Full transcript: Senator Chuck Schumer on Recode Decode

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The Senate Minority Leader talks about Amazon, net neutrality and why you can’t negotiate with Donald Trump.

On this episode of Recode Decode, hosted by Kara Swisher, Senator Chuck Schumer, D-NY, talks with Kara and Democratic strategist Hilary Rosen about a range of tech-related issues, including immigration, net neutrality and Russian election meddling.

You can read a write-up of the interview here or listen to the whole thing in the audio player above. Below, we’ve also provided a lightly edited complete transcript of their conversation.

If you like this, be sure to subscribe to Recode Decode on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Pocket Casts, Overcast or wherever you listen to podcasts.

Kara Swisher: Recode Radio presents Recode Decode, coming to you from the Vox Media podcast network. Hi, I’m Kara Swisher, executive editor of Recode. You may know me as the creator of the popular Facebook page “100 Percent American Patriot News, Definitely Not From Russia, But Don’t Look Too Closely. In my spare time I talk tech, and you’re listening to Recode Decode, a podcast about tech and media’s key players, big ideas and how they’re changing the world we live in. You can find more episodes of Recode Decode on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Google Play Music, or wherever you listen to podcasts, or just visit recode.net/podcasts for more.

Today I’m joined once again by democratic strategist Hilary Rosen, who regular listeners may remember co-hosted a month of political episodes with me last year. One of the people we wanted to talk to back then was Senator Chuck Schumer, he’s the senate minority leader and the senior United States Senator from New York, obviously, and he’s joining us today from Washington, D.C., for a shorter Recode Decode, but we’re thrilled to have him. Senator, welcome to Recode Decode.

Chuck Schumer: Kara, great to be with you, I’m looking forward to it.

KS: We have so much to talk about, we could talk for hours, I’m guessing. Let’s go right into it. You’ve been in the Senate for 20 years now and the leader for one. I’d just like to know what the biggest difference … you’re in an administration that’s quite active too, so why don’t you talk a little bit about that?

Okay, well I’ll tell you a story. I like stories. Abe Lincoln said, “The best thing a politician can do is tell stories.” It’s election night, 8:00 pm, I see the exit polls of college-educated women, North Carolina and Florida, the first two states to close, and I go, “Oh, boy.” I call up Hillary’s chief pollster, strategist, guy named Benenson, he says, “Don’t worry, our firewall in Wisconsin, Pennsylvania and Michigan can’t be broken. There’s no way Trump wins.” Of course, he won, and the next morning just by way of reference, Paul Ryan called me up, the Republican Speaker, and I just happened to ask him, “Well, did this come a surprise to you, Paul?” He told me this story, I hadn’t told him the 8:00 pm story.

He said, “I called up our chief pollster at 6:30 pm, he said, “Sorry Paul, Feingold’s going to be your new Democratic senator in Wisconsin. Schumer’s going to be majority leader, Hillary’s going to be president.”

Okay, I am distraught, my wife is distraught, my big daughter is most distraught, because she had worked in the Hillary campaign and had her job picked out in the White House. I taught them the old Shirelles song, some of you will remember this, “Mama said there’d be days like this,” and I moped around in my house for two days. I’m not a moper.

Hilary Rosen: As did the rest of the country.

The third day, I had an epiphany, almost a message from the heavens. It went like this: “Chuck, stop moping. If Hillary had been president, your job would be easier, it would be more fun, and you’d get some good things done. That’s why you’re there. But with Trump as president and you as minority leader, your job is much more important.” That has fueled me the whole way through. This is the hardest job I’ve ever had. Much harder than just being senator, particularly with Trump as president. I worry more in this job. I wake up in the morning and I have three or four things I’m always worried about. I’m not a worrier, I never used to worry, but I love it more than any job I’ve had because what we’re doing is so vital and so important to saving America.

KS: How is your frenemy relationship going right now? You were down with immigration and sort of up with Dreamers then down with Dreamers, and it goes back and forth quite a bit. Where is it right now? How do you characterize it? Because I can’t tell what’s happening there.

He likes to talk to me. He calls me up, but I’m right in his face. He said to me when we were debating immigration, “Everyone loves the wall.” I said, “Mr. President, 35 percent of the people like the wall, that’s your base. If you keep just appealing to your base, you’ll never be re-elected and you won’t be a good president.”

I said to him time and time again, “You’ve campaigned when you ran as a populist, and against both the Democratic and Republican establishments, but you’ve embraced the hard right. The hard right is so far away from not only where the American people are, but even most Republicans. You’re going to be an abject failure as president. You ought to change.” I talk to him like that, and he keeps calling me back.

HR: Do you sense you’re one of the few who actually does talk to him that way?

I think I am one of the few. Most of the people around Trump seem to be in the sycophant mold. That’s not quite my nature.

KS: Let’s ask about Dreamers though, where are they now? You were getting along with them, you had that lovely, I don’t know, lunch or whatever it was, dinner. This was supposed to be the easy one and it hasn’t passed, obviously. That’s a concern here, immigration issues are a major concern in technology and the technology sector.

Of course, of course. Well, we need immigration in tech. I’ll tell you an interesting thing. When McCain and I did the 2013 immigration bill — which passed the Senate with 68 votes but the Tea Party stopped it in the House, Boehner was afraid to bring it up even though it would have passed — but we put on the legislation, where of course there was a path to citizenship for the 11 million. We also said that any foreigner who studies STEM — science, technology, engineering or math — and gets an MA or PhD at one of our universities gets a green card stapled to his or her diploma.

That would have been such a shot in the arm for tech, and still today, I’ve nurtured and helped the New York tech industry, which now doesn’t need much nurturing. We’re No. 2 after California. When I asked them what their complaints are, it’s still getting talent and how many people from overseas want to come here and can’t.

With Trump, in answer to your question, I said afterwards, negotiating with him is like negotiating with Jello. I try when I’m negotiating to put myself in the other person’s shoes. I knew Trump wanted his wall. I hated the wall, but I felt, we all felt so desperate to help the plight of the Dreamers, that we were willing to give him not the cutbacks on legal immigration, which involved humanity, and not interior enforcement, and not sanctuary cities, which would hurt lives, but this physical structure of the wall, which I believe never would have been built.

To build a wall in the 60 miles that he first wanted to, you needed 982 eminent domain cases. Anyway, we gave him what he wanted but he couldn’t take yes for an answer. We sat at the table, myself, I insisted it just be his chief of staff, Kelly, my chief of staff, Mike Lynch, him and me. I didn’t want Miller there or Cotton or anybody else; these anti-immigration people. Basically, we didn’t shake hands on a deal, but we said this is the parameters of a deal, we think we can both accept it. Immediately he talks to Miller and Cotton and adds all these unacceptable things. You can’t negotiate with him because it’s like Jello.

KS: What happens now then? Where are the Dreamers? Where is immigration? This is wending through the courts and everything else. What happens?

We meet regularly with the Dreamers and the other groups that have been with us through the battles on immigration. The first thing we’re doing is urging Trump to simply extend the date. He caused all this problem.

KS: He created the deadline.

He created the deadline. He can lift it tomorrow. We’ve said that to him. If he doesn’t, we will then have to see, in this omnibus bill that comes up March 25th, if we can get something in that’s positive for Dreamers and extends the deadline. The problem has been Paul Ryan. Not so much the Senate, although some — and you saw the vote in the Senate even on our bipartisan bill — but Ryan has been very negative here but he’s feeling the heat from two places. One, the deportation, the breaking up of families, just the total nastiness of this administration to Dreamers is just an issue that strikes the heart chords of America.

Second, he’s got 30 or 40 so-called moderate Republicans in suburban districts, and those districts are putting heat on those people to say, “Do something.” Now in the past, unfortunately, when the hard right, the Freedom Caucus, says jump, Ryan says, “How high?” and that’s what’s tied us in a knot. But maybe he’ll feel the pressure this time.

KS: We’re going to take a quick break now for a word from our sponsors. We’ll be back in a minute with Senator Chuck Schumer.


HR: There’s such unanimity among Californians and in the tech community and maybe on the coasts to support the Dreamers and to support some immigration bill. There was this perception after the budget at the end of last year that maybe Democrats didn’t use all the leverage that you had to try and do something. Do you think that’s because the politics of immigration aren’t really the same way that Californians or the tech industry perceives it?

That’s certainly true, Hilary, but I remind people, we’re playing with a pair of fours. We have a Republican president, a Republican Senate, a Republican House, led by a Republican party that is the most anti-immigrant we have ever seen in the history of America. We can pressure as best we can, but we really don’t hold the cards. Democrats hate to shut down the government. We hate it. We like government. We’re not like the Republicans. The only time we’ve ever done it has been for Dreamers. We put the issue on the table. We came real close in the bipartisan vote where he got the piece of the wall, which I think would never be built. We got a really good bill on Dreamers, not just 700,000 but close to two million citizenships for them.

Then Trump lobbied against it. The Republicans backed off, so at some point we’re going to have to go back at it again, and we will, but we got to call our shots because we can’t just pound our hand on the table and say, “It’s going to get done.” One reminder, if all of those who support Dreamers, Dreamers themselves, the Hispanic community and all those who support it, if we take back the majority in House and Senate, it’ll get done like that.

KS: You’ve got this pair of fours you’re carrying around. Net neutrality, explain what you want to do here and why you think you can be successful. This is another issue. Ajit Pai runs the FCC.

Well first, I feel really strongly about net neutrality. Like building highways, in the 21st century the net is our highways, and if we were, as a country, to have tolls everywhere and say rich people could use the highways and poor people couldn’t, middle-class people couldn’t, startup businesses couldn’t, we never would have gotten to the place we have here as such a strong economy. It’s the same exact thing with the net.

I really resent these ISPs. I talked to them. They came in and made the case, I felt more strongly for net neutrality after they came in than before because it’s clear they want to maximize their profits by squeezing people who don’t have much power and acceding to people who do.

We feel very strongly about this. This unites our caucus from the most liberal to the most moderate. The advantage we have here, which we didn’t have in immigration, is since it was done by regulation, by Pai, who I think is a horror as head of the FCC — I’m not supposed to use such a strong word. Let me strike that and say …

KS: Horror?

… a very bad leader.

KS: I can think of bigger.

As the head of the FCC. We’re allowed to bring to the floor within 60 days of them passing this regulation a motion to overturn it, and it only takes 51 votes. We now have all 49 of our Democrats. We’re 49 since Doug Jones from Alabama joined us, and one Republican, Susan Collins, so we’re at 50. We get one more Republican to support what’s called CRA, Congressional Resolution Act, to overturn Pai’s regulation on net neutrality, it passes.

We are urging strongly our friends throughout America to email, write, call, picket, protest their senators, particularly their Republican senators if they’re in such a state, and say, “Support the CRA to restore net neutrality. Support restoring net neutrality.”

I remember SOPA and PIPA. We had millions of people emailing and protesting and we succeeded in beating it. We can do the same thing here. We’re trying to rouse the community.

KS: Are you working with the big tech companies to do that?


KS: Who are you working with?

Yes, we’re working with the big tech companies, the little tech companies. I was on the phone today with the head of the Internet Association asking him to get all of his membership, which goes all the way from the biggest tech companies to the others.

I put in a call to someone I know, Reed Hastings. Netflix users will pay a lot more money if this happens, and they might get slower service too. I’d love Netflix to, any time you subscribe, to just have a little chyron on there and say, “Write your senator. Don’t be charged more for your movies.” We need to get all of our tech providers, big and little.

I spoke to Fred Wilson today, who’s one of the funders of tech in New York. We’re trying to get the whole tech community to rally the way they did with SOPA and PIPA. Folks, a lot of it depends on the employees in these companies. If they tell their leaders in their companies, “Please get onboard here,” that’s going to help too.

HR: I think one of the reasons this becomes different than SOPA and PIPA is that there really are customers on both sides of the equation here. When you look at Netflix or Amazon or YouTube, they take up 75 percent to 80 percent of all the bandwidth on the internet, and then these telephone companies feel like they’re subsidizing those businesses, but both of them charge customers, right?


HR: Netflix charges customers more anyway, right?

Yeah, it’s not the fight between Netflix …

HR: It’s money versus money.

I want to be for the people, for the average person. This is going to cost them more because Netflix won’t reduce their prices, but the cable companies and the ISPs will raise their prices.

KS: Also, Netflix did do a deal with Comcast, so a lot of people felt like they backed off the fight after they got theirs.

It’s not just Netflix, it’s a whole bunch of companies that should do this.

HR: Do you think if you got 51 senators that that would lead to compromised legislation, or do you just see it as just a fight at the FCC?

I’d like to keep fighting. I am very leery with a Republican controlled House and Senate of legislation this year. Again, if we get back the majority, I’d like to do good legislation and force Trump to sign it. I’d make one more point here related to this and everything else. The M.O. of our Republican colleagues — I’m sorry to sound partisan here, but these are the facts — they always side with the big interests over the average people. That’s certainly true here in net neutrality. Average folks will pay more. New startup companies, Fred Wilson, who I talked to, who’s funded a lot of the startups in New York, they’re petrified because their larger competitors will get better rates than they do.

If you’re a new company, a new startup, that’s going to kill you. They are siding with the big special interests — surprise, surprise — and we’re trying to help the average people. The good news here is because this was a regulation that was passed in the last six months, we have the ability on our own with a couple of Republican votes to overturn it, then we’ll have to go to the House. But I think if we get people to rise up the way they did with SOPA/PIPA, there were two sides there too. There were the companies, the content providers and the tech community on one side versus the other. If we get people to rise up, we can have the same positive result. A lot of Republicans on SOPA and PIPA who never wanted to side with average folks were forced to.

KS: Can you walk us through, when it passes, what happens? If it passes, you get that extra senator, is there anyone you’re targeting? Then what happens?

Well, we’re targeting everybody right now because it’s just starting. We have 60 days from last Thursday, so we have a long time. We’re going to have days of action where we build things up. There’s a discharge petition, that’s a technical thing.

I just had a meeting of seven or eight senators, Senator Markey, Senator Wyden, Senator Cantwell. People have been very involved in this issue. We’ve divided up the heads of the big companies and calling them. I’m going to do calls with every New York college newspaper to get them to write about it. We’re just starting to rally here. And hey, Kara, it got me on your show.

KS: Yeah, that’s true. Fair point.

HR: You think the politics of this work for Democrats?

Absolutely. Here, I want to say something interesting here. It’s a little broader but it’s related. Our secret weapon to win back the House and Senate, we got a few, but one of the top ones, probably the top one is the millennials, the 18 to 35. These are the people who know tech the best. They’re going to be the largest voting cohort this year.

I’m a baby boomer. I was born in 1950. My children are the millennials. They’re 28 and 32. They’re the largest voting cohort. They’re overwhelmingly Democratic, all of a sudden. Four reasons I want to mention, and this is very nice. It gives me help. Oh, let me tell you, Hillary only won millennials by plus seven.

In the New Jersey governor race, millennials went by 41 points for the Democratic candidate, in Virginia 38 and in Alabama, where we won that senate race, the millennials and the African-Americans were our two secret weapons and we won by 20 points. Millennials in Alabama. This is a big deal.

Why are the millennials so for us? Four reasons in ascending order of importance, and this is going to give you faith in America. Fourth, college. They want help with all the burden of all these student loans they have. Third, environment, green. These folks are very green. Second, freedom. Net neutrality, decriminalization or legalization of marijuana, the freedom to do what you want, and net neutrality is way up on that list because it gives people freedom to pursue things on the internet without too much cost.

The No. 1 reason, bigger even than net neutrality and bigger than all the others, is this — and this one came as a surprise to me. The others are sort of intuitive. The younger people hate the bigotry, the smell of discrimination that’s coming out of Trump and the Republicans. The anti-women, anti-black, anti-LGBT, anti-Hispanic, anti-immigrant, anti-Muslim.

I thought about it after I learned this and, very interesting, at my wedding, 1980, to my wife, not a person of color was at our wedding. There were probably gay people but we didn’t know they were gay. They wouldn’t tell us in those days. My daughter’s wedding a year and a half ago was like the United Nations. Not because she was picking and choosing. That’s who she went to elementary school with, high school with, college with, works with, has friends with.

What we’ve learned, Kara, this is so interesting, on the coasts, they would call it bigotry. In the middle of the country, even high school educated kids, women more than men because they’re more sensitive to discrimination, would say, “We don’t like the way they’re dividing us.” When you think about it, almost every group of friends has a black, has a gay, has women. When Trump picks on them and the Republicans pick on them, they tell their friends, “I don’t like this,” and neither do their white male friends.

HR: True.

This is our future.

