people said.

TaskRabbit’s buyer will not be Thumbtack, its chief rival in the home errand space, said several people following the proceedings. Nor is it some other possible buyers, such as Google, IAC or Yelp.

TaskRabbit declined to comment on any ongoing talks. But its CEO, Stacy Brown-Philpot, told Recode in April that it was exploring a sale after being approached by a strategic buyer.

“It’s opportunistic,” she said at the time.

TaskRabbit has raised about $ 50 million in venture funding since 2010, according to data from PitchBook, and any sale would generate cash for firms that have backed it such as Shasta Ventures and Founders Fund.

Using that funding, it has built one of the sharing economy’s more recognizable brands, although TaskRabbit has had challenges in expanding beyond its initial success and buzz to build a larger and more scalable business. To grow, it has sought bigger partners, such as Amazon, which unveiled a partnership deal with TaskRabbit in 2015. (Amazon is also not the buyer, said sources.)

TaskRabbit offers a marketplace for individuals in need of human labor — to move furniture, to stand in line, to mount a television — to connect with workers, or “taskers,” who are willing to do the job for pay. Busque founded the company, originally called Run My Errand, in 2008.

“I’m 100 percent full-time here,” Busque said, although she said she would keep her foothold at TaskRabbit. “It’s my first baby.”

Fuel Capital started in 2013 and raised its second fund of $ 45 million in 2015. The firm is still quite small — Busque joins Chris Howard as only its second general partner. It is a spinoff of Seattle-based Ignition Partners, which was founded by Brad Silverberg, who remains an adviser to Fuel.

“I always knew that I wanted it to be a team effort,” Howard said. “But I wanted to find the right partner.”

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Recode’s reactions to Twitter’s new, longer tweets: ‘I don’t have time to read your book’

Recode’s staff weighs in on Twitter’s new product test.

Twitter is testing longer tweets, which means some users now get 280 characters to say whatever is on their mind, instead of the 140 characters Twitter is traditionally known for.

If there’s one thing we know about Twitter, it’s that users love to hate whatever changes the company makes to the product. And this is a big change for Twitter, so we imagine that a lot of people will have a lot of thoughts about longer tweets.

Recode is full of passionate Twitter users with a lot of thoughts about most everything. So we asked our staff to weigh in on the update. The only rule: Supporters of the new character limit could tell us why they liked it in 280 characters; opponents of the change had to limit their arguments to the traditional 140-character limit.

Here’s where Recoders fall.

Love it

Dan Frommer, Editor in Chief

Love it. The rise of the “thread” has proven that Twitter is a great place to post longer ideas without linking out. But more than anything, it shows Twitter is experimenting with formats — something that is many years overdue. Twitter’s value is its network, not a hard 140 limit.

Peter Kafka, Senior Editor, Media

Sounds great!

But let’s not give it away for free: Make users earn additional characters. They could do so by doing good, or donating money, or by muting Donald Trump.

Kurt Wagner, Senior Editor, Social Media

This is long overdue. My only issue: Why stop at 280? In a world where news breaks on Twitter every single day, we shouldn’t be forcing people to cut important context from a tweet just to meet an unnecessary limit. I’m also sick of piecing together President Trump’s tweetstorms.

Johana Bhuiyan, Senior Editor, Transportation

1/2 I’m going to be that guy. The change is fine, but this is a dumb thing to focus on right now. Character limit is a menial thing that does nothing to address the important issues the current iteration of Twitter is facing, like how to police hate speech

2/2 If Twitter fully realized its role as the platform of choice for the president, news orgs and activists, it would ask itself: Do we provide the tools to help disseminate/elevate important info? Then we might see updates/terms that are useful.

Hate it

Kara Swisher, Executive Editor

Good. God. Donald. Trump. Gets. 280. Characters #wearedoomed #SAD.

Edmund Lee, Managing Editor

You don’t need 280. There’s always another tweet coming. Shorter is better.

Eric Johnson, Producer, Recode Radio

The current character limit is Twitter’s best feature. It’s perfect for jokes and forces people to write a bit more carefully. 280 is too ma

Teddy Schleifer, Senior Editor, Finance and Influence

Twitter forces people to be punchy. No BS, no hedging, no vacuous social graces. More characters means less candor and more obfuscation.

Meghann Farnsworth, Engagement Editor


Rani Molla, Data Editor

A tweet is a little bit of poetry — a haiku but in 140 characters. The length makes you get to the point. I don’t have time to read your book.

Tony Romm, Senior Editor, Policy and Politics

I hate everything, including this. But at least I can analyze tech policy & complain about dating now in a single tweet. Also tip @techmeme.

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Dyson, the company that makes fancy vacuums, is building an electric car

Founder James Dyson announced the company’s plans in a staff email.

Household appliance manufacturer Dyson is taking a leap into building a different kind of appliance: An electric vehicle.

In an email to staff, Dyson founder James Dyson wrote that the company has been working on building a battery-powered electric vehicle with a team of 400 people. The company, best known for its vacuum cleaners, plans to launch their EV to the public by 2020.

In his email, Dyson wrote that the company will be investing two billion euro ($ 2.35 billion) into developing these cars. The company expects to manufacture the majority of the car in-house with the exception of components like tires for which Dyson will turn to traditional suppliers.

Dyson’s motivation, he wrote, was to help solve the current environmental crisis plaguing the earth — something he accuses traditional automakers of having done little to alleviate.

“In the period since, governments around the world have encouraged the adoption of oxymoronically designated ‘clean diesel’ engines through subsidies and grants,” Dyson wrote. “Major auto manufacturers have circumvented and duped clean air regulations. As a result, developed and developing cities are full of smog-belching cars, lorries and buses. It is a problem that others are ignoring.”

Building a battery-powered EV is not an easy task. Just look at Tesla, which posted a record quarterly loss of $ 336 million at the end of August 2017. The company did beat revenue expectations, however, with $ 2.79 billion in sales. That was before the Elon-Musk-helmed company began producing its mass-market vehicle the Model 3.

Add to the costliness of manufacturing an EV, Dyson will have to compete with Tesla for its cult-like following.

It’s unclear how many cars Dyson plans to produce by 2020 or how they will be priced. But, if you subscribe to Musk’s vision, then the only way to actually impact environmental issues is to encourage or enable mass consumption of alternatively fueled cars.

Dyson’s move doesn’t come as a total surprise. Two high-profile hires from Aston Martin fueled speculation that the British company might be exploring manufacturing its own electric cars. In fact, former Tesla vice president of global communications Ricardo Reyes is leading Dyson’s global communications.

Here’s the full email:

In 1988 I read a paper by the US National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, linking the exhaust from diesel engines to premature death in laboratory mice and rats. In March 1990 a team at Dyson began work on a cyclonic filter that could be fitted on a vehicle’s exhaust system to trap particulates.

Sketches Dyson included in his email.

By 1993 we had developed several working prototypes and showed an early iteration to British television programme Blue Peter. The team went on to develop a much more sophisticated technology.

To our chagrin, nobody at the time was interested in employing our diesel exhaust capture system and westopped the project. The industry said that ‘disposing’ of the collected soot was too much of a problem! Better to breathe it in?

In the period since, governments around the world have encouraged the adoption of oxymoronically designated ‘clean diesel’ engines through subsidies and grants. Major auto manufacturers have circumvented and duped clean air regulations. As a result, developed and developing cities are full of smog-belching cars, lorries and buses. It is a problem that others are ignoring.

Throughout, it has remained my ambition to find a solution to the global problem of air pollution. Some years ago, observing that automotive firms were not changing their spots, I committed the company to develop new battery technologies. I believed that electrically powered vehicles would solve the vehicle pollution problem. Dyson carried on innovating. The latest digital motors and energy storage systems power the Dyson Supersonic hair dryer and cord-free vacuum line. We’ve relentlessly innovated in fluid dynamics and HVAC systems to build our fans, heaters and purifiers.

At this moment, we finally have the opportunity to bring all our technologies together into a single product. Rather than filtering emissions at the exhaust pipe, today we have the ability to solve it at the source. So I wanted you to hear it directly from me: Dyson has begun work on a battery electric vehicle, due to be launched by 2020.