HR: That’s the “Netflix and chill” tweet that you’re …

Yeah, that was Netflix and chill.

HR: We’re going to get some Netflix and chill and maybe slow this down.

I want to confess, I didn’t know what chill … I knew what chill meant in my generation, which means the opposite of what Netflix and chill means today.

KS: In the #MeToo movement, let’s not go down that road. We can talk about #MeToo in a second. I want to touch on a couple things: Guns.

I have a great #MeToo story, okay?

KS: All right, go ahead.

I’ve been an advocate of #MeToo.

KS: I do want to get to guns, midterm elections and Russian bots. Go ahead.

We will. When #MeToo came out, my mom, I haven’t told this publicly yet, but I’m going to do it here. She’s 89. She told me just in October the following story after #MeToo started. She was 17 years old. It was 1945. She was on the diving board at a camp where she was a counselor, and a parent of one of the kids at the camp, who was a big deal in her neighborhood, he owned jewelry stores. I’m going to leave out his name, even though he’s dead now. He grabs her from behind and pushes her into him. She says, “What are you doing, Joe?” She jumps off the diving board.

She goes into the changing room, which is an open co-ed changing room. He comes behind her, takes down the straps of her bathing suit and says, “Turn around, Selma,” and she turns around, he’s naked. She runs out of the changing room and goes back up and she tells — this is the part that really was amazing to me, even worse or as bad as the previous part. She told her mother, she told her father, she told her grandma who she was close to. They said, “Don’t tell anyone. They’re going to blame you.”

That was in 1945. Just about every woman has had stories like this or a friend who has stories like this. I tried to explain this to my male friends, colleagues, that men just don’t understand it because they’ve never experienced this, but so many women have. It took the #MeToo movement for my mother to tell me this story, whatever it is, 44 years later.

HR: God bless her. And her voice.

Isn’t that amazing?

HR: God bless her.

KS: It’s not surprising to women, I think. Everybody has a story, especially in tech. Everywhere. Every sector. There’s not sector of the U.S. economy that it hasn’t affected, at work especially and everywhere in their personal lives.

We’re going to take another break for a word from our sponsors. We’ll turn to Hilary Rosen and my conversation with Senator Chuck Schumer after this.


I want to get to regulation in big tech, because one of the things people feel that tech has — especially social media — has become weaponized and coarsened our culture. Obviously Donald Trump is really talented at Twitter, whether you like it or not, but he’s good at it. A lot of people feel that there needs to be regulation of big tech on lots of issues, from tech addiction to fake news, antitrust, advertising and transparency. Democrats, which used to be the supporters of tech, are now much more negative on it. Do you feel that way or do you feel that the regulation’s necessary?

I think it’s a very difficult question. First, let me say this. The people who most want to undo tech is the hard right. Donald Trump and the hard right do not like anything stated against them. They all watch Fox News, which is totally biased. Any time there’s groups that can talk against them, agglomerate against them, they don’t like it. The left is mad at tech for reasons, but it’s not the same. I have no doubt that the hard right and Trump would like to undo tech as much as they could, even though he uses Twitter.

Now a broader issue. For a decade, tech was a great, great thing. It allowed people to agglomerate. It allowed people who had no power, who didn’t own a newspaper, who didn’t own a TV station, who didn’t have a megaphone, to get together and have power. We would not have the guns movement. I have some optimism on guns, but only because online we’re going to have, they have five million they hope to get in Washington on the 24th against the NRA.

KS: The gun march.

Wouldn’t have happened without the net and without a big, broad, powerful internet. That’s true on immigration. That’s true on the issues. We Democrats represent average folks. Tech gives us the advantage. We don’t have a Fox News. We don’t have Rush Limbaugh who gets 20 million people a day. It’s our antidote. I am sympathetic.

Now because it’s so open and so free, lots of dark forces have taken advantage, and I certainly think tech has to modulate itself. One easy example for us in politics, all ads should have to be made public, who’s paying for the ads when they’re political ads, just like you have to do on television or radio, and I don’t know why big tech resists that.

HR: The Warner Klobuchar.

It’s the Warner Klobuchar legislation. There are probably other changes, but I think you have to be careful. Government regulation of speech is a frightening thing, and often has a bigger downside than upside. I approach the issue with care, maybe moreso than some of my colleagues who would have similar politics to me.

HR: Some of the regulation of tech in the FCC net neutrality order ended up going over to the FTC. What they said was the FTC should be more active in antitrust and in consumer protection, and now the Senate is going to …

Consumer protection I’m all for. That’s a different issue than regulating speech. That’s the worry I have here. Given tech is so new, we probably have to look at it, but we ought to approach it with caution.

HR: Do you think the FTC should do more?

I’d have to study it a little more. Any Trump-appointed agency, I’m dubious of.

KS: What about the responsibility of tech? Facebook, Twitter, other things?

That’s a different issue.

KS: Being used by Russia. Hillary Clinton, we interviewed her last year at the Code Conference, talked a lot about this. A lot of people made fun of her at the time. How do you come down right now and what should these tech companies do?

I think they should do more on their own for sure. That’s the antidote to government regulation and also the antidote to a lot of this stuff. Now they’ve had some successes. Facebook took off 50,000 fake accounts before the French election and it was relatively free. I’ve talked to the leaders of Facebook, Twitter, Google about this. I’ve told them, make efforts to figure out how to deal with this issue without doing too much impinging on free speech or the government’s going to come in and change you, and that will not be good. I think they get it, and their first big test will be the 2018 elections.

I don’t think the Trump administration will do a thing. The amount the Trump administration is doing against Russia is appallingly zero almost. It’s up to tech to do more, and I do think they’re making an effort not only because it’s the right thing to do, but because I think they know down the road their survival depends on it.

HR: That is the test, then, is the midterms, that you think that nothing is going to happen in Congress or in regulation before the midterms.

No. Oh, with these guys? No.

HR: Tech is essentially on the hook to make sure the election feels fair.

Yes. I think tech has to make sure. For instance, they should knock out all these fake accounts. They’re already, I forgot the word, but downgrading things they think are fake, so it comes up less on Twitter, less on your Facebook News Feed. If you got the Russians, let’s say they have 50 websites and they all do the same thing. First they’re talking about this and then an hour later they’re all talking about that. That’s suspect.

HR: Pretty good sign.

Yeah, that’s a pretty good sign. They should look into that. Maybe they can’t shut them down, but they can so downgrade them so it’s only one rather than 50 people bouncing around the same message so that it goes way down on their list.

HR: Do you see Facebook as a media company?

Well, it’s everything. Facebook’s a very powerful force. I think overall it’s been a very positive force. I think now people are taking advantage of the openness of the net, and Facebook has an obligation to try and deal with it. I’ve talked to them. I truly believe they want to. I truly believe they know that their future is at stake with this. I also believe it’s a hard thing to do.

And here’s another thing I worry about. They tried to deal with certain things in the past, and the hard right went and criticized them, because much of this, the left does very little of this. I mean, we don’t use bots the way the Russians would or the hard right people would, we meaning the left, not me. I think when they do that, the hard right criticizes them, they’re going to have to be a little more immune to that criticism and go after the fake stuff and separate it from the legitimate stuff, even if it’s a little bit crazy what legitimate people are saying and doing.

KS: When you talk about this power, you’re pretty kind to the tech companies. A lot of people are less thrilled with them.

Yeah, I am more sympathetic because I think they’re in very difficult position and I worry about government regulation.

KS: All right, but what about the power that they have and what’s coming down the pike? Automation, robotics, AI, all these very important technologies could make them more powerful than ever, almost like nation states themselves. Does that worry you at all?

Well, it’s something I’m concerned about, yes. Do I know what the consequences are, let alone the solutions? No.

HR: To Kara’s point, we’ve spent a lot of time talking about how companies other than online communications companies, but companies like Amazon and what they’re doing to communities and retail and the like.

There’s another one. Now Amazon does great things for huge amounts of people, and they only have 3 percent to 4 percent of the retail market. Could it get greater? Yes, but again, I’d be careful. I’d be careful because they are creating cheaper better competition, people get better goods, cheaper goods.

I guess my feelings are a little more nuanced. Yes, they’re big, but big can do good things as well as bad things, and you got to separate the wheat from the chaff. Would the world be a better place or a worse place if there were no Amazon right now? My guess is a worse place. Yet, there is a lot of problems, for sure.

KS: You don’t see a Microsoft monopoly trial in any of the futures of these companies, or maybe? You were around for that.

When Microsoft was a big monopoly and I thought they were much more rapacious, I fought them. Back in the ’90s, they didn’t talk to me for 10 years.

HR: You’re not seeing that right now?

I am not seeing the same thing. I go to my small tech companies and say, “How does Google treat you in New York?” A lot of them say, “Much more fairly than we would have thought.”

KS: Not Yelp. I have just one more question.

No, Yelp, I’ve spoke to Jeremy Stoppelman. He does not feel that way.

HR: Yeah, they feel differently. Right.

I have.

KS: No. Just one more question from me and then Hilary might have a follow-up.

Kara, it’s more mixed. It’s more mixed in terms of the …

KS: Mixed, I agree with you. I agree with you. There’s too many of them. There’s lots of them. I’m just curious, Hilary’s going to ask you a question I think about where you see the midterm elections going and what you’ll do if you’re the majority leader, but I’d like to know how do you involve yourself in tech? One of your daughters works in tech. Are you a techy? Would you call yourself that?

No. I’m interested in it. I read every article about it, but I am not a techy. In fact, I’ll tell you a funny story. I’m well known for my flip phone. I don’t have an iPhone because my chief of staff, Mike Lynch, in 2004, said, “You know what, someone’s going to hack into this down the road, and you’ll say on your phone, ‘Ugh, Senator so and so, what a moron,’ and that’ll be the end.” I use my cellphone, and I actually … maybe I’m old fashioned.

HR: You don’t text either?

I don’t do texting. I get emails on my iPad. I get emails, but I don’t text. I don’t even know how to do it. I’m backward that way.

KS: You’re not on Snapchat?

Putin is not listening in to me, Kara. He can’t.

KS: You’re not Snapchatting then I’m guessing, right?


KS: Nothing? None of it? You could use Signal. There’s a thing called Signal. They are encrypted.

They will figure out how to capture your instantaneous Snapchats down the road or Signal or anything else.

HR: Communicate the old-fashioned way.

Old-fashioned. I like people. I like to talk to people. I sit on an airplane. I ask the person sitting next to me their life’s history. Wouldn’t be the same if we did it online.

KS: Okay. Hilary, why don’t you ask the election question, then we’ll let the Senator go.

HR: Two quick questions, lightning round then. When does the presidential campaign start, by the way?

It shouldn’t start until 2019. My attitude, who people ask. Let a thousand flowers bloom. Let there be lots of candidates all over the lot and let them go through the crucible of the first year, year and a half. Now, the one thing I’d say is we shouldn’t beat the daylights out of each other. We have a far greater enemy in Donald Trump. Politically speaking, he’s the enemy.

HR: That’s some advice Democrats are not yet taking from you.

No, and I think the difference between a mainstream Democrat and a far left Democrat is about 2 percent of the difference between either of them and Donald Trump. We have an emergency here. We got to keep our eye on what we have to do, which is beat Trump.

Now in 2018, to preempt your question, I think we can take back the House and the Senate. Why? The millennials I mentioned. Second, Democrats are getting much better. This is a tech issue. As we all know, Donald Trump did a better job on the social media than we did. We have learned to do. We are getting advice from some of the biggest, the best smartest people in tech, a lot of them are very comfortable. They made money and they’re working for us full-time.

In Alabama, our social media helped turn out millennials. Our social media and learning how to do turnout, especially in the African-American community where for the first time it wasn’t a bunch of white guys telling the blacks how to turn out, but we had indigenous people running the whole show. Millennial turnout and African-American turnout was higher than in 2016, but also higher than 2008 and ’12. We’re using social media really well. We’re going to kick the pants off the Republicans on social media.

You also have swing voters. I’m going to conclude by giving you one little vignette here. We looked at our five most Republican states where we have Democratic senators: Montana, North Dakota, Indiana, Missouri, West Virginia. We took out the people who always vote Republican, always vote Democrat, but looked at the broad middle, about 60 percent.

Here was the key question. These are Republican states. Do you prefer a Republican senator who had helped Donald Trump pass his agenda on jobs in the economy? That’s his strong suit. Or a Democratic senator who will serve as a check and balance on Donald Trump whenever appropriate? 72 percent, check and balance. 20 percent of the people who identified themselves as strong Trump supporters still wanted check and balance.

People want a check and balance on Trump, and we are now ahead on our polling in all 10 Senate races where Democrats are running in states that Trump carried. We’re ahead in three of the challenger states, and I’ll tell you this, if we take back the Senate, when I have the right to put things on the floor, we can stop Donald Trump from doing bad things and we can actually start doing some really good things. It’s an imperative.

HR: Even though voters generally like the tax cuts, they generally actually like a president who’s fighting for them on trade, as sloppy as he’s been this week, you think that the check and balance is the message?

People, swing voters, suburban voters, women voters, people of color, just lots of folks are worried about Trump and want a check and balance. Some of them like Trump, but still want a check and balance. Many of them don’t like Trump, and my prediction, now that his tax bill has been …

You know, the first month he got a big boost on that tax bill. Why? They just passed it. He had all these companies announcing bonuses, and the stock market went way up. All three are gone. A) It’s no longer just announced and Trump has screwed up on so many things between then and now. Second, people are realizing three things. One, that 80 percent of the benefits went to the wealthiest permanently while their benefits are smaller and temporary. Second, that there’s a huge deficit and third, they’re using that deficit to cut health care, Medicare, Medicaid.

The Koch brothers, with their huge money machine, put ads against McCaskill in Missouri and Donnelly in Indiana. The Senate super PAC answered back on taxes. They put ads on taxes. We answered back with the answer I told you, we won the argument. The tax issue is not going to be the panacea the Republicans think it is.

KS: Can I ask one final question?

You know what’s a bigger issue to people? Health care costs than taxes. Health care costs.

KS: Right.

HR: Now Trump owns them.

KS: Being anti-Donald Trump, does that work? It doesn’t seem to. No matter what low he goes to, it doesn’t seem to.

HR: If you’re a Senator in a state, I think Kara’s asking if you’re a Senator in a state, a Democrat in a state that Donald Trump won, are you running against Donald Trump?

Yeah, you are in terms of check and balance and saying when I disagree with Trump I will fight him. When I agree with him, I’m not going to just go against him for its own sake. In reference to the question that Kara asked, 2018 election with Trump at 40 percent, that’s a huge advantage for us. That doesn’t mean we can’t have our own positive program, and we have some of it and we’re going to have more. We just announced an infrastructure program, $ 1 trillion of real jobs. You know what we did? We took the tax cuts on the rich, some of them, $ 1 trillion worth, and put it into infrastructure. What do people prefer? Tax cuts on the wealthiest people and biggest corporations or millions of middle-class jobs on infrastructure?

In that bill, we proposed something that’s going to really help us in rural areas. In the 1930s, Franklin Roosevelt said every rural home should get electricity. It was a necessity. We say in the 21st century every rural home should get broadband. High-speed internet. Right now, one third of all rural homes have almost none. We will propose it. We’re proposing a job training program, like the apprentice program in Germany, where people can get good paying jobs after a company gets a tax incentive to train them. We realize that in 2016, Democrats did not focus positively enough on people. We are. Remember, fighting Trump is also going to be very important. You need both.

KS: Perfect. Senator Schumer, this has been great. I like all your stories. I wish you would tweet, honestly. You can’t on your flip phone, but it’d be nice.

I’ve tried to make a deal with Donald Trump, “You don’t tweet, I won’t tweet.”

KS: Yeah, he likes to tweet.

HR: He’s tweeting but he doesn’t seem to do the same on taxes.

Tweeting is doing him more harm than good.

KS: I don’t know. He’s good at it, I’ll tell you that.

No, you see, you sound like Donald Trump. I tell him this. It’s good for his 35 percent. It turns off 65 percent. We’re upset because even 35 percent would go for him, but count your blessings.

KS: Well, thank you so much. It was great talking to you, and Hilary Rosen …

HR: Thank you.

KS: … who was also on as my co-host, thank you so much. Thank you for coming on the show. I’m sure we’ll be talking a lot more in the future.

Hey, make sure you write and call, email your Senators on net neutrality, audience.

KS: I’ve already done it.

Good. Thank you.

KS: While I’m sitting here. Thank you so much, Senator. Thanks again to Hilary Rosen for co-hosting this episode with me.