We’ve started building an exceptional team that combines top Dyson engineers with talented individuals from the automotive industry. The team is already over 400 strong, and we are recruiting aggressively. I’m committed to investing £2bn on this endeavour.

The project will grow quickly from here but at this stage we will not release any information. Competition for new technology in the automotive industry is fierce and we must do everything we can to keep the specifics of our vehicle confidential

In London, nearly 9,500 people die early each year due to long-term exposure to air pollution according to a study carried out by researchers at King’s College London. The World Health Organisation reports “in 2012 around 7 million people died – one in eight of total global deaths – as a result of air pollution exposure”. It is our obligation to offer a solution to the world’s largest single environmental risk. I look forward to showing you all what I hope will be something quite unique and better, in due course!


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Recode Daily: Those Russia-backed Facebook ads were intended to divide Americans before the election

Plus, did Trump’s threatening tweet violate Twitter’s ToS? Also, WTF projects a 70-foot-tall pro-Obamacare ad on Congress; and how to survive the apocalypse.

The Kremlin-sourced ads on Facebook ahead of the 2016 U.S. presidential election were aimed at stoking social tensions and potential political unrest. So far, Facebook has provided all 3,000 ads, which played to both sides of hot-button issues like Black Lives Matter and gun control, only to former FBI Director Robert Mueller, who is leading the federal probe into Russian interference. [Tony Romm / Recode]

Twitter says President Donald Trump’s tweet that threatened North Korea was potentially in violation of its terms of service. But because the tweet was “newsworthy,” it was allowed to stay up, and the president’s account wasn’t suspended. Yesterday, Twitter said it will update its public guidance on what factors may lead to a tweet being pulled from the platform — or allowed to stay on it — to include a consideration of newsworthiness. [Kurt Wagner / Recode]

Fox’s FX is pulling more of its shows off of rival streaming services like Netflix and Amazon, and putting them on its homegrown FX+ service. Like other big studios and networks, Fox has been making noise about reclaiming shows like “The Americans” from other companies; if you want to watch old Fox shows, you’ll have to watch them on Hulu or other Fox properties. [Peter Kafka / Recode]

Levi’s and Google are selling a $ 350 jean jacket you can use to control your phone. It’s supposedly designed for bike commuters. [Dieter Bohn / The Verge]

Rapper Eminem’s music catalog is going public in a first-of-its-kind deal, with investors and fans able to buy shares of hit songs like “Lose Yourself,” “Stan” and “The Real Slim Shady.” Eminem is not involved in the sale; the Bass Brothers production team, which signed Eminem to a local record deal in 1995, is putting part of its multi-million dollar royalty stream up for investment. [Brian McCollum / Detroit Free Press]

Top stories from Recode

President Donald Trump and his daughter Ivanka are unveiling a new federal computer science initiative with major tech backers.

Plus, tech giants like Amazon, Facebook and Google will commit new support to coding education.

A new political group backed by Mark Pincus and Reid Hoffman is running its first ad in support of Obamacare.

The latest on Win the Future, or WTF.

Where the software industry is growing outside Silicon Valley.

Indiana and North Carolina are among the states seeing the fastest growth.

This is cool

How to survive the apocalypse.

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Venture firm IVP has raised its biggest fund yet at $1.5 billion

A sign of the times.

With valuations of private companies climbing higher and higher, some venture capital firms have a simple solution: Larger funds.

IVP, the firm founded 35 years ago that specializes in later-stage investments, on Tuesday said it had raised its largest fund yet — a $ 1.5 billion pool of money that is their 16th in the venture business.

Some of IVP’s most well-known investments in recent years include Twitter, Slack, Dropbox and Snap, though they tended to invest in those companies after some earlier-stage venture firms had discovered them.

IVP said their ability and eagerness to deploy so much cash showed that the firm was an “island of stability in the midst of the storm.”

“There’s been all kinds of bad publicity about the venture business. Valuations are too high. There’s too much money in the sector. People misbehaving,” Sandy Miller, one of the firm’s general partners, told Recode. IVP’s fund is “basically a validation that this is a healthy environment.”

IVP expects to invest in 35 to 40 companies over the 10-year fund’s lifespan; check sizes range from $ 10 million to $ 100 million.

The firm is still awaiting several large exits from some of its prospects. Dropbox is strongly expected to go public either late this year or early next year; Slack’s path toward an IPO was perhaps delayed by the millions it just accepted from SoftBank’s $ 100 billion Vision Fund.

Miller said, though, that the Vision Fund could be a force for good.

“The Vision Fund is a wild card but could be a significant factor in terms of exits for venture,” he said, explaining that investors have “new vehicles” for liquidity by possibly selling their stakes to SoftBank.

And as for Snap, which has sharply fallen since going public earlier this year?

“We’ve been disappointed with what happened in the public marketplace,” Miller said. “Whatever companies are losing money and have this high a profile — they’re going to be very volatile in the public market. But volatility can go in both directions.”

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Twitter says Donald Trump’s tweets are newsworthy, which might explain why he hasn’t been suspended

Trump appeared to threaten North Korea in a tweet, and Twitter is trying to explain why he wasn’t suspended.

President Donald Trump appears to have violated Twitter’s user guidelines with a recent tweet about North Korea. The company doesn’t plan to punish him for it, and now it’s trying to explain why.

Over the weekend, Trump tweeted a message about North Korea and dictator Kim Jong-un that included a thinly veiled threat. Threats are against Twitter’s user guidelines, which forbid tweets that include “threats of violence or promote violence, including threatening or promoting terrorism.”

“Just heard Foreign Minister of North Korea speak at U.N.,” Trump tweeted. “If he echoes thoughts of Little Rocket Man, they won’t be around much longer!”

North Korea took the “won’t be around much longer” part of the tweet as a threat, claiming on Monday that Trump’s post was a “clear declaration of war.”

Some wondered on Monday why Twitter hadn’t removed the tweet — violating the company’s rules usually means the tweet is removed and the account is suspended.

In a somewhat confusing post on Monday, the company shed some light on why the tweet was allowed to stay up.

Twitter’s explanation: Because it was newsworthy.

“We hold all accounts to the same Rules, and consider a number of factors when assessing whether Tweets violate our Rules,” the company wrote in a post. “Among the considerations is ‘newsworthiness’ and whether a Tweet is of public interest. This has long been internal policy and we’ll soon update our public-facing rules to reflect it. We need to do better on this, and will.”

A company spokesperson clarified to Recode that Twitter’s post was not confirming that Trump’s tweet violated its rules. Just that “newsworthiness” is one factor that is used internally to determine whether or not to take something down.

This won’t sit well with a lot of people. Trump routinely walks the line when it comes to Twitter’s abuse and safety rules, and given that newsworthiness is a consideration in how to respond, it’s tough to imagine a scenario in which he might cross the line. As the president, everything he tweets is newsworthy.

Twitter has never acknowledged publicly that Trump has violated any of its guidelines — it rarely even acknowledges Trump’s tweets. Back in July, for example, Twitter’s VP of Trust and Safety, when asked about Trump, told a group of reporters that, “The rules are the rules, we enforce them the same way for everybody.”

CEO Jack Dorsey has long defended Trump’s tweeting. “I believe it’s really important to have these conversations out in the open, rather than have them behind closed doors,” he said in May.

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A new political group backed by Mark Pincus and Reid Hoffman is running its first ad in support of Obamacare

The latest on Win the Future, or WTF.

Mark Pincus and his WTF project to rethink American politics is coming to the nation’s capital — with a little help from the Wizard of Oz.

To be clear, that’s WTF as in Win the Future, and when it isn’t indulging in silver-screen fantasy, it aspires to change the way the Democratic Party drafts its candidates and forms its policy platform. Pincus, the co-founder of game-maker Zynga, teamed up with Adam Werbach and Reid Hoffman, the creator of LinkedIn, to unveil the effort in July, as first reported by Recode.