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Netflix should tell its users to support net neutrality, Senator Chuck Schumer says

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Netflix CEO Reed Hastings

On the latest Recode Decode, Schumer says he wants Netflix CEO Reed Hastings on his side.

With the help of Republican Sen. Susan Collins, the 49 Democrats in the U.S. Senate just need one more vote to mount a pushback to the FCC’s 2017 decision to repeal net neutrality.

And the Senate Minority Leader, Chuck Schumer, says Netflix can help get that senator on board.

On the latest episode of Recode Decode, hosted by Kara Swisher, Schumer said he’s trying to enlist tech companies of all sizes to get out the net neutrality vote. He’s been making calls to friends like Union Square Ventures venture capitalist Fred Wilson and Netflix CEO Reed Hastings to see what they can do.

“I put in a call to someone I know, Reed Hastings,” Schumer told Swisher and her guest co-host, Democratic strategist Hilary Rosen. “You know, Netflix users will pay a lot more money if this happens and they might get slower service too. So I’d love Netflix, anytime you subscribe, to just have a little chyron there and say ‘Write your senator! Don’t be charged more for your movies!’”

He quoted Wilson as having said that startups are “petrified” of being crushed because internet service providers give more favorable rates to wealthier, established companies.

“I really resent these ISPs,” Schumer said. “I talked to them — they came in and made the case. I felt more strongly for net neutrality after they came in than before. Because it’s clear they want to maximize their profits by squeezing people who don’t have much power and acceding to people who do.”

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

On the new podcast, Sen. Schumer likened the prospective fight to restore net neutrality to the campaigns that defeated the copyright bill SOPA, the Stop Online Piracy Act, in 2011 and PIPA, the PROTECT IP Act, later that year.

“I remember SOPA and PIPA,” he said. “We had millions of people emailing and protesting and we succeeded in beating it. We can do the same thing here.”

However, Schumer said he does not consider himself a techie, even though he’s very interested in several issues surrounding the tech industry, such as immigration, net neutrality and rural broadband access. In the halls of the Capitol, he’s become known over the past decade as one of the holdouts who still uses a flip phone, not a smartphone — a choice originally made out of fears that the iPhone would be hacked, he recalled.

“I don’t do texting,” Schumer said. “I get emails on my iPad, but I don’t text. I don’t even know how to do it. I’m backward that way. But Putin’s not listening in to me, Kara!”

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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Sen. Chuck Schumer says the world would be a ‘worse place’ without Amazon

How Complete Beginners are using an ‘Untapped’ Google Network to create Passive Income ON DEMAND

On Recode Decode, Schumer says he’s “sympathetic” to tech giants like Facebook and Amazon.

Tech companies are changing everyday life in the United States, and not always in good ways — but on balance, Senator Chuck Schumer says he’d rather they regulate themselves than wait for government to step in.

“For a decade, tech was a great, great thing,” Schumer said on the latest episode of Recode Decode, hosted by Kara Swisher. “It allowed people to agglomerate. It allowed people who had no power, who didn’t own a newspaper, who didn’t own a TV station, who didn’t have a megaphone, to get together and have power.”

The senior Democratic Senator from New York, currently the minority leader in the U.S. Senate, said he agrees with the legislation proposed by his colleagues Mark Warner and Amy Klobuchar, requiring transparency in political ads on platforms like Facebook. But he’s wary of Congress directly involving itself with the content on those sites.

“Government regulation of speech is a frightening thing and has a bigger downside than upside,” Schumer said. “So I approach the issue with care, maybe more so than some of my colleagues who have similar politics to me.”

Speaking with Recode’s Kara Swisher and Democratic political strategist Hilary Rosen, he characterized himself as “sympathetic” to tech giants like Amazon, recognizing that they have had both disruptive and positive effects on his constituents — and, in Amazon’s case, more of the latter.

“Amazon does great things for huge amounts of people, and they only have three to four percent of the retail market,” he said. “Could it get greater? Yes! But again, I’d be careful. They are creating cheaper, better competition.”

“Yes, they’re big,” Schumer added. “Big can do good things as well as bad things, and you’ve got to separate the wheat from the chaff. Would the world be a better place or a worse place if there were no Amazon right now? My guess is a worse place. And yet, there’s a lot of problems, for sure.”

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

On the new podcast, Sen. Schumer also talked about how he’s thinking about the social media giants whose platforms were used by Russian agents posing as Americans during the 2016 election.

“Facebook is a very powerful force,” he said. “I think, overall, it’s been a very positive force and now people are taking advantage of the openness of the net. And Facebook has an obligation to try and deal with it.”

“I talked to them,” Schumer added. “I truly believe they want to, I truly believe they know their future is at stake with this. I also believe it’s a hard thing to do.”

The “first big test” for Facebook and its peers, he said, will be whether they are similarly manipulated for political ends in America’s midterm elections later this year.

“The amount the Trump administration is doing against Russia is, appallingly, zero, almost,” Schumer said. “So it’s up to tech to do more. And I do think they’re making an effort — not only because it’s the right thing to do but because they know that down the road, their survival depends on 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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Full transcript: ‘Meet the Press’ moderator Chuck Todd on Recode Decode

“I believe I am a custodian of something that is much bigger than myself, which is ‘Meet the Press.’”

On this episode of Recode Decode, hosted by Kara Swisher, NBC News Political Director and “Meet the Press” moderator Chuck Todd talks about how he’s evolving what it means to be the host of the longest-running series in TV history.

You can listen to the entire interview here or in the audio player above. Below, we’ve also provided a lightly edited complete transcript of their conversation.

If you like this, be sure to subscribe to Recode Decode on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Pocket Casts, Overcast or wherever you listen to podcasts.

Kara Swisher: Recode Radio presents Recode Decode, coming to you from the Vox Media podcast network. Hi, I’m Kara Swisher, executive editor of Recode. You may know me as the host of “Tweet the Press,” but in my spare time I talk tech, and you’re listening to Recode Decode, a podcast about tech and media’s key players, big ideas and how they’re changing the world we live in. You can find more episodes of Recode Decode on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Google Play Music, or wherever you listen to your podcasts, or just visit recode.net/podcasts for more.

Today in the red chair, I’m so happy to finally get Chuck Todd. He’s the moderator of “Meet the Press” and the political director at NBC News. He’s been in that role for nearly 11 years, having previously worked at The Hotline, a political briefing published by the National Journal. Chuck, welcome to Recode Decode.

Chuck Todd: I’m happy to be here. I already have a fake news issue with you. You said “red chair”?

I know, I’m sorry, that’s the … We use that as a metaphorical thing, you know, we put people in the hot seat. I can’t carry that red chair with me, it weighs a ton and it costs an enormous amount of money to use, so just imagine you’re in the red chair.

I’ll imagine and it’ll feel like a red chair.

Yeah, it’s a good red chair, a lot of people have sat in it.


Yeah, I think Steve Jobs liked it, Bill Gates liked it.

You shouldn’t make a hot seat comfortable, though.

Yeah. Mark Zuckerberg didn’t like it so much, but that’s okay. We had an issue with him, but he tried very hard.

Anyway, we’re here to talk about you. So, I’m here in Washington, this has been another enormous week. We’re gonna get to the politics soon, but I think it would be really interesting to let people get an idea who you are. Obviously you’re so well known, and now since the focus is on politics this year/end of last year, a lot of people that cover politics are getting incredibly well known. Talk about your background. You started off just as a political junkie, or what were you doing?

Look, I sorta got into politics … I can tell you when I sort of thought of it as just a fun thing to follow … Eighth grade, I needed to pick a book to read, my dad said “Why don’t you do ‘Profiles in Courage’?”

Right, John Kennedy.

So he hands me “Profiles in Courage” and I get enamored, in particular there’s one story I’m enamored with which is the Andrew Johnson chapter about one … and it was just sort of, all of it, the story of the senator that crosses party lines, because he decides, “As much as I don’t like Andrew Johnson, we can’t do this to the presidency, we shouldn’t throw him out of office.” And I got in then, sort of got into the history of having reverence for our system.

That was a book about different …

About different people … The whole point of it, of the book that may or may not have been written by John Kennedy, right?

Probably not.

But it’s singling out, obviously, elected officials who made tough decisions. Who basically went against whatever the popular opinion was for their party and stuff like that. It was a whole book like that.

Yeah, designed to give John Kennedy gravitas.

It obviously was his … And now of course anybody runs for president tries to write their book that’s just like it.

Has to have one. Right.

And then I had a cousin who lived with us for a summer while working on a campaign in Florida. I grew up in Miami. That summer my father and him, my cousin was a big liberal, my father was a big conservative, and they just got drunk and argued politics every night. I was there to facilitate the alcohol, the espresso, and just soaked it in.

And was it a civil argument?

Yes. They were just having the best time, and they bonded like father and son type of thing. He became very close … I was just mesmerized by it all. From there I was determined …

What was the topic, do you remember the topic?

It was everything. It would be about … My dad was curious about the campaign, it was the campaign he was working on was … Back then in Florida every statewide cabinet post was an elected post. They’ve now gotten rid of that, they now just have what’s called a chief financial officer. But we used to elect an ag person, insurance commissioner, education commissioner …

So you care about every one of these.

I think Ohio still does it this way, California has a bunch of them. So they would end up being national … This was the mid ’80s, so it ran contra, I think they were fighting about … You know, my dad making a case why Reagan was a good president, I think my cousin, you know, why he’s an idiot, whatever, that conversation. But civil and smart. And I just soaked it in. It was from then on I thought, “I wanna get to Washington.”

“This is what I want.” Right.

So when I applied for college I made sure I sent all my SAT scores to every college in the D.C. area. G.W., American, Georgetown, even George Mason. Then I discovered where George Mason was. No offense, George Mason, you’re too far away. Like, where the hell is Fairfax?

Then I realized the only way I was gonna be able to pay for college — my dad died when I was 16, and we had some financial issues. So the only way I was going to pay for college was on a music scholarship. I played the French horn.

The French horn?

I wasn’t bad at it, I was good enough to at least use it to get a music scholarship. Then I narrowed it down because G.W. was the only school in D.C. that allowed for a double major in music and political science.


Being in the same school. That was how focused I was on coming to Washington and knowing that’s what I wanted.

The French horn, god, Chuck Todd …

I wasn’t thinking journalism. I thought, “I wanna run a campaign.”

Not run yourself?

Nope. No, I never thought about it as myself.

Why is that?

It felt phony, it felt like I had to be somebody I wasn’t at that time. I spend a lot of time in speeches now lamenting the lack of good people running for office. Any time I talk to a crowd I always say, “If you’re here, you’re obviously interested and concerned about American politics, because you’re at least curious enough to hear whatever I have to say. If you don’t like the people running, part of the problem is good people don’t run.” So, I have thought about what would 22-year-old me had heard that differently.

You could run now, Chuck.

Now I wouldn’t at all because I think the credibility of the press is too important. I actually think … I remember being very upset when Jay Carney went …

To Amazon. Oh, when he went to the White House and then to Amazon.

No, went into the White House from Time. Jay Carney should do what Jay Carney wants to do, but I remember being upset because I knew that it was symbolically going to reinforce this notion that this is a revolving door between the press and the powerful, No. 1.

That this is the waystation. It happens in Silicon Valley a lot.

And No. 2, oh and of course it’s for a democratic administration.

Yeah, a very good reporter just did that, I was surprised.

I’ve made the decision, I went down the path of journalism. I’m not going back.

I’m with you, I was offered jobs at early Amazon, early Google, very early. Multi-billion dollar stupid decisions on my part.

Look, everybody has to make the best decision for them. I know people that stumbled into journalism, but really their goal is to be in public service. Nothing wrong, good. There’s a lot of people who have done it. I guess my feeling is you go through the door once. You know, I did work in a campaign when I was 19 while at G.W..

Whose was it?

Working on Tom Harkin’s presidential campaign.

Oh, really? What’d you do?

FEC compliance.

That’s like Bates stamping.

What’s so funny is now of course the only reason people know about it is, I’ve disclosed it. What’s always funny is people are like, “Oh, Chuck Todd was top aid to Tom Harkin.” Tom Harkin still to this day doesn’t know I worked for him!

Doesn’t know who you are, yeah.

When I say FEC compliance, I mean I literally … The checks would come in, I had to enter it in, what their employee numbers … By the way, how I learned how the FEC worked to this day has helped me be a better campaign finance reporter, for what it’s worth. Then they decided I was trustworthy enough to be the guy that went to the bank to deposit the checks, okay?

Wow, that’s a big role you played, and such a successful campaign.

My favorite moment is, he gets out of the race, and I’m the last paid employee because you still have to do FEC compliance.

Oh, so you’re there just doing the checks.

I remember going, “All right, I’ll just take this back to my dorm room.” I’m thinking, I have a whole bunch of presidential records, technically, in my dorm room as a sophomore at G.W..

If you had dropped the ball you could have had all kinds of problems.

Could have created all sorts of problems for Tom, for Harkin, could have created a huge scandal for him and everything.

I don’t even remember him. I worked for Senator S.I. Hayakawa.

Oh, one of the best names!

Sleeping Sam. I kept him awake during press events. That was my job, like poking him with a stick, essentially.

What’s funny is, literally, I take three months, that is the extent of what I did in campaign politics.

But you didn’t … so you went … Where did you go? You went right into journalism.

And then I ended up doing an internship at this thing called The Hotline back in early ’92. I always say Tom Harkin ran for president, he intended to run for president in ’92 but it was really the ’91 Harkin campaign. I started interning there, it was a paid internship, everything I had to do was paid, it was the only way I could finish … I mean, I didn’t get a full scholarship to G.W. so I was always living paycheck to paycheck, to just keep afloat. The Hotline, there was nothing like it at the time. We were the internet before the internet.

Yep, I remember The Hotline was a big deal.

Here we were in 1992 and here I was at a nexus of political information, nobody had more. That was it. That was very early.

That was early. Where did you distribute?

I remember we distributed … We had our own bulletin board service. You dialed in and downloaded us.

You have to, right, yep.

We were on the CompuServe exchange, in fact there was a time when we had to be a specific … We couldn’t be over a certain number of characters.

Yeah, CompuServe was IBM and Sears. I used to call it everything Sears knew about computing and everything IBM knew about retail. It was a really terrible service.

What I remember is we had a whole closet just with 200 modems. So people, when it was busy … took about 20 minutes to download The Hotline.

So it downloaded like a newsletter. Like an email newsletter, essentially. I forgot.

Except it took 20 minutes. No, we did it by fax, and we hand-delivered them around town.

And there were all those political reports. Charlie Cook had one, they all had them and they were …

They all had ’em but we were the only one that was every day. And they were monthly, they were quarterly.

Quarterly or weekly, some of them were weekly.

We were the first ones to prove every day. It was the brainchild of this guy Doug Bailey, who is now deceased, and he started in ’87 because he thought, “There’s no way that professional press corps is gonna keep up with 13 legitimate presidential candidates.” Because 1988 was the first time in 20 years that we were gonna have an open presidential seat. There was no either sitting or incumbent running. So it was like this going to be the first time of this new modern press corps. Look, out of that campaign, Richard Ben Cramer’s “What It Takes” is written based on the ’88 campaign. It was this idea that there’s no way the Washington Post can cover 13 legitimate candidates.

And they did it in the traditional way, the instant information was not … People forget about that.

I actually think we’re … For everyone who complains about Axios, Politico and Twitter, maybe you should blame us at The Hotline. We created this idea that you needed this information daily, let alone hourly.

Right, instant information. And before it was kind of a whisper network where people knew … or phone calls, essentially. It’s not that long ago, people forget.

My first beat was House races in ’92. And I call it the crime beat of politics, like if you wanna learn how to cover presidential politics? Go cover House races.

Absolutely, so you know every district and everything else. So Hotline then went to the National Journal?

Hotline goes … We get bought by National Journal, and we had this crazy idea …

Do you remember how much? Your little modem service?

We made same money, the owners had some money. But it was for some debt, too.

But this was pre-AOL, pre-cellphone, pre-everything.

The whole reason National Journal bought us, we got into a partnership to start a website for the ’96 campaign.

Because Netscape was out by then.

It was called Politics USA. National Journal wanted to be with us because we knew how to do something every day, and National Journal had “The Almanac of American Politics.” So my great contribution that first year is I physically digitized the almanac. Paragraph by paragraph, I coded the almanac. I remember I did it while … I had just moved from Colorado … Long story. Personal. You know, we all chase people every once and a while, I may have chased somebody and I lost. I end up back here kinda needing work, and so that’s what I did. I coded the almanac.