But starting tonight, WTF is going to try to make its name known in Washington, D.C., by running its first advertisement: A wicked-witch-themed projection on one of the office buildings for lawmakers in the House of Representatives, urging members to preserve the Affordable Care Act.

“If they only had a brain, a heart, the nerve. Stand up for the ACA! #WTF,’” the 70-foot ad will read. It doesn’t really explain much about the group or its goals, but still, WTF wants voters to demand their senators reject Republicans’ latest attempts to repeal and replace Obamacare.

“We want to take ideas from the crowd and put it where members of Congress see it,” Werbach said.

To be sure, Pincus and crew always figured they’d have to start small. Initially, they told Recode, they hoped to raise enough money to erect billboards near Reagan National Airport to promote WTF’s views to lawmakers as they prepared to depart the city. While their first-ever D.C. advertisement is a little different in location and nature, Werbach stressed that it’s still the result of the fact that many WTF supporters have sounded off in defense of Obamacare.

In total, they have about 50,000 backers, all corralled through WTF’s official Facebook group. And they’ve raised about $ 100,000 from them, adding to a small war chest that already counted donations from Pincus as well as Hoffman, who is spending large sums on U.S. politics in 2017. Other donors include Joanne and Fred Wilson, and Jeffrey Katzenberg.

Sooner or later, though, the WTF team hopes to have an even larger network of supporters online who rally around policies that Pincus has previously described as “pro-social [and] pro-planet, but also pro-business and pro-economy.” Eventually, the group hopes to recruit so-called WTF Democrats — candidates who run under the Win the Future banner in congressional races around the country.

For now, Werbach said those conversations are just beginning; he declined to offer names of any office-seekers he’s targeting. But his co-founder in WTF, Pincus, previously had told Recode he hoped to convince Stephan Jenkins, the frontman of Third Eye Blind, to carry their mantle. (Werbach said he didn’t “have anything to add” on that at the moment.)

Still, he insisted the Silicon Valley effort to challenge official Democratic orthodoxy — from party structures to its leaders itself — has brought the group some early good will.

“We don’t feel like we’ve been frozen out or rejected,” Werbach said, before adding: “And at some point we decided to just start delivering the work we promised.”

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Russia-purchased ads on Facebook during the 2016 election were aimed at stoking social tensions

The Kremlin-sourced ads played on both sides of issues like Black Lives Matter.

Some of the suspicious Facebook ads purchased by Russian agents ahead of the 2016 presidential election were aimed at influencing its outcome by preying on racial, religious and other social tensions in the United States, according to two sources familiar with the matter.

At times, these Kremlin-sourced ads even played on both sides of an issue — advancing and opposing causes including Black Lives Matter and gun control, for example — in a bid to stir potential political unrest, said the sources, confirming a report by The Washington Post on Monday.

The suspect ads comprise a small slice of the roughly 3,000 ads that have become the subject of increasing scrutiny by the U.S. Congress as well as former FBI Director Robert Mueller, who is leading the U.S. government’s official probe into Russian interference during the 2016 election.

Facebook hinted at some of the ads’ content in a blog post earlier this month, saying, “the ads and accounts appeared to focus on amplifying divisive social and political messages across the ideological spectrum — touching on topics from LGBT matters to race issues to immigration to gun rights.”

The new, if meager, details about Russia’s approach to playing both sides of divisive issues, are guaranteed to keep Facebook in the political hot seat, all at a time when the company is facing criticism for allowing political advertisers and others to target users based on sensitive demographic information, such as race or religion.

A spokesman for Facebook declined comment. Spokespeople for the House and Senate committees investigating the matter did not immediately respond to requests seeking comment.

Speaking on CBS’s “Face the Nation” over the weekend, Rep. Adam Schiff, the top Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee, acknowledged the ads’ tone: He said they were “designed not only to help Donald Trump or hurt Hillary Clinton, but more fundamentally, to divide Americans, to pit one American against another on some very divisive issues.”

So far, Facebook has provided the full tranche of Russia-tied ads only to Mueller. It has not yet shared all 3,000 with investigators on the House and Senate Intelligence Committees, according to two sources, though it promised to do so last week. The company also announced a number of major changes to its advertising platform, including new transparency requirements.