Then we get into a partnership. Washington Post, Newsweek and ABC decide they wanna start a political website. And then suddenly we say, “Wait a minute, guys, let’s not compete, let’s join forces.” So then Politics Now happens and it’s the Post, Newsweek, ABC and National Journal. We’re the four …

And everyone was dipping in, and it still was super early because Netscape had just gone public in ’94, the early internet was very early. Again, AOL was the name of the game and they had a lot of politics on there.

In ’96 I hosted chats, I remember this, I did these little chats for Politics Now and I remember doing one with McCain and I remember doing one with a couple others. We would open it up to questions and the only time we ever got traffic is when the Libertarian became nominated for president. It was whenever we posted him.

Because these people were all using …

The only people that were engaged in politics on the internet in ’96 were Libertarians.

Which is astonishing to think about, the absolute change.

Well, the tech world is Libertarian in its core.

Largely, yes. I call it Libertarian-lite, but we can get into that later.

But it was always fascinating: If there was political activism on the net in ’96 it was all about Harry Brown, that was who the nominee was.

It was the Well and the way they were communicating. So you really were an early techie, that was a very early time.

It’s the single most important break I caught. ’Cause what I describe about ’96 …

’Cause nobody … You wouldn’t have gotten hired by the Washington Post, or blank blank blank.

Correct. And here’s what happened, all of the sudden needed content. And everybody assumed, well, Howard Fineman of Newsweek and Dan Balz of the … And David Bird of the Washington Post, and Hal Bruno and ABC, none of them thought the internet was worth their time.

Hated it. I worked at the Washington Post, you know. I could not convince them, it was exhausting after a while and I left.

None of them thought it was … They just didn’t have time.

Because they wrote columns, there were the big columns, there were those who were huffing and puffing.

So this 24-year-old kid gets the opportunity … I was the polling guy, I started handicapping races, I was doing everything that … It was like, “Really? You’re paying me to do this now?” And it’s the single thing I try to tell myself every time I roll my eyes about Snapchat. I always say to myself, “Dan Balz or Howard Fineman …”

“Don’t be that guy.”

And I single out Dan, Dan I think is one of actually the most tech-savvy journalists of his generation.

But the group was like that.

But it was groupthink then. I always say, “I don’t wanna get caught being the guy that looked down.”

It wasn’t groupthink, it was actually worse than groupthink, it was absolute ignorance of what was happening. It was hostile, actually, when I put my email at the bottom of my stories the Washington Post, they were like, “Why do you wanna do that, why do you wanna hear from readers?” I’ll never forget that. Same thing going to the Wall Street Journal when I was covering the early internet. They were like, “This is gonna be a CB radio.” They called it CB radio.

Oh I remember the CB radio shots. People take pot shots at CB radio.

Yeah, it’s just … Oh, what do you do? I’m like, “This is not like breaker one,” whatever the hell the breaker …

People thought your AOL IM thing was gonna … Now that actually is … I think we can say AOL instant messenger was the CB radio of tech, how ’bout that?

It was, but it led to other things. It’s sort of like saying the early Apple versions of the Newton were wrong, or there’s all kinds of versions of the iPhone that happened before the iPhone. All lead to it. And the people who worked on it, like the guy who created a lot of the stuff for Google and mobile Android worked on all the broken versions before it. And the guy who sort of … One of the inventors of the iPod worked on all the broken versions and then he …

Hey, even Zune has a feature that iPod didn’t.

No, no, we can’t …

No, no, I can remember the one time I was jealous of the Zune.

All right, you wanna get the Zune …

I’ll give you one. We were on with a couple friends of ours, she had a Zune! And I went, “I didn’t know anybody owned a Zune!” Right?

This was at the time of iPod and she didn’t have the iPod, she had the Zune.

She went Zune, I went …

The brown Zune.

She lived in Seattle so she felt loyal to Microsoft. She actually did, she said.

Right. Oh, man.

She bought the Zune and the thing she lorded over us: “Well, I can delete a song.” And at the time it did drive me crazy. At the time they hadn’t figured out a way for you, once you downloaded a song, that you couldn’t get rid of it on your device.

That’s because Steve Jobs knew you didn’t need to delete. There was so much space. And Bill Gates was obsessed with space.

I know. But I remember being, “Oh god, I do wish I coulda had that feature.” But that was it. Now we have that feature.

But you didn’t want that feature, that Zune was literally … One time Walt Mossberg was showing it to Steve Jobs once and he actually put it in his hand and he dropped it because he was physically repulsed by it.

It was an ugly thing, it was ugly.

He did it dramatically. It was the worst object ever created, everything Microsoft does in those technologies was terrible, I’m not sure what happened. I’d always look at it and think, “Okay, the opposite is what will work.” So you were kind of a techie, kind of a nerd!

No, I always say this.

What was your first phone?

I caught that break, and you know what’s interesting after that is, they did learn we were really proud of what we’d done and we thought, “Oh we’re gonna keep doing this.” And then of course what happened was come 1997, the Washington post says, “Oh this worked out!” so they hire a third of the staff and start washingtonpost.com. ABC says “Yeah!” and they hire a third and start ABCnews.com. Then the rest of us went back to National Journal and we started to try to do what we did.

All right, when we get back we’re gonna talk with Chuck Todd, who is now a very famous broadcast personality in Washington, D.C., about how he got onto broadcast. Because he’s mostly a nerd at this point, which I’m awfully surprised about … When we get back.


I’m here with Chuck Todd, he is NBC’s “Meet the Press” impresario, if that’s … You can call it whatever you want. Head of the show, you run the show, you’re on every week. You’ve been talking about sort of background that had a lot to do with the nascent internet and people getting information instantly about politics, which has been the perfect topic for the internet. Never more so than now. One of them, entertainment is another one. But politics really is one of the linchpins of communications on the internet and content on the internet.

I remember the very first time I went online, my father wanted to see a stock ticker.

Oh, stocks were another thing.

I remember we had an Apple 2c, and I had to figure it out. I was like 13 or 14 and I remember hooking it up and we did it, but it was like, okay, but this costs $ 30 for every half hour. Like it was some absurd amount. But I feel like the stock people were …

Yeah, the stock … Pornographers … Yeah, I had a whole chapter in my book about AOL.

Pornographers are always first. Pornographers are first, they’re the true leading indicators.


And then stocks, gambling, politics.

Absolutely, which all belong together, really. Sex, stocks, gambling and politics.

So how’d you get to broadcast, then? You’re in an area where you could’ve done a lot of things in the internet space.

Look, I was pretty content. 1997 is when I joined NBC. I had just sort of recalibrated, I was working at this time for David Bradley. Still part of National Journal, but at this point David Bradley, who’s an individual billionaire here in … At least a lot of people know him.

Oh I know David, the lovely David, elegant.

One of the great gentlemen of Washington.

He really is.

Once you make a friendship with him, you have a friend for life. He’s that kind of guy. I was working for him, he owned us. He had just bought the Atlantic, and we were in the middle of all these incredible brainstorms about what we were gonna do to transform the Atlantic, take everything we’d been learning from National Journal and The Hotline.

Right, but you had a lot of data. That was critical about the net, and politics, was data. The amount of data.

No doubt, and I had just sort of committed to basically helping build the digital side of the Atlantic, helping to build the Atlantic at the time, how we were all gonna do that together, outside of a paywall. Like, we were the paywall kings of Hotline at that point, but this was about proving that there was a market outside of Washington.

And then all of the sudden Politico pops up, and I was ready to go, I’m like, “Great.” And I was ready to transform Hotline into a competitor of Politico. Then Tim calls me up, they need a political director, Russert … And I had just signed a contract with David … What I thought was a very generous contract. And I was happy. I was like, I had autonomy, I was basically getting to run a business without having the burden of owning it, and my own risk, that’s how I felt, that type of empowerment.

Right. So you’re not entrepreneurial, or are you entrepreneurial?

I constantly wanna start things. So yes …

But other people’s money.

Yes, I learned from David, in this idea of seven-year runs. David believes life is filled with seven-year runs. I’m in the middle of a second seven-year run in my head at NBC. You know we’ll see, sometimes you do a third or sometimes you do another seven-year run at something. And so I was pretty content, and I thought, “Y’know … I don’t know.” And I said, “I probably … I just signed a contract.” It just felt disloyal. So I said, “You know what, I don’t wanna interview.” But I was thrilled that they’d asked because, I’ll be honest, a year earlier I was thinking about leaving. And CBS needed a political director and I was trying to just get an interview over there, I couldn’t get an interview.

Right. And Tim Russert was king.

Tim was king. And then I literally slept on it over a weekend and I’m like, “I’m really gonna regret watching somebody else do that job.” So I call ’em back and I end up accepting … I accepted the job, he offered it, I accepted on the day Obama announced, because we were on the phone together watching Obama’s announcement from Springfield when I agreed to do it. So I will always remember it was Saturday, February 10th, that’s when he made the official offer, that’s when I said yes.

And did you see yourself as a broadcast personality?

Never. In fact, I felt like I was being hired more as an off-air.

Expertise, right, yeah.

And he said, “Look, MSNBC is starting to use do more politics, you’ll probably do some TV.” And I had already been doing some TV then as a Hotline … Doing all of them, you know, all the bits.

The cable had started.

Right, the cable circuit back then was just beginning. And I thought, okay, that’s interesting. Never imagined … I didn’t see where this was going. Did I think, well, maybe bureau chief, or … you know what I mean? Like who knew? Like I never … This was not something … It was like, “Working with Tim is gonna be fun!”

Right, it was coverage.

Then all of a sudden I stumble into television. I remember when I got offered to be chief White House correspondent, I said, “I’ve never been a correspondent. I’ve never worked at a local affiliate.” Like, in my head I’m going, “What are you guys thinking? You know I’m not a TV person.”

Yeah, a lot of people work hard to move their way up to that. You stood up on the lawn once.

Yeah … You did?

No, I never did, I woulda killed myself.

And I’m sitting here going, “I don’t have the hair …” Like I just didn’t feel like I was TV worthy. But then I said, “How do you turn this down?” It’s a historic presidency, the first African-American president, and, you know, here I am.

How did you like covering the White House? Because I found that to be a trap for a lot of people.

I say the greatest job title is “Former White House Correspondent.”

Right, because it’s a prison. I worked there as an intern.

Savannah and I, we took the prison metaphor. We used to joke, Robert Gibbs was the foreman. Because he decided when we had to be there or not. We had our desk at NBC decided … Told us what time we could come home, we were basically on work release, you know? We always were inside that fence, but we got to go home to sleep and have dinner. But we had to be at that fence at 7:00 a.m.

Did you also feel like you were fed the news? Because things changed, things have changed somewhat dramatically because of the internet in terms of so many people.

Every story I broke in the White House came from outside the White House. Not a single … In fact, I had to sometimes physically leave the White House to get news on the White House. Now, that said: Being there still is important. I remember sometimes you just …

The most important thing for a White House reporter is not to be there when everybody says, from 9 to 5. The best times to be at the White House and have access to it are from 5 p.m. to 11 p.m., or from 5 a.m. to 9 a.m. Because that’s when you actually run into people who are in charge of running the country.

Right, exactly. But I always find that you become sort of … What’s interesting is most of the interesting stuff has started to come from the outside, and it creates this …

But that’s been the case for years.

Yes, it has, but it’s more so than ever before.

More so.

I mean, I would not think that that would be the beat that everybody would want now.

I tell everybody Capitol Hill’s still the best beat.

Right, because you can just run around.

The problem is, there’s still prestige that comes with it. And, look, I’ve been to 70 countries because of that job. And, yes, sometimes I’m there superficially; I’m there in an organized conference; I’m there for a bilateral meeting; I’m there for … But that’s experience that has benefited me in this job. Put it this way: I never would have been successful at “Meet the Press” had I immediately done it in 2009.

Right, so you did that for a while and then took over from David, which was sort of an ugly departure, essentially, from …

I have a theory on all television, and I quote, and I say this to comfort myself. There’s a quote in the movie “Cocktail”: “Everything ends badly, or else it wouldn’t end.”

You love “Cocktail”? I can’t believe you love “Cocktail,” I’ve seen it 26 times. Oh that’s right, when he’s leaving her, when she’s like, “I don’t want this to end badly.”

Right. That’s television. Every exit is over-covered. Everything is … Because of the gossip columns that love to just cover people that are on TV, whatever it is, there’s just … The fact that the awkward aspect that news executives have all this power over very wealthy talent, and it creates these … I don’t know what it is, but most exits are ugly. It’s rare when they’re not. Johnny Carson, Tom Brokaw.

Yeah, that’s right. That’s true.

I hate to say it.

What’s interesting about it, I covered it just a little bit because a lot of broadcast people are moving to the internet, and back and forth, and whenever I deal with a network person I’m fascinated by the level of bile in terms of … Like pointless bile, it doesn’t really help the story. It’s not as if you’re covering Uber or something where there’s actual real problems.

I had one executive trying to get me to write that someone was an “anchor monster.” And I was like, “Well, can I put that on the record with your name?” “Of course not!” Well then I’m not using it, obviously. But others would, I was thinking, of course people would.

I don’t envy network executives, because it is talent management. But you know, I’ll go back to something … David Bradley said something once and I’ve given this advice to my bosses in the past, I said, “Talented people are difficult to manage, or else they wouldn’t be talented.”

Right, although I would argue with that. I delivered mail at the Washington Post and the most talented people were the loveliest. They absolutely were.

I think as peers, that’s true. The talented people are the ones that are difficult to tell what to do, because they’re like, “Well wait a minute!” Because they’re the ones that are gonna say …

Because they’re creative.

That’s right, they’re creative and they think 17 different other ways you could do this smarter and better.

So, think 17 different ways of what it’s like to be on broadcast television, now. I wanna get, sort of set the scene. I know things have changed really dramatically, but how is it to be in a broadcast position? And we’ll get to Trump in a minute. I’m loving that we’re not really talking about Trump that much, but I do want to get to current politics. But how do you see it shifting …

I just hope people haven’t been bored by my stories.

No, not at all! They’re fascinating.

I don’t know.

I’ll handle the content on this one. So, how do you feel being on a national show? Because I watch your show — and I do watch, because I’m a bit of a political junkie. But I get so much news elsewhere, and I already have formed opinions, and “Meet the Press” used to be the only place you got it. “Meet the Press,” or any of the other shows, but “Meet the Press” was the leader.

I don’t want the word “was” in there. But anyway …

It’s changed so dramatically, how we get our information. How do you look at your job, having gotten through …

I entered this job with believing that my No. 1 goal was to … Look, I believe I am a custodian of something that is much bigger than myself, which is “Meet the Press.” When you’re the oldest show in television history, period, you know. And it has sort of a … It stands for an idea, so I’m aware of that. The idea of Sunday shows, for instance, what you just said, I didn’t want it to atrophy.

And they have, certainly.

I think they were. And I actually will make the case that they’re not, but I have been mindful of this since my single greatest goal as the current moderator is to think of “Meet the Press” as a Sunday show. That “Meet the Press” is, really, an idea. And there’s a “Meet the Press” mindset that can go to documentary filmmaking, there’s a “Meet the Press” mindset to podcasts, there’s a “Meet the Press” mindset to cable, there’s a … But the point is that it is not about one hour on a Sunday morning, it is bigger than that, and I think for its own survival. Because if you look at the media landscape, the first media entities to die were weeklies. Okay? Monthlies have found some life because we’re in a, “Oh, I’m so saturated, I wanna … I want the long-form.”

Yes, because they hate long-form, or … Yeah, long-form.

And obviously daily has survived, but weekly has been … I mean, I think the hardest job in journalism right now is Time magazine. I don’t know how you do it. Like how do you stay relevant? It’s impossible.

It shall not. It’s been a long slow fall down the stairway.

Yeah, it’s impossible. So, I was mindful of this, that is why … I’m not even in this job four years, I’ve got a daily cable show, it didn’t happen before, we now have a podcast, we just did this film festival. The goal being, frankly, I wanna be in the documentary. Making business, why shouldn’t we be?

Right, why not?

But also why shouldn’t we become a production house for all these great political documentaries? So, because I want the “Meet the Press” umbrella to stand for something more than just an hour on Sundays. What’s interesting is, if you actually look at the trends of broadcast news, there is one genre that’s growing in raw numbers: It’s Sunday. And I have a theory as to why. One is, the morning and the evening daily are general news.

This is cable.

Right? Even on cable, too, but it’s constant, you’re getting all this. I think there is this sense of the saturation … You say, “Oh, I already know everything that’s going on.” I see our job now on Sunday morning as basically explaining to people what mattered and what didn’t. Okay? That we’re here to sort of … I assume the average viewer is not you, actually, right now, if you’re the junkie. It’s that next level down: A well-read person who has a life, who isn’t watching cable every night and isn’t watching cable every morning.

Although cable has hijacked your format.

What’s that?

Cable has hijacked the format and dumbed it down, the same discussion stuff, the screaminess …

It can be. I think it has sort of taken what worked on Sunday and they did it in repetitive motion to the point where I actually think we’ve tried to change the model a little bit.

It’s pointless. Yeah.

I take your point there.

So I think that now the viewers look to us for that, and I also have tried to change the interview style a little bit. So for instance, if we had a senator on — and this’ll be, go back 20 years, whether it was Tim, David, Tom, whoever was doing it. First of all you’d have them on for 25 minutes and you’d ask them about eight or nine different issues. Now we know that really the only thing that holds viewers is …

The news cycles.

The president, the vice president, not even the vice president.

Or whatever topic of that day, or that moment.

Right. But now, I drill down on one topic for eight or nine minutes, rather than trying to do six topics in 10 minutes.

Do you ever feel like — and I think that you could say this about all the Sunday shows — that you become a creature of whatever spin that they wanna do when you do that? Because they use all kinds of methods, Twitter and everything else.

I think that’s why I’ve changed to one-subject interviews for the most part. I might ask a second topic at the end, but it’s because if you just ask … If you do six topics in eight minutes, all you’ve done is given them time to do their … All they have to do is a talking point.

Yeah. Well, it’s the twitchy thing. That’s what I think has happened with a lot of it is … The twitchiness of the internet has invaded everything.

Right, and I think that’s where there’s the mistake. Look, I feel I like the show better when it’s one topic, two different points of view.

When you look at how people are getting their information, what do you look at? I mean, you’re obviously deep into television and your daily show, and you guys have newsletters and things like that, but what do you look at and you wonder where it’s happening? Because I always think, “What’s the next thing?” Constantly, I’m always thinking …

I’m always worried about the next thing.

Yeah, and I think about it, and I actually study it. You mentioned Snapchat when we were talking earlier. Where do you imagine it going? How do you perceive political information? Because we’ll get into President Trump, his use of Twitter and things like that, but …

So, it was interesting. Somebody sent me a quote of myself.

Oh, what did you say?

About two years ago. Apparently I said — and I do remember thinking this, I’m glad I said it somewhere — I said, “You know, some presidential candidate is going to realize that the best way to cut through is not to try to pick and choose your media, but just do it all, and be on the record all the time.” Don’t try to control it.

Yeah, the controlled, to control …

And that’s what Donald Trump did. Donald Trump was essentially, during the campaign, on the record constantly. Sometimes via his own Twitter feed, sometimes via his own rallies. Certainly, any reporter could stop him and he would … And I saw that as, maybe it would be a positive.

I still think there are plenty of politicians who have learned the wrong lesson from Trump. Because they’re still not doing that, they’re not saying to themselves, “I’m just gonna be on the record all the time, and if it offends some people, it offends some people, let’s go! Because I am who I am.”

So, the one thing I’m worried about is, I’ve been watching what’s happening in sports. A lot of sports leagues have allowed their own teams to hire their own reporters. It’s a huge problem in Washington, for instance, the Washington Redskins don’t give information to the Washington Post beat writers anymore.

Oh. Why would they?

They only give them … On like injuries and things like that, to their own Washingtonredskins.com reporter. I was concerned that political campaigns would start doing that, they’d hire their own … And in some ways they have, right? They’re trying to create their own television. Josh Earnest hosted his own Sunday show from the point of view of the White House.

Right, Trump has tried it in various …

I’m still semi-concerned, because you now see openly mega-donors deciding they wanna buy publications. Well, they’re gonna buy publications and make them house organs for a politician. Now, what’s ironic here is that this is actually back to the future for American media. This was the 19th century. Do you know who the Blair house is named after? Who Blair was? Blair was a newspaper publisher in Tennessee, he was Andrew Jackson’s favorite newspaper guy.

Ah, and so he just called …

Yeah, I mean the irony is, this is not a new phenomenon.

Well, a lot of these newspapers did the bidding, come on, I just saw the Post, there was that whole concept of what Bradley and Kennedy and the … You know, you were willing house organs.

All of that stuff! Yeah! And I just worry we’re about to go down the house organ front again.

Right, because they haven’t done that, they haven’t needed to do that because Trump gets so much …

Well, he has one! And it is striking what Fox has done.

Oh, well, we’ll get to that.

It’s striking in that … I can’t believe I’m about to say what I’m about to say, but Roger Ailes ran a more journalistically honest organization.

Because they’re not quite …

He was more … It seemed. It’s just different. I don’t think Ailes would be doing what they’re doing. I don’t know, maybe I’m wrong.

Probably not, that’s true.

We’re here with Chuck Todd and he’s saying a lot of fascinating things about politics. When we get back we’re gonna talk about what he just said about Roger Ailes, and also the Trump administration and its use of technology, we’re gonna focus on technology but where it’s all going, when we get back, on Recode Decode.


We’re here with Chuck Todd, NBC’s “Meet the Press” guru? I don’t know, are you the head of political …

My technical title is, I’m the moderator and managing editor. And I’m also the political director for NBC News.

Right, and you do a daily show.

We do a daily cable show.

And then you do all kinds of other things, and travel around and talk to me, things like that.

Well, you were talking about the idea of “Meet the Press” as a bigger idea, but you can’t not do that, now. Like, you have to think about your brand, and I hate to use the word “brand,” but you know what I mean? You’re thinking about it in lots of ways, the way the Trump administration has done that. They see lots of outlets for whatever they’re doing. You talked about sort of … Fox being the news organ, and I absolutely agree with that. Trump talked about doing his own, had he not been president, and a lot of conservatives are talking about that.

Can you sort of give me the lay of the land when you think about what has influence? Let’s start with Twitter. I know you talked about this a whole bunch, but I find Trump’s use of Twitter … You know Obama was supposed to be the digital president, but he wasn’t.

It’s the guy who probably has never sent an email, that is. How about that?

No, absolutely, and who’s hostile to tech, which was interesting because now all the Democrats and the Obama people, there was just a report yesterday and I was sort of giving the guy who wrote it a hard time, I was like, “So you did obsequious sucking-up to the tech industry, and now you’re sanctimoniously attacking it.” It’s sort of like … You can stop now. But they did nothing to get in the way of all these abuses.

They did the same thing that they did to the oil barons back at the turn of the century. Politicians never change.

No, this was fascinating because they were so embracing of tech, when in fact it’s the Trump administration who uses it beautifully and has been benefiting from it in a lot of ways. Can you talk about how they’re disseminating information? You can add Fox News in, but I think it’s just pure using the communication tools.

What I noticed about President Trump’s Twitter feed is how it is basically … how it works in the echo chamber. I mean, what I would say is that their strategy seems to be giving material for their supporters to amplify their message, that that’s what they do, right? So the president may toy with a conspiracy theory about the FBI as he will do in a tweet, or something like that. That, in turn, allows his supporters to then go deep on …

Whatever. Typically …

“I’m gonna take these three facts and create a conclusion.” Or, “I have a conclusion, and I’m gonna find disparate facts that prove my conclusion.” And it’s sort of like he sends the bat-signal, and that’s what has been impressive about it. It’s very unified. And what’s amazing to me is how often and where I see it. Like we’ll have a poll, and one of the things we’ll do is we’ll ask people to tell us things in their own words. His supporters use his words.

A hundred percent.

They use his phrases, you see it in the tweets, you see it in the emails that I’ll get. It is amazing to get 31 percent of the country on the same message. It is not just in topics, it’s in language, it’s in tone, it’s in all of it.

In whatever topic, I mean we could go on a …

It doesn’t matter if it’s about Mueller, DACA, the tax bill. It is his version of the messaging, not a different point of view supporting the same outcome. Not a different way of getting that, it is the same!

Why don’t others use it? It’s really interesting, you know I called him the genius troll of all time, because it really is quite effective, you’re absolutely right. And we can talk about topic after topic … It’s all the same!

It’s all the same! The tactic is the same.

And the reaction from the press is all the … Like pearl-clutching? Like, “I can’t believe he did this!” I’m like, “He did it yesterday, he did it the day before.”

Right, I’ve run out of adjectives.

And it’s obviously … They try to say distraction, but no, it’s a political strategy. I said, “It’s not a distraction, it’s how you govern in this way, whether you like it or not.”

Well, and it’s also how he’s wired.


What’s interesting is that he happened to be wired for Twitter, and for the 21st century news consumption brain, before that existed. He said himself in one of those books that he had ghost-written, that he likes to start his day without a schedule. He likes to react.

I’ve been spending a lot of time getting to know Donald Trump in the ’70s, ’80s and ’90s. This part of him hasn’t changed. He likes to have eight or nine different things to do in a given day. Eight or nine different things that he’s working on in a given day, and he moves through them all the time. So he was brilliantly made for Twitter. He had a mind that was essentially melded with how Twitter functions.

Do you think it’s successful?

Well, define successful. He’s the most unpopular president in a first term. It depends on your definition of success. He’s there, so it got him there.

Right, he’s certainly passed certain bills that are …

But to me, he’s not successful until he gets Republicans to do something they’ve never wanted to do. So far, his accomplishments are essentially generic conservative accomplishments.

Supreme court …

Meaning Marco Rubio, Mike Pence, President Cruz, all of them would have pursued these same things.

With half the noise.

Correct. Or even pursued the same outcomes, maybe via a different strategy. When he gets the Republican party to cancel NAFTA, then I’m gonna be impressed. When he gets the Republican party to no longer be the party of free trade … Permanently … Y’know, then I will say, “Wow! Okay, he truly is a successful leader.” Because he changed a party’s mind and direction on all this stuff.

Are these ways of communications, these internet … Because they don’t just use Twitter, they use all kinds, like lots and lots of different ways to do it.

They are like fanatics about Reddit. It’s very interesting. But what’s interesting to me, though, is that they’re very concentrated only on … They’re not interested in persuasion. They’re only interested in message reinforcement.

Reinforcement and brute-force messaging.

Yeah, I think if we dump the idea of persuasion in American politics, we’re gonna doom the democracy. But there are a lot of political strategists, left and right, who believe that there’s no such thing as a persuadable voter.

That you can’t change minds … Anymore.

Meaning the only thing you are persuading voters to do is to vote or not vote. You are not persuading them from left or right.

As your father and your …

Yes, except, my father never voted straight ticket.

Right, because he could be persuaded.

My mother never voted straight ticket. Now, my parents canceled each other’s vote out and talked about it all the time.

Do you blame tech for that? Or just that it’s a natural extension of humanity?

Oh no, no, this polarization … Tech is a tool that has made it easier, has accelerated this. But this has been a strategy … Look, I bring up Roger Ailes because Roger Ailes created this culture of … So he comes out of Nixon, and if you look at it, basically the whole idea of media bias, which is in some ways …

Started with Nixon. He just did it badly.

No, this media bias argument — the modern era version of it, okay — began with Watergate.

Oh, before that. Spiro Agnew …

Spiro Agnew, yeah, but basically it began with the Nixon administration.

Right, a hundred percent.

Really, actually, you could argue LBJ, right? He was angry at the media too because the media was too negative on Vietnam. But he actually respected the media. “Hey, if I’ve lost Walter Cronkite, I’ve lost the country.” Right?

But Ailes has been dining out on this tactic that conservatives should play the victim to media bias. I think media’s influence gets over-hyped. If the media is so influential, then how did Donald Trump become president? Not a single editorial board in the country said that he should be president, not a single editorial board in the country did, right, in a major market. So it has been an exploited tactic, and then he built an entire business model out of it with the whole fair and balanced wink and a nod deal. Now he’s been pursuing, he turned a political tactic for Republicans to win elections in the U.S. Senate in the ’70s and ’80s, and turned it into a media tactic. So then it cements it all in.

All tech has done is essentially we’ve layered this on a landscape that was already starting to polarize, starting to self-select, starting to fall into these silos. And then these tools that the tech community came up with just put it on speed.

Right, so where do you imagine it going from? Because one of the things that’s happened is, it’s not just Trump that’s doing it. And by the way, the Democrats are just awful at it. Just awful. I have yet to see a good Democrat using social media in any way that’s effective, as far as I can tell, and I’m not clear why that is. It’s distasteful to them, or something.

My gut says social media has peaked as an influential player in politics, but it’s still going to be a tool, the way TV advertising is still a tool.

I see, that’s a really good point. Why peaked? Because people are saturated? Or?

It’s peaked in its ability to be unplanned, okay? And it’s ability to still surprise, and it’s ability to still be, “Oh, that’s clever.” Or, I guess my point is, there is no new way to use social media now for politics. Everybody knows all the different ways to do it. All the different ways to micro-target, all the different ways to use opinion influencers. All of that, everybody knows.

Has got the game of that.

So, something else is coming. The next thing to me is personalizing. Obviously it’s the personalization of politics. So right now we’ve personalized it to the point of your cable channels, your news feeds …

Your Twitter.

The next level is going to be, you and I seeing a Trump for president ad, but your ad is gonna address something that they found out that you’re fired up about, and the ad that I see … You know, in the same way, I think we’re going to start seeing even more personalized one on one …

So, AI helping you.

Some AI conversations. That’s going to be a tool that I think will be … My guess is, in 2020 that’ll be the one that somebody says, “Hey, check out what so-and-so’s trying to do here.” By 2024, everybody’s going to use it, and by 2028 we’re going to move on to something else.

So, who is good at that? Because again, I want to get back to the Democrats and Republicans. I think one of the things that you might be missing is that … I think one of the reasons that Donald Trump does do well is because he’s quite genuine, to himself. I think anyone who’s genuine on social media … It’s like Kim Kardashian, she’s like the biggest, and everyone makes fun of her, but she’s genuine to herself. So it’s not … It doesn’t feel like a trope, it doesn’t feel like …

Wanna know why the country’s not outraged that he had an affair with a porn star? Because Donald Trump has shared everything.

I’m never outraged by a porn star, but I live in San Francisco, so.

I say, I grew up in Miami in the ’80s, I saw a lot. But there is nothing that will chase people away than looking inauthentic. I guess why I believe social media has probably peaked, as far as a campaign tool, is that I think now it’s impossible to be authentic anymore on social media. Everybody assumes you’re being … Now people on social media, the users assume you’re being … “What’s your angle?” We’re all onto it. Whatever that “onto it” means, that’s why you ask me, it’s like … It’s not going away, it’s still a way for the president to express himself. It’s still a way if you use it more than just for press releases, you can break through, but I don’t see it as sort of a secret weapon anymore, or special sauce, it’s now just another …

Now it’s gonna be something that Google’s gonna put in your brain.

I know … I’m bingeing “Black Mirror” right now.

Oh, are you? Don’t. Stop yourself.

Oh god, Matt told me … My producer Matt Riviera’s here with me, yeah, Google glasses in your eyes? Oh my god.

Oh, you’re on that one. So you’re past the pig fucking and you’ve moved on to that.

I did the … It’s funny, that one …

It stayed with me forever.

You know what I give them credit for about “Black Mirror”? It starts, and it’s like “The Twilight Zone,” right? It starts with a totally ridiculous premise that you’re like, “Y’know? I actually see how that could happen!”

I think about “Network.” I just watched it the other day, I forced several people to watch it. If you watched that again, and remember the …

You know, I haven’t watched it since Trump’s been elected.

You need to watch it again because you’re like, “That was ridiculous,” and every single thing on it has been done. Every single thing times 50. And her attitude, Faye Dunaway, who is just brilliant in that movie. And his sort of feckless inability to stop it is really interesting. It’s a really interesting movie to look at, and you realize … Absolutely has far surpassed what that movie, and that was a satire, obviously.

So, we have six or seven minutes left. I wanna talk what we’re … Because this focuses on tech, tech has been at the center of the Russia bots, all kinds of things, and then there’s a lot of hostility to the press, they keep getting dragged up to Capitol Hill. Does that matter at all? I mean, do they have an influence in … It just was noted yesterday, Google, Amazon, Facebook have been spending enormous amounts of money lobbying. Obviously they’ve learned their lesson since the Microsoft trial many years ago. How do you look at …

I look at in the same way that you have any new sector that pops up … At some point they’re gonna get regulated. And look, the government hasn’t figure out yet how to regulate two industries well. One is tech, and the other is Wall Street. Because in some ways, the two work together. They’re not working together against the government, but … Washington is just always ready to regulate the last technology and the last financial trend rather than have the ability to prepare to regulate what’s coming.

Why is that? Because they’re ignorant.