Nor is it the only tech company facing scrutiny in the nation’s capital. This week, lawmakers investigating Russia’s alleged election meddling plan to grill another tech giant — Twitter — over the spread of misinformation on its own platform. The company will brief the House Intelligence Committee, a source confirmed, in addition to its Senate counterpart, a meeting first reported last week.

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President Donald Trump and his daughter Ivanka are unveiling a new federal computer science initiative with major tech backers

Plus, tech giants like Amazon, Facebook and Google will commit new support to coding education

President Donald Trump will issue a new directive Monday to supercharge the U.S. government’s support for science, tech, engineering and mathematics, including coding education, as the White House seeks to train workers for high-demand computer-science jobs of the future.

To start, Trump is set to sign a presidential memorandum at the White House later today — a policy, first reported by Recode, that tasks the Department of Education to devote at least $ 200 million of its grant funds each year to so-called STEM fields.

And on Tuesday, Trump’s daughter and adviser, Ivanka, is expected to head to Detroit, where she will join business leaders for an event unveiling a series of private-sector commitments — from Amazon, Facebook, Google, GM, Quicken Loans, Salesforce and others — meant to boost U.S. coding and computer-science classes and programs, multiple sources confirmed to Recode on Monday.

The exact total of their financial pledges is unclear, and the White House did not provide further details about industry participants on Monday.

On a call with reporters, though, Ivanka Trump stressed the whole of their new campaign aims to ensure “every student across the country, from our rural communities to our inner cities,” has access to tools that can prepare them for digital-minded jobs.

“Given the growing role of technology in American industry,” she continued, “it is vital our students become fluent in coding and computer science, with early exposure to both.”

Trump’s new computer-science campaign builds in some ways on previous work by his predecessor, former President Barack Obama, who sought to boost coding education through initiatives like Computer Science for All. That 2016 effort similarly relied on commitments from nonprofits and tech companies, who pledged to help city and state leaders improve their STEM curricula. But a key piece of the so-called CS for All program — $ 4 billion in new federal spending — never won approval from Congress.

Obama scored some early wins anyway, but it’s still the case that less than half of all U.S. high schools offer computer science classes, according to an estimate from Code.org, which has worked with both the Obama and Trump administrations on the issue. To that end, Apple chief executive Tim Cook urged Trump to make coding a requirement in public schools when he joined the president and other tech leaders at the White House’s so-called “tech week” this June.

A month later, Cook and other business leaders, including Lockheed Martin CEO Marillyn Hewson and Microsoft President Brad Smith, huddled with the Trump administration — including Ivanka — on a private call to discuss ways to rethink federal policy through a tech lens, sources told Recode this week.

But the White House’s announcement nonetheless comes at a perilous moment for tech, corporate America and the Trump presidency.

A month ago, scores of executives, including tech giants, resigned their posts on two councils advising Trump on business and manufacturing issues, citing Trump’s early refusal to blame the violence in Charlottesville, Va., on neo-Nazi demonstrators. More recently, the leaders of Apple, Facebook, Google and Microsoft have openly criticized the president for ending an immigration program known as DACA, which protects children brought to the United States illegally from being deported.

Many of those tech giants are now lobbying the White House and Congress intensely to restore the legal shield for roughly 800,000 beneficiaries, known as Dreamers. And those participating in the White House’s computer-science announcement this week could find themselves under immense, new pressure — particularly from their employees — to use the opportunity to continue trying to advance immigration reform and other, related issues.

Some of the tech giants promising new dollars for coding education came to the table as a result of the Internet Association, the Washington, D.C.-based lobbying voice for the Valley. Other participants include Accenture, Intuit and Pluralsight, an online education company.

In the nation’s capital, meanwhile, the Department of Education is tasked with figuring out how to dedicate at least $ 200 million in existing funds toward computer science. Part of that mandate includes focusing on coding education programs that target women and minorities, two under-represented groups in tech hubs like Silicon Valley, according to senior administration officials.