Look, the biggest thing is how … You’ve met these individual members of Congress, some of them are extraordinarily bright people who know nothing about some of these industries. There’s one person, I always use Jared Polis as my great example.

Ah, Jared.

Here’s Jared Polis when he gets elected, you know, the Blue Mountain Christmas card guy.

His parents.

For those of you under the age of 30, you’re all wondering, “What the hell is Blue Mountain Christmas cards?” But it was like, when the internet first started, everybody thought, “Hey, wouldn’t it be great to send an electronic Christmas card?” And Blue Mountain was it! Everybody thought that was cool for about a year.

Do you wanna hear my claim to fame? His mother called me when they offered the $ 600 million. Pretending I wasn’t a reporter, I don’t know why, and she goes, “What do you think we should do?” And I’m like, “Thank you for that tip.” “What’s happening?” And I said, “Sell every fuckin’ thing and take the cash.” And they did it, they did it. It feels good about … it feels good about Jared Polis.

My point was, though, so Jared Polis decides to use his wealth to run for Congress. Do you think … Is he … The way Congress works, oh here’s somebody on the internet. So is he even remotely part of the policy discussions on how to regulate tech and how to do this?

No. The people that possibly have some explanation …

It would take them 20 years to get into a position to actually get to a point where you can influence policy!

And by then we’re gonna have things in our eyes like on “Black Mirror.”

Right, by the time he does get in a position, he no longer is in touch with the industry, doesn’t even know where it’s headed. So that’s the problem, and the smart tech folks are gonna start to prepare for the regulation and start self-regulating.

What does that look like, the regulation? What do you imagine?

To me it should be the FCC. Look, use the infrastructure we have, I always believe, don’t start a new agency. In fact, if I could run the federal government, I would make every agency sunset after 25 years and then you have to reprove and restart. Every 25 years, I don’t care what the agency is. Because it’s the only way to modernize. It’s the only way to make sure that agency doesn’t fall behind. It’s one of those things that, I’ll say it, people will think about it for a minute, and then it’ll never happen because there’s always an entrenched interest to protect this. But if you really want a government to work well and be nimble, you’d constantly do creative …

Well, tech does that on its own, let things die. Things die in Microsoft or AOL.

That’s right. That’s what government should do, in some ways. Anyway, so you know what I’d be doing? I’d be doing what Jeff Bezos is doing. Buying the Washington Post, thinking about moving my headquarters to another city, proving that I’m a good corporate citizen … I will say this, I think Amazon has managed this better than any of the other tech giants. They have figured out …

He’s an adult, that’s why.

That’s exactly right. And, let me plug Jeff for one other thing. I’ve never met him, but he went to the same high school as my dad in Miami, he went to the rival high school that I went to in Miami, so … Dade County Public Schools produced Jeff Bezos.

Yeah, he started as an adult in this business.

That matters.

Yeah, it does.

I am fascinated by where Amazon is gonna pick. I think it’s pretty obvious where they’re coming, when you’re at the final 20 cities and three of them are in one market. I think he has pretty much said where this is coming. The question is: Maryland or Virginia?

Right, and he has a lovely house here.

I wished he picks Pittsburgh or St. Louis, personally.

Me too, Pittsburgh was my pick.

Well now, he eliminated St. Louis. I wanted St. Louis, only because I think it’s important for tech to make inroads in Red America. St. Louis is the biggest city that is a gateway to Red America. Pittsburgh’s not even, anymore. St. Louis isn’t Detroit yet, but if we’re not careful it could be. And look, there was a time when St. Louis was the fourth-most important city in this country.

Well, a lot of the techies are talking about doing their little tours of like meet the people kind of thing. It’s really insulting.

It is. I have to say when Mark Zuckerberg went on that tour of Iowa and he posted about a truck stop and the showers, I’m like, really dude? You have never been to a truck stop? Your parents never … You’ve never been on one road trip? You’ve never been to the interstate rest stops?

No. He’s not the …

It’s stories like that that actually hurt tech.

A hundred percent.

Because, you are not … You have no idea what the hell’s happening in America!

Yeah, they seem to step in it all the time. They really do.

Look, it was well-intentioned. It was the right idea, poorly executed.

May I just say, he’s an extraordinarily earnest person. He really means it when he …

He does, it just was poorly executed. And you know what happens with these billionaires? And too many political consultants? And we can say this. Is that they’re so enamored with the paycheck they’re getting that they don’t give them good advice. They just … I don’t think these billionaires realize that most of these political people they’ve hired …

Oh, they’re crawling all over them.

Right, they’re telling them what they wanna hear because they want to keep their damn contract.

Yep, absolutely.

Let me finish up by talking about tech people running for office. Do you see that happening? Do you imagine? I mean, everyone’s focused on Oprah and all the others, but I’m not even gonna go there.

I mean look, why wouldn’t they? I assume a whole bunch of tech people … They already are running.


Well, I don’t see any of them as presidential material yet. Bezos intrigues me if he wanted to. I would say this: In the 1980s when the country was looking for an outsider businessman, the first person …

Ross Perot.

No, no. It was Lee Iacocca, remember?

Oh, right sure, I remember, yeah.

The dream candidate in the ’80s, the dream outsider candidate was always Lee Iacocca. And Ross Perot, we were sort of enamored, again we went into the business world. If you think about our different sectors in life, politicians are not well thought of. Even the military is less well thought of than it was, as far as the generals are concerned, sort of leadership in the military. The tech business, Wall Street is not respected anymore, bankers. Jamie Dimon, I … Jamie Dimon for president? Are you kidding me?

I didn’t hear that one.

Jamie would laugh. He knows that they’re pariahs. The tech industry is the one place that has trust in different pockets of America, and it produces something tangible. I think Steve Jobs had enough, like … To me, the personalities that are there now, none of them feel big enough to look like they could … You have to have some charisma to be president.

Could you name one? Someone? Bezos …

Bezos is interesting to me. Sheryl Sandberg is interesting to me. Like, Tim Cook clearly doesn’t want to. I don’t count Mark Cuban as tech anymore.

He made all his money from tech, but yes.

He did, but I don’t see him in that space. He clearly wants to.

I don’t know. I know him pretty well, I don’t think he’s playing games with all of you people.

Put it this way, I think he plays games with a lot of reporters.

I knew him when he was not rich, so, it’s his tricks. He’s enjoying himself.

Oh well, that’s good. Look, he was at the Axios one-year anniversary party and I heard … I wasn’t there.

He was, I heard.

I said, “Oh, are the Mavericks in town?” And like, no, he flew in just for that. He wants to be a player in this town, there’s no doubt about it

He does. You know what he’s …this new health care thing, which is interesting. He’s so highly intelligent on lots of things, and his clown thing is not what he’s like.

Oh, I’m a huge personal fan of him.

I find talking to him most enjoyable.

By the way, the clown thing is a business, is a marketing tool for the Dallas Maverick fan base.

Absolutely, I think so people don’t take him seriously.

I want my sports owners to be Mark Cuban. I want my owners … I love that!

We’re gonna end on that, I’m gonna let you talk about this sports thing.

That, to me, is Mark Cuban’s authenticity.

Why didn’t you go into sports? That’s my last question for you.

I did. For a little while.


In fact, at The Hotline we started a sports business Hotline. We called it “Sports Business Daily.” It is now a $ 20 million business owned by Hearst, down in Charlotte.

Wow. Sports business.

But the editor in chief is somebody I hired back in the day, he’s still there. He came to town the other day when we visited and it’s thriving. It’s basically Hotline for the sports business world, you know, for the leagues. It was one of those things, the sports world didn’t have the, “What’s going on with this meteorite?” Think about it, stadiums, there’s a whole bunch of stuff, and they didn’t know they needed something every day until we started making something for them every day and they’re like “Holy cow!”

Regrets? That you didn’t do sports?

Oh, no, no. I hated it. You know what happened? I found out sports is my hobby, politics is my passion.

I see.

I miss politics, and then I find myself going to games and working. And I’m like that. Meaning I’d go to the Camden Yards and I’d look at the signage. “Oh, is this a Miller stadium or a Bud stadium?”

You didn’t enjoy it.

I started to know those stupid facts and I said, “Why do I care whether it’s Pepsi or Coke at this stadium? Whether this team is a Nike team or a …” At the time, Reebok was their cheap competitor. I literally said, “Ugh, I miss politics.” The thing is, politics is the personalities, it’s the human side …

So you’re not exhausted yet, by all of this? You must be exhausted!

Well, no I … Look, I’m a pearl-clutcher every once in a while. I’ll admit to that. I do worry about the damage we’re doing to the perception of the press in politics. I think this is a generational damage.

Really. I think we get played every single day.

What’s that?

I think the press gets played every single day.

I have a lot of faith in the millennial generation to fix all this. I think they’re our greatest generation. They kinda have to be. We gotta hope.

I’m going with Gen Z, myself.

Well, my daughter’s Gen Z, so I hope so.

I was talking to my son who’s 12 or 13 and I was saying “The Bannon book” this, that, “Sloppy Steve,” and he literally says to me, “Mom, that’s really not the point. The insider politics, the White House, it’s the judgeships.” And I was like, “Yeah, but Sloppy Steve!”

My daughter’s 13. My daughter does the same thing, she rolls her eyes at the name-calling and says, “Aw, that’s stupid,” Look, how we’re covering Trump is going to have an impact on our kids and how they consume news and politics.


Now my biggest fear with millennials has been, they so disdain politics that they won’t run.

Yeah, or vote.

And they’re not coming here. The best and the brightest don’t come to Washington anymore. We still want some of them here. I want some of them to go to Silicon Valley, but I’d still like to see a few of them come here, and they’re not right now.

All right, right now are there any Chuck Todds sitting as an eighth grader somewhere … You need to get up and not be cynical!

Yes, the minute I get too cynical I gotta quit.

So not yet. So how long are you here for? The whole time.

I don’t think there’s such things as 20- and 30-year runs in television.

All right, so seven years?

Like I said, David Bradley and the seven-year runs? I’m on my second seven-year run. I’ll talk to you in five years.

All right, last question. Anything else? What would you like to do if you could put yourself anywhere else?

If I could put myself anywhere?


In any job?


Athletic director for the University of Miami. You laugh.

I do, I’m laughing. I’m not laughing with you, I’m laughing at you.

I know, look, I wanna save NCAA sports.

All right.

College sports needs to be saved. I’d, you know.

Everybody, Chuck Todd is ready to do it.

Chuck, this has been a delight talking to you. It’s an unusual conversation.

I hope I still have a career.

You still have a career, don’t worry, you didn’t insult your bosses at NBC, I do that for you.

Good luck with that.

Andy Lack … Give Chuck a raise, Andy! Come on!

Recode – All

Mario Kart is coming to mobile. Is it time to get excited or are you ready to chuck some blue shells?

Luigi death stare Mario Kart

This one is definitely an example of getting the hype train (or kart, I guess) started early. Nintendo has revealed that it’s developing a Mario Kart game for mobile. It’s called Mario Kart Tour, and it was announced yesterday over on Nintendo’s Twitter.

[Read more]
148Apps » iPhone, iPad, Apple Watch and iPod touch App Reviews and News (RSS Feed) | 148Apps

Social media has ‘peaked’ in politics, NBC’s Chuck Todd says

The moderator of “Meet the Press” thinks Twitter, Facebook and the like can’t surprise us anymore.

As we approach the 2018 midterms in the U.S. (and start talking about the 2020 presidential race), there’s no doubt that candidates will continue to use Facebook, Twitter and the like to rally their supporters.

But “social media has peaked as an influential player” in politics, says NBC Political News Director Chuck Todd, the moderator of “Meet the Press.” On the latest episode of Recode Decode, hosted by Kara Swisher, he argued that everyone on social networking sites “assumes you have an angle,” and will see through a candidate’s tweets and posts as just another tactic, rather than an authentic reflection of his or her character.

“It’s peaked in its ability to be unplanned, in its ability to still surprise, its ability to still be, ‘Oh, that’s clever,’” Todd said. “There is no new way to use social media now for politics; everybody knows all the different ways to do it. Something else is coming.”

“The next thing to me is the personalization of politics,” he added. “Right now, we’ve personalized it to the point of your cable channels, your News Feeds. The next level is going to be, you and I seeing a Trump-for-president ad, but your ad is going to address something that they’ve found you’re fired up about.”

(Disclosure: NBCUniversal is an investor in Recode’s parent company, Vox Media.)

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

On the new podcast, Todd also talked about why he rejects the idea that tech is responsible for the divisiveness in modern politics. Instead, he sees it as a force that has accelerated trends that have been in motion since Watergate.

“Roger Ailes created this culture,” Todd said. “He comes out of Nixon. And the whole idea of ‘media bias’ began with Watergate … Ailes has been dining out on this tactic that conservatives should play the victim to media bias.”

“I think the media’s influence is over-hyped,” he added. “If the media is so influential, then how did Donald Trump become president? Not a single editorial board in the country said he should be president. He [Ailes] built an entire business model out of it, with the ‘fair and balanced’ wink and a nod. He took a political tactic for Republicans to win elections and turned it into a media tactic.”

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.

Recode – All

NY Senator Chuck Schumer Has a Plan to Keep Net Neutrality in Place

Preserving Net Neutrality

In the week since the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) voted to repeal net neutrality, many people have spoken out against the decision, citing fears of what may follow. Lawmakers and politicians have announced plans to sue the FCC, and some have proposed their own bills to preserve the regulations.

On December 15, U.S. Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) stepped forward with his own plan to keep net neutrality in place.

Schumer intends to force a vote on a net neutrality bill that, if passed, would overturn the FCC’s ruling. The plan is made possible by the Congressional Review Act (CRA), which enables Congress to reverse agency rules so long as the reversal has majority approval in the House and Senate.

“One, this CRA doesn’t need the support of the majority leader. We can bring it to the floor and force a vote, so there will be a vote to repeal the rule that the FCC passed,” Schumer said at a WeWork’s press conference, according to a report by The Hill.

“It’s in our power to do that and that’s the beauty of the CRA rule,” he added. “Sometimes we don’t like them, when they used it to repeal some of the pro-environmental regulations, but now we can use the CRA to our benefit, and we intend to.”

Against the Odds

Despite the efforts of Schumer to get the bill in front of Congress, getting it passed will be no easy task. Republicans outnumber Democrats 239 to 193 in the House of Representatives and 51 to 49 in the Senate (once Doug Jones is sworn in in January), and the vote could be split down the party line.

However, several Republican senators, such as Senator Susan Collins (R-Maine), have spoken out against the repeal of net neutrality, and House Telecom Chairman Marsha Blackburn (R-Tennessee) has introduced her own net neutrality bill, though it has weaker standards than the just-repealed rules.

Still, President Trump could veto any new net neutrality bill that does pass both the House and Senate.

Net neutrality effectively protected consumers and kept things fair online. Without it, internet users and companies in the U.S. could be subjected to the same conditions that currently exist in Portugal, where people often need to pay for additional data, as well as buy packages based on the apps they want to use.

Beyond increasing costs, internet service providers (ISPs) could also block sites simply because they compete with their other businesses.

Needless to say, the way we currently use the internet could become a thing of the past if nothing is done to stop the repeal of net neutrality or pass legislation to the same effect.

The post NY Senator Chuck Schumer Has a Plan to Keep Net Neutrality in Place appeared first on Futurism.


Full transcript: Writer Chuck Klosterman on Recode Media

He has a new book out, “Chuck Klosterman X,” a collection of magazine pieces, such as profiles of Taylor Swift and Kobe Bryant.

This week on Recode Media with Peter Kafka, writer Chuck Klosterman called into the studio to talk about his career in journalism and his new book, “Chuck Klosterman X.” (The X is a Roman numeral 10, as in this is his 10th book.) The two discuss trends in journalism, writing about the famous and whether football will disappear.

You can read some of the highlights from the interview here, or listen to it in the audio player above. Below, we’ve also provided a lightly edited complete transcript of their conversation.

If you like this, be sure to subscribe to Recode Media on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Pocket Casts, Overcast or wherever you listen to podcasts.

Peter Kafka: This is Recode Media with Peter Kafka. That’s me. I am part of the Vox Media Podcast Network. I’m here at the Vox Media podcast studio, sitting all by myself because … This doesn’t happen very often. I think only once before … our guest is not in studio with me. He’s in Portland. He’s Chuck Klosterman. Hey, Chuck. How are you?

Chuck Klosterman: Good. How are you doing?

I am well. You are the author of many things. I’m looking at one of them right now. Is it “Chuck Klosterman X” or “Chuck Klosterman 10”? Can I go either way?

It is Chuck Klosterman 10, but this is proof of why I make a lot of bad decisions. First of all, I overlooked the popularity — or I should say the lack of popularity — of Roman numerals in modern society. There’s no reason somebody would see an X and immediately assume that it was a 10 unless they’re really consciously keeping tracks of how many books I’ve written before, but that’s an arrogant thing to assume.

Or they spend a lot of time looking at Super Bowl logos.

Exactly. The other thing that really kind of proves I’m a moron is that this has happened before. The fourth book I put out was an anthology. My name is Chuck Klosterman IV, and that was IV, and many people would say it’s Chuck Klosterman I-V like it was a medical textbook or something. This is just something I keep doing and I guess it’s my hope to end up being like the band Chicago.

All right. I think I would have got the IV part. I got X, too. I just thought maybe we wanted it to go both ways. It’s great. I bought it. I bought a signed copy. It’s a physical book that I bought. Happens very rarely. The subtitle is “A Highly Specific, Defiantly Incomplete History of the Early 21st Century.” Another way of putting it is stuff that you’ve written for other publications that you compiled in one place. It’s great. I recommend it.

You’ve written many other books. I’m not going to read the entire … It’s not called an IMDb. I guess it’s called a bibliography. Anyone who’s listened this far knows that you are a writer and a commentator. You write about music, sports. That’s your sweet spot, right?

That’s been most of the work I have done, certainly, for other publications, yes.

I watch games. I listen to music and I daydream about the rest of reality. That’s from the intro. I like that. I want to talk to you about a bunch of things but I want to talk to you about your day job, writing for other publications primarily. I think you are really good at it, and I think there are fewer and fewer people who do what you do, which is writing for places like GQ full-time.

I don’t work for them full-time.

You don’t work for them full-time, but you have strung together a bunch of contracts, I assume. That’s how you pay your rent?


No? Okay.

No. They’re all one-off things.

Oh really?

There was a four-year span where I was writing a column for Esquire. This would have been 2004 to 2008. That was a contract. I think I was paid four grand per column and they were yearly contracts. I had a contract with the New York Times Magazine in 2003, but contracts with the New York Times Magazine are very strange. They’re not like you’re being paid consistently. It just changes the way you’re described when they give your bio and you get paid a little bit more. I was, I guess, on contract with Grantland, although that was different because that seemed like a more immersive … you’re just an employee. I was an employee at Spin, but for the most part now, I haven’t had a lot of long-term contracts.

Rather than me describing how you make your living, you tell me how you make your living. It’s for writing for other people, though, right?

Okay, in the 90s, I was a newspaper reporter and that’s how I made my living. Then, I was like maybe I’m going to see if I can write this book in my spare time, the first book. That came out in 2001 and then in 2002, I got hired by Spin so I moved to New York. At that point, I was still mostly a working journalist who also wrote books. Then, as the years moved on, those flopped so now I’m somebody who writes book and then occasionally does journalism. I think, as I’m moving forward, it seems like books consume by far the majority of my time. I guess that’s how I make a living. Also, I guess technically I’m unemployed. Technically.

By the way, what are you doing unemployed in Portland? What’s going on there?

What is my day like?

Yeah, why are you in Portland? I used to spy on you. I used to sneak around you in my old neighborhood in Brooklyn.

Yeah, why didn’t you ever come up and say hello to me if we were in the same Starbucks?

Although I seem incredibly confident on a microphone, I’m hesitant to walk up to people who I don’t know who I admire and say, “Hey.”

Well, actually, that’s a good quality. That’s a good quality for people to have.

It generally doesn’t work out well.

Well, no. I think it’s good that you’re not the kind of person who’s like, “I’m going to try to network with every person I see.” That’s a good thing. Why am I here?


Well, let’s see. My wife and I had an apartment near where you lived, which was a great apartment when it was just the two of us. Then, we had one kid and then we had another kid.

I’m familiar with this story.

Now, there’s not enough space so then, we have to choose between one of two things. We have to move further out in Brooklyn and pay a ton of money for a house that might not even seem that great anywhere else in America.

That’s the Peter Kafka story.

Or, we could move to Portland, where my wife is from. Her parents are still here. Her sister is here. What I do, it doesn’t really matter where I’m at, so it was really a family-based move entirely. Both my wife and I were not jacked about leaving New York. We loved it there. That’s absolutely my favorite place to live ever. I still kind of miss it. It hasn’t been that long, I guess, I’ve been away. We begrudgingly did this and there are some huge upsides to being here, too. I think it really was the smart move.

I assume you’ve been to Portland before interviewing … Actually, wasn’t Malcolm X from Portland?

He was there. I guess I’ve toured through here, and then because my wife is from here, we would come back here for holidays.

You know it. I’m curious …

I’d probably been here 12 times before I moved here.

Okay. All I know is lots of people I know want to live there, but don’t live there.

Well, I think that especially for people in Brooklyn, I think that they look at other cities and be like what would be a realistic analogy. There are certain cities that always come up. Portland is one. Austin is one. Minneapolis sometimes. Those are all the cities we talked about moving to, I guess.

Yeah, I grew up outside of Minneapolis so I know that it’s actually not like Brooklyn at all.

I know, but there’s something about the … Culture’s maybe the wrong word to use, but it seems whenever people from New York go to Minneapolis, they really do like it. Where out of Minneapolis are you from?

Edina, Minneapolis.

Oh, now, that’s the wealthiest suburbs, so were you very wealthy growing up?

Well, we used to be. No, no. I grew up in the lower-class part. We only had a one-car garage. We did not have a remote control.

In fact, isn’t that a cliché/? Don’t they call people from Edina cake eaters?

Yep, yep. The school mascot is the hornet but it should be the wasp. Then, actually, the other connection I had with you was, in purely my own mind, you had a part in one of your books, “Killing Yourself,” about going to find Bobby Stinson’s apartment — former Replacements member — and finding him and it was near the Bryant-Lake Bowl and that’s where I lived for a period of time. I remember thinking oh …

Were you living in that apartment?

No, no. Nearby. The guy who was sticking his hand out, smoking a cigarette?

Yeah, yeah.

I could imagine who that is, at least an archetype of that kind of person, who would stick their hand out while smoking a cigarette and then not answer the door. I always felt that connection. I’m rambling a little bit now. This is why I think it’s easier in person, but I appreciate the phone call.

I want to ask about how you do your job in 2017. You call it book writing. I think of it as magazine writing. I guess it’s because I’ve read an anthology of your magazine writing. Has it changed significantly? Has the way you actually do the work changed significantly over the last 10 years or so, either because of your success or because of technology or both?

Technically, the way the stories are done, I would say that’s almost identical. That’s actually the one aspect that I don’t think has changed at all. Everything around it has changed entirely, but the way that I would do a feature, for example, is the way I’ve always done them, the way I was doing them in 1994. There is nothing unique or rarefied about the way I do this.

Actually, there’s one thing that has changed. There is one thing that is different, which is that when I was younger, like I think many people who do this kind of work is they’re trained or told or convinced or persuaded that the idea when you interview someone is to just make it be a conversation. Forget that you’re recording it. Convince the person that you’re just talking. Get so comfortable with them that it’s just two people sitting at a bar chatting and that this is the way to get an authentic, realistic profile. But I’ve found that it just never really happens, particularly since I went through a period where I got interviewed a lot and I realized how fake that was, and in a way, how annoying it is to be with someone who’s trying to create the illusion that you’re just comfortably chatting and that this is not recorded and there isn’t going to be some product at the end.

Now, when I interview people, particularly if they’re very famous — you can’t really do this with just an average person, but somebody’s who’s mega famous. If they’re Kobe Bryant, Taylor Swift, I will just say, at the beginning, “Look, I know the only reason you’re here is to promote some kind of product. That product may be yourself, but it’s something that you are here to sell or produce. The only reason I’m able to ask you these questions is because I’m a reporter and I can ask you questions now that I probably wouldn’t feel comfortable asking you if we were friends, so I’m not going to pretend that we are and I’m not going to create some fake thing where we’re going to have a relationship beyond this conversation. I’m just going to ask you the things I want to know about and I hope that you respect the fact that I’m just being straight with you.” I find that that works much better.

You would dispense with small talk about Portland, then?


Yes. When you say that to a Taylor Swift or a Kobe Bryant, and it goes well, and you’ve got two profiles of them and there are great Q&As in there, in the book, do you think they’re responding to the honesty of that approach, the fact that it’s novel, or both?

I don’t know. I think sometimes they’re slightly surprised but I think more often they’re just like, “Good.” This is not going to be something where they have to pretend for 20 minutes, too, that we’re just having this attempt to … I keep using the word illusion but it is, that somehow there’s something natural about two people who’ve never met before with a tape recorder in between them and one person is asking probing questions about their life.

It’s interesting to me when I hear about Susan Orleans, or whatever. She’ll spend a month with somebody. I’ve never done anything like that. I don’t think I ever would. I certainly would never allow someone to spend a month with me if they were writing a story on me. I would think that would be awful to have just someone come into your life for a month.

I actually, I guess, do these magazine profiles probably a little closer to the way newspaper profiles worked, where there was no expectation that you were going to have four days with the person, or an entire weekend where’d you go on their boat with them. It makes the story easier to write if you do that stuff.

I very much recall, because people are aware of this, I was doing a story on the release of the first Audioslave record and I was interviewing Tom Morello in Los Angeles. At Spin, it was always important. We always had to open with some scene, so we went to this arcade. They set it up so we’d go to this arcade together, and we were walking into the arcade and he literally looked at me and said, “Is this the part where you talk about how you and me are in an arcade together?” I’m like, “Yes, it is. This is what we’re doing right now. We are pretending that somehow you and I ran into each on the street and decided to play Rampage.”

I was going to ask about that because people still do this, but it seems like you see less of them. I was just reading one where they’re interviewing Larry David’s daughter and the conceit was they were going to ride the subway, because she doesn’t like to ride the subway because she’s neurotic. They rode the subway to Queens and back. I was struck by the fact that you see many fewer of those now, where someone goes on a date or goes golfing or goes to an arcade.

Yeah, I do think that something has changed about the awareness of the consumer and the fact that also, the consumer of this is used to reading things on the internet that are so much shorter and that they’re used to reading vertically as opposed to horizontally, that if you start a story with a colorful, interesting description like in this Taylor Swift story I did. It starts with me and her in her car and she gets a phone call from Justin Timberlake. That’s not a constructed scene. I thought we were just going to her house. I assumed that the car ride … I’m taking notes because the tape recorder is not on. I think that’s one thing. It’s another thing if we would have said, “Boy, it would be interesting to spend time with Taylor Swift in a hot air balloon.” Then, me and her are in a hot air balloon and she gets a … That seems so dumb to me now.

Granted, the thing about a lot of profile writing, especially celebrity profiling, is there is a formula to this. There’s a certain expectation the publication has of what the story is going to be like. Sometimes you still have to work within that construct, but I hope that it’s never as … The profiles that always drive me crazy — and I mean, I’ve done this, too — it’s a profile that begins with the subject’s first name.

That’s a very men’s magazine style, isn’t it? Like an Esquire or GQ.

“Peter Kafka overlooks the menu.” I hate that. I’ll do anything to avoid it. And sometimes you’ll turn something in and the editor will try to move it in that direction and you got to find some way. I think it even just sounds better to just immediately use a pronoun instead of the person’s name, because certainly, the person reading this story knows who it’s about. If the story starts with “she” and Taylor Swift is pictured next to that story, no one’s going to be like, “Who was that? Who’s he talking about?”

How much agency do you have over the construct of the piece? Is it the publicist who says Taylor Swift want to meet you but she wants to do it in a hot air balloon, or does the editor say this is how I want to do it? Do you have the ability to say, “No, I don’t want to do it that way”?

What usually happens is the editor from the place calls you and says would you be interested in doing a profile on Person X? If I’m interested in Person X, I say yes, sure. It doesn’t really matter. That’s the whole thing now. I don’t want to fake interest in people. You end up hating the entire experience, especially the writing. I got to be legitimately interested that I actually have questions. They say, are you interested in Person X and I’m like, yes, sure. Then, they go, okay, it’ll probably happen the end of September or whatever. They’ll give you a rough date and then, at least in the last five or 10 years, immediately the conversation is, we’re not going to get much time with them. They said we’re not going to get much time with them.

It’s been set up. They’ve set it up with the interview subject, with their handlers, with their manager, PR person?

Yeah. There’s this whole industry of wrangling. At the newspaper, you had to do all that yourself. If you wanted to interview Rob Zombie, you had to call White Zombie’s publicist and get the whole thing. You did it yourself. Now, I guess the analogy is almost like being parachuted in or dropped in. Everything is set.

Right, that apparatus still exists in glossy magazine land. There’s still people doing that stuff.

Yeah. Particularly if the expectation is that you’re going to sit down with the person. I think you can tell in a lot of online journalism that these contacts, you can just see as you read what people say and all this, and the way it’s structured, that this was done through texting or Twitter or email. If the idea’s that you’re going to sit with the person, they are going to create this scenario and some writers really hate the idea if it’s just going to be dinner or it’s just going to be them in the hotel room, because they’re like, what am I going to write about? I never feel that way. I almost prefer that because my thinking is always if someone reads something I write and the thing they come away talking about is the way the story is written, that means it didn’t work. They should come away talking specifically about something the subject said that changed the way they now perceive them.

That’s why in this book, this anthology, there’s that Tom Brady profile. That’s a failed profile. I put it in there because I don’t know, I just did, but I know from my perspective that did not work because if anyone’s talking about that profile, all they’re discussing is that there was no new information.

You tried to interview Tom Brady, who basically did not want to be interviewed or certainly didn’t want to be asked about deflating balls.

Yes. I thought that was specifically why it was happening, so then there was a strange collision between someone asking one question over and over again and the other person basically being like, “That’s the one question I’m not going to answer at all.”

You kept it in. It’s still interesting.

What had happened was he was Man of the Year, so he was going to be in the magazine regardless. Once we realized there wasn’t going to be a normal profile, then it was like well, I’ll just write an essay about him. Then, I thought if I’m writing an essay about him, I should include something that isn’t just what I think. I just took the part of the interview that didn’t work and put it in the middle of the essay, because in an essay, even a failed interview is something. A failed interview in a profile’s a problem, but a failed interview in an essay can be interesting.

Yeah, I liked it. I have more interview questions for you during this interview, but I need to stop for a second, about 30 seconds, so we can sell some socks, I think. Socks are awesome. Can you hang on?


We’ll be back here with Chuck Klosterman.


Back here with Chuck Klosterman. I’m Peter Kafka. You know that because you’re listening to a podcast with the two of us. We were talking about the techniques of interviewing, how it’s changing, how it’s not changing. I wanted to ask you about profile writing, as well. There was something you mentioned at the beginning of the introduction of your Taylor Swift profile. Actually, I don’t know if it was Taylor Swift. It was one of them. You talked about not describing the way that women, I think in particular, look or how they dress because you don’t want to get blowback. You say part of the reason it’s so much easier to write about old white guys, nobody gives a shit how you describe them. I got to say, I understood what you meant and I was a little surprised that you put that in there because it seems like even saying that is the kind of thing that could raise someone’s ire at this point.

I suppose it could but it’s not that the blowback is the … I guess it depends how you define blowback. The thing is, it will change the way the story is received, particularly by people who don’t actually read the story. They’ll just isolate one part of the story and then the assumption will be that this is what the story must be about because it was all boiled down into this one little anecdote. It’s just not worth it to risk having the entire story be hijacked by something that, though, does seem like a normal part of profile writing.

You’re worried that if you wrote that Taylor Swift was wearing a short skirt or a long skirt or a tight-fitting thing or a loose-fitting thing, that would get removed out of context and all the attention would be placed on that, or however that situation might get.

Not even removed out of context. It would just be something that somebody would focus on, okay? It would just be, somebody would find that problematic that I described how she looked. It doesn’t matter if it was complimentary or insulting necessarily. It would seem as though I wasn’t taking her seriously as a musical artist, and the idea is that I do. That’s why I’m writing about her is because I do think she’s a meaningful, significant artist. It’s not worth the risk of having the story then get shifted by other people who perhaps just perceive themselves as somebody who’s a watchdog for certain signifiers or certain elements of the culture and that their job is to be on the watch for this. If your story then gets moved into that silo, that’s all it’s going to be remembered for.

It’s not a meaningful enough detail to take that risk, I think, because the ultimate idea is that you want people to read your work and to come away with either an idea that they didn’t have before or to take an idea that was preexisting in the culture and shift it or morph it into something that illustrates this complexity. What you don’t want is somebody to have a story just become a political dispute that has no connection with what you’re actively trying to do. It becomes someone else’s politics.