Ivanka Trump, for her part, has focused recently on issues like workforce development. “By supporting computer science curriculum in our schools, I hope that all children will have the opportunity to become fluent in this language of the future,” she posted to Instagram in June — along with a photo in which she’s sitting with her daughter, Arabella, learning how to code.

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What the media gets wrong about Donald Trump, according to the NYT’s Maggie Haberman

“Shrill” outrage and grandstanding only hurt the media’s credibility, Haberman says.

New York Times reporter Maggie Haberman is known for her deeply sourced stories about what’s really happening at the Trump White House. She says the gap between what people close to Trump know and what everyone else believes has been a defining trait throughout his public life — and also a potential pitfall for reporters.

“The five-borough view in New York City, of Trump, is so unbelievably different than the national view of Trump,” Haberman said on the latest episode of Recode Decode, hosted by Kara Swisher, recorded live in Austin, Texas at the 2017 Texas Tribune Festival. “The national view was formed over 14 years of ‘The Apprentice.’ I was amazed and people would go to Iowa and people would describe him like Thomas Edison: ‘He’s this innovator, he formed this huge business, he’s decisive’ and it’s, like, he fired Gary Busey. That’s who we’re talking about.”

“It’s always a mirage,” she added. “There was a side that was like, ‘Everybody knows this!’ Well, actually, everybody doesn’t know this. That, I would say, is one of my biggest failings during the campaign.”

And “everybody” doesn’t just mean “Apprentice”-watching voters. Haberman said her colleagues at the New York Times who had not covered the campaign but are now covering the White House were at a “severe disadvantage” when Trump took office.

“For the first six months, you were learning how strange this all is,” she said. “My then-colleague Ashley Parker, we did a briefing for the D.C. bureau just after the election, to tell them what to prepare for and people thought I was kidding. ‘He will point to this table and say it’s a sofa,’ just sort of along those lines.”

You can listen to Recode Decode on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Pocket Casts, Overcast or wherever you listen to podcasts.

On the new podcast, Haberman and fellow guest David Fahrenthold, who has covered Trump for the Washington Post, said many journalists have not handled the adjustment to Trump’s reality well. Haberman called out the often-“shrill” coverage of every @realDonaldTrump tweet as an equivalent outrage and cited the 1987 movie “Broadcast News.”

“There’s a scene where one of the new anchors is confronting a military general and he keeps in the clip of him confronting the guy,” she recalled. “John Cusack says, ‘I love that you left that in,’ and Albert Brooks says, ‘Yes, let’s never forget, we’re the real story! Not them.’”

“Some of the — ‘Oh my God, he’s being so harsh on the media!’” she added, alluding to social media grandstanding. “Like, nobody gives a shit about the media being treated poorly … We don’t need a hug. That’s not what we’re in this business for.”

Fahrenthold agreed, arguing that bashing the media is the easiest way for otherwise irrelevant “conservative activists” like former sheriff David Clarke to stay in the conversation.

“I think it’s a bad thing that he’s attacking the media and undermining our credibility,” he said. “The response from us, to your point, cannot be outrage. It cannot be that we make ourselves the story … By us being outraged and taking ourselves out of the job that we do to become spokespeople and activists, I think that ultimately helps it [media-bashing] and incentivizes people to continue doing it.”

If you like this show, you should also sample our other podcasts:

  • Recode Media with Peter Kafka features no-nonsense conversations with the smartest and most interesting people in the media world, with new episodes every Thursday. Use these links to subscribe on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Pocket Casts, Overcast or wherever you listen to podcasts.
  • Too Embarrassed to Ask, hosted by Kara Swisher and The Verge’s Lauren Goode, answers the tech questions sent in by our readers and listeners. You can hear new episodes every Friday on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Pocket Casts, Overcast or wherever you listen to podcasts.
  • And Recode Replay has all the audio from our live events, including the Code Conference, Code Media and the Code Commerce Series. Subscribe today on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Pocket Casts, Overcast or wherever you listen to podcasts.

If you like what we’re doing, please write a review on Apple Podcasts— and if you don’t, just tweet-strafe Kara.

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