Did that happen to one of the pieces you wrote or did you watch it happen to other people and say, “I don’t want to go there, I’m going to shift lanes here”?

Both, I’m sure. I’m sure that has happened. Yes. I’ve seen it happen to other people, but I think it’s happened to me, too. I’m sure it has.

It’s something that you’re willing to put up with, willing to accept in terms of how you’re going to report and write, but something that still irks you enough that you want to call it out quietly or briefly in a collection of essays?

What it was … When you put together an anthology like this, you got to read through all your old features, you know? As I was rereading that, I noticed I never describe what she looks like, but I describe what Jimmy Page looks like. It’s like he’s wearing black and has a ponytail. I describe what Eddie Van Halen looks like. I always do that. Here again — particularly, again, writing for newspaper — when the art was a less meaningful thing, when the whole thing wasn’t necessarily built around a photograph of the person, or the person might be significantly less famous.

You could make the argument, why are you describing what Taylor Swift looks like? People know how she appears, but to me, that’s part of expository writing, describing what the person looks like. It’s a touchier thing now. It’s a more dangerous thing. But on balance, is it something that is so important to the story that it must be in here? The truth? It’s not like that. If it’s going to cause people to consume the story differently, it’s probably not worth the trade-off.

Do you think that perception of how your work is being received, either by your audience or by people who aren’t reading it but are reading about it, do you think that’s a new concept? That if, 20 years ago when you were starting, you would have been writing into a void? You would have got next to no feedback and you would have just gone on and written more stories and someone in New York would have kept hiring you so you wouldn’t know when you were doing well there, but beyond that, you wouldn’t have had any other feedback with your audience.

I said before how the way the story’s done has changed. The thing you just described is what has changed the most. I mean, I think that it’s always hard talking about these things because you’re almost … I’m going to say things that will make me sound antiquated. I think there’s a lot of people roughly my age, I’m 45, who are in media who probably feel this way.

Part of the reason I became a writer is because it was this completely controlled reality where I could do this thing by myself where you’d go out and you’d do the interviews and stuff, but then you’re back by yourself, transcribing and then writing. Then, when the story is done and you send it off, that’s the end. Now that’s the middle. Now it’s like, when the story is published, it’s the middle of the process very often because the consumer feels differently now.

Media is not a one-way relationship. It’s this two-way relationship where many people feel the reason they’re consuming media is to respond to it, that it’s not for the content. It’s so that they can use that content to have their response, their reader response. It’s not something to even criticize. It’s just how it is now. That is the expectation.

Right, and some people, especially the people who I think read the stuff that I write, who are in my world, media/technology, either love it or say they love it. They love interactivity. They wish there was more way to reach the readers or reach their fans. They love that interaction. You often don’t hear from people like you. I think probably because they don’t want to say it out loud and say I don’t want to participate in that world or I want to participate less in that world.

You know, things change. My first book comes out. Part of the reason that I was able to go … I had never been to New York — was living in Akron, Ohio — but suddenly was able to move into this world because I did something that, in retrospect, seems completely out of character for me. My home phone number is in the forward to that book.

That’s “Fargo Rock City”?

Yes. If you want to call me, I was like, here’s my number. It was my home phone number. I thought, at the time, well, people will think it’s funny I did that but they won’t actually call, but many people did. I got many phone calls. I ended up being able to do … The first event I ever did in New York was with David Byrne and Lydia Davis because David Byrne called me from the Denver airport because my number was in this book.

Now, sometimes people will say to me, “Why don’t you respond to people on Twitter?” People tweet at you. That’s the whole idea of it. I do book readings, and I love getting questions from the audience. That’s my favorite part when there’s questions from the audience that I can respond to off the cuff, but for some reason, I don’t feel that way about social media. I guess I have theories as to why I feel that way but I’m not certain if there are just ways …

Did you always feel that way or did it turn? You were in social media and then you decided at one point enough?

When I first got involved with Twitter, it seemed different than it is now.

Yeah, I agree.

Where there was less of that and, at first — this was 2008, I think, or 2009 whenever I first got into it, maybe 2009 or 2010 — it was almost as though the people on Twitter were so happy to see other people on Twitter, it was just this weird, strange “we’re all friends here.”

“Hey, welcome. You’re here.”

Yeah. Did I ever respond to … I will occasionally respond to people who tweet at me if I think they have an interesting question or they seem like a particularly sincere person who just wants to know something. You know what I think might be the answer to this is? The fact that it so quickly went from something that was this interesting ancillary medium to something that has become straight up now obligation and expectation that if you produce books or you write stories, that you are going to promote these things in this real aggressive way.

Even in 2001, that was just not part of this at all. When “Fargo Rock City” came out, the idea for me promoting it was they would say, “This alternative weekly in Omaha wants to talk to you. Do you want to do it?” That’s not how it is now. I do think it’s interesting because the relationship between how popular someone is on Twitter really has no relationship to say how many books they sell or any of that, but it’s the closest the publishing industry and the media industry has to an analogous metric.

It’s a super flawed metric. I also noticed that a lot of people who were really interesting on Twitter back in 2008 or 2009 have stopped. Whenever I use Twitter — not whenever but often when I use Twitter — I think, “Wait a minute, so and so used to be on here but now they’re not. What do they know that I don’t?”

I don’t know. Here’s something I was thinking about recently. How many people do you follow on Twitter roughly?

I don’t know. I’m sure it’s thousands but I’m sure there’s only a portion of them that are actually tweeting regularly.

Yeah. Okay, so let’s say that Twitter went from being a free medium to a paying medium, and it cost $ 1.00 a year to follow a person. If you followed 850 people, you had to pay $ 850.00 a year. How many people do you think you would follow if it were $ 1.00 a person for 12 months of content?

100? That seems like a good number. Even that seems high.

You think you’d still follow 100?

Yeah, I think probably professionally. I’m on a Twitter diet right now so I’m trying to cut down. One of the things I’ve figured out is you actually don’t need to look at Twitter at all to follow what’s going on on Twitter. You don’t need to follow President Trump to learn what President Trump tweeted because everyone else will tell you.

That’s true.

I think the notion — and I feel this way about the internet in general — the idea that the internet’s going to open the world and let you find cool niches and cool things or like-minded people or people you wouldn’t have encountered otherwise, that seems to get drowned out by the reality of both modern internet and modern Twitter, where it’s louder and louder and scale and scale. The interesting stuff gets pushed farther in the margins.

I guess the things that you said did happen, though. This first description kind of has occurred but it’s just a strange thing because it seems so important now, not necessarily to the average person but to the person whose livelihood is built around media.

Another riff about social media in there that I wanted to ask you about, where you talked about the public bereavement when a celebrity died, and it’s still happening, obviously, but that string where David Bowie died and Prince died and whoever else died. Everyone would take to Facebook or Twitter to explain what it meant to them and basically you say in short it doesn’t do it for me. It doesn’t make any sense. Sometimes a celebrity will die. It doesn’t even seem like a death. It seems like an auction to one-up themselves. You can see the positive part of that, right? For most people who aren’t famous, this is still just a way to beat their chest and gain sometime kind of validation.

What is the validation?

You get to say I have a thought, I have a feeling, this is important to me. By the way, everyone else is doing it and I want to join that group of people doing it.

Well, sure. I think I say in the paragraph after this, it’s not bad. It’s just weird to me. It feels strange to me that there is such a performative nature to reactions to celebrity death. It’s interesting to see people pick and choose which celebrity deaths they want to publicly mourn. I know this sounds cynical, but in a way, it does seem like a kind of branding.

Yeah, it’s like wearing a band’s T-shirt, right?

Yeah, a little bit. A little bit, although it’s different because wearing a band’s T-shirt would be like well, I’m going to pay $ 18.00 to buy this shirt. I was at the show or was in the record store and the band is selling this and I’m supporting this. The aesthetics of this group and the fonts they use, I like. I feel like when somebody dies, some obscure jazz musician, and you decide that you’re going to be the person who expresses sadness over this death partially because you want people to know you’re the kind of person who cares about obscure jazz artists, I don’t know. That seems odd to me.

It makes sense. I think at first, I did stuff like this. I remember one time Orlando Woolridge died. This guy played basketball. He was Number 0. He played for the Nuggets for a while, played for the Bulls for a while. He went to Notre Dame. He had this checkered cocaine past. He was always perceived as a selfish player. He died and I expressed, “Oh, Orlando Woolridge died.” I think what I was convincing myself was, well, he’s somebody who should be remembered. He’s not Michael Jordan but he’s somebody worth remembering, but then part of me, as I thought about it, I was like why did I pick him?

If it’s really that someone deserves to be remembered, well, everybody does. Everyone deserves to be remembered. I should be doing nothing all day except noting the deaths of various un-famous and famous people. I picked this guy, and it did make me question, and I’m sure a lot of people have this feeling. You question your motives for something. What was my unconscious reason for doing this? I made up this conscious rationale but why did I really do it?

You and I are about the same age and I think shared similar traits at one point, which is at some point, we identified ourselves because of the music and other culture that we like to consume. We were part of a minority of people who like to do that. A lot of people just listen to whatever, watch whatever, and it didn’t affect them. Do you think that’s gone away in 2017 or has that been replaced with something else, where instead of identifying yourself as someone who likes the Minutemen or Kiss, or whoever it is, you know like … I don’t know what the thing would be … or do you think that identification with a cultural product is still around?

Oh, it has definitely receded from the culture, and I think that different avenues within the internet have replaced it, partially because prior to the collapse of the music industry, post Napster, you didn’t have unlimited money if you were a young person. If you were going to buy a record, that might be the only record that you were going to get that month, certainly that week. If you buy a Cure album and you like it, you’re probably going to look for records that are similar to the Cure, artists that seem similar to the Cure, and all of the sudden, you’re a halfway goth. You have all this stuff and the ideas in that music are ideas you start to adopt and you find other people …

Plus, you’ve invested time in physically getting the stuff.

Yes, and you’re finding other people who also have made the left-turn decision to buy this record when they could have bought a Michael Jackson record, a Duran Duran record, Van Halen. They bought this instead and that was the creation of this little subculture. But now, we’ve moved back to the idea of singles being the dominant form of music consumption and the value of music is much less. I even feel that. I’m on Spotify so I’m paying the monthly amount for Spotify and listening to this huge spectrum of music that I could have never afforded, or would have never done, if I had to consume these. I’m moving backward through time now. I’m trying to go through all of the music in the 70s and the 60s that I read about but never really listened to. I couldn’t go back and be like, I’m going to buy every Love album.

Does that also allow you to go back and listen to music that you actively didn’t listen to because you thought it was bad or you thought it was culturally inferior? I was thinking of this. I was reading … it was a Ringer appreciation for one of the Def Leppard albums. Not Pyromania, the one I guess that came after.

Hysteria. It was just a surprising argument because Hysteria is easily the fourth-best Def Leppard record, but anyway.

I have very limited Def Leppard except for that they were a huge band, but I also knew they weren’t cool. The idea that they were going to make an argument for a mid-period Def Leppard album being awesome almost got me to go back and listen to it. It wasn’t like I spent a lot of time thinking about it, but I did think, “You know what? I bet I’m going to go listen to this and it’s still not going to be great.” It wasn’t just a cultural bias I had, but then I spend time going back and forth and wondering if I’m missing stuff because I was sequestered somewhere and where I might be opened up to a lot of stuff now that I have it all at my fingertips.

Yeah. When I go back and listen to almost anything that still has some semblance of meaning today, whether it’s Def Leppard Hysteria or Trout Mass Replica — anything, any record from the past, that for whatever reason still gets brought up in conversation by people, two generations or three generations later, some people are still like, “This is worth listening to.” And now detached from that secondary meaning of whether or not it’s cool or if this somehow applies to a person like me, I find most of it good, or at least interesting.

You strip the context and you can enjoy it.

Well, absolutely. There was so much. When I went to college, I bought REM’s Eponymous album and I was so embarrassed that I had bought it that I wouldn’t put it with my other CDs. I hid it because I had this association of what the kind of person who was into REM was like and what it meant to be into REM. Well, of course, now REM has become one of my favorite bands, it’s like I think that it seems strange to me to be into music for its coolness outside of high school. That seems like that’s the only time when you’re a young person and you’re using art basically to create a personality because you don’t have a real personality yet.

Yeah, it lasted longer for me. High school, college and then a couple years after.

I think it takes longer for most people. I think for me, too. Obviously I was in college when this REM thing happened. It probably took me to the end of college to change the way I viewed the meaning and significance of pop music.

We’re going to take a super-quick break and then I want to come back and talk about Nazis. How’s that sound?


Awesome. All right.


Thanks, Kara. We’re back here with Chuck Klosterman. As promised, we’re going to talk about Nazis, because here’s the thought I’ve been trying to connect. We were talking a little bit about the public, the performative … I love that word … nature of saying I feel bad that David Bowie died. I was thinking about that this weekend when I was watching the Charlottesville stuff on Saturday when the event was happening and on Sunday, when Donald Trump refused to condemn it.

Every single person in my Twitter feed was saying a variant of the same thing. “This is terrible.” “Donald Trump is terrible.” “This is terrible.” I was torn between thinking, “Boy, I really don’t need anyone else to come out and say that they’re against Nazis or they’re against the Klan or they think Donald Trump’s a terrible person, because everyone I know was thinking the same way.” I thought actually, for a time like this, this is actually a good outlet for people to be able to say, “I’m powerless but I want to say something,” and if it’s literally the same thing as everyone else, that’s fine. Do you see the virtue in that or the upside of that?

Oh, is it a therapeutic thing? Sure. It is interesting though how it’s like all realities are happening at the same time. I think it was either this morning or tonight. This is Monday, we should note. I don’t know when this is running …

Couple of days from now.

It’s like the Monday after. Okay, I see some people are making an argument that’s like, okay, if you’re a Republican who’s acting like you’re all upset now that Trump refused to say Nazis are bad, don’t pretend this is new. Since 1980 basically, the GOP has courted racial politics and has essentially been building toward this problem. Since 1980, this has been part of their strategy.

Lee Atwater.

Yes. Okay. Then, a couple tweets later, I started seeing people who were reprinting the statement Ronald Reagan made after he had gotten support from the Ku Klux Klan. He was like, the KKK is repugnant. There is no place for this in America. Now, both people are essentially attacking Trump. You have the one person who’s saying this terrible thing that’s happened, it’s been happening since 1980. Then, there’s somebody else saying Trump is awful. Lookit, he’s not like Reagan. They’re coming at the same problem different.

It made me think many things. One thing it made me think is when I watched Trump’s speech this morning, and it was a terrible speech, but I was like, why did he even make it? Do you think that there’s going to be anybody who’s going to hear this speech and go, “I guess we were wrong”? “I guess he actually is a very reasonable person.” That didn’t happen at all. The response to Trump …

I think it was literally so he can say I said it and now there’s a certain group of people who can say “He said it. Let’s stop. Let’s move on.”

It will be, he’s on the record for saying he doesn’t support Nazis, but the real meaning … I mean, let’s look at Reagan saying that he did not want any support from the KKK or any kind of racist organization, but how many people on the left perceived the Reagan administration as being racially inclusive? It’s as if pretty much every idea that you want to exist now, you can find other people who have said something that aligns with you and you can just keep promoting this idea that your personal view is somehow collective.

Yeah, I see all of that, but still all in the same part of the ideological spectrum. Again, the idea that there’s a difference here in the spectrum, right? There’s no one who’s pro-Nazi. There technically are a handful of people, but no one cares about them.

Or they’re Nazi’s. There’s not many of the people who are like, “I’m not a Nazi, but I support this.”

That’s also why I hate the “We should come together.” I don’t want to come together with Nazis. It’s no fun. I’m sure someone said that on Twitter, too, so I apologize if I’m stealing that.

That was already happening on Sunday. Okay, so Friday morning, I’m at the gym and I’m looking at the TV as I’m listening to podcasts and the whole discussion is there’s going to be a nuclear war. Guam will not exist in 72 hours. That was the thing was there’s going to be a nuclear war. He’s going to create a nuclear war. Then on Friday night, the event happens, so Saturday, it’s people responding to the event itself but then by the time we get into Sunday, it’s actually, well, Trump’s response was insufficient so the spotlight is not on the event but back on Trump’s reaction.

And then you start seeing people saying, seemingly the more nuanced takes, basically it’s like the never-Trump Republicans are the people who ushered in this idea of both sides and that they’ve created this climate where it’s become acceptable to equivocate these two things. Then, you see a lot of people talking about false equivocation, which is interesting always, because just because you voice the take and its opposing take, you’re not inherently saying they’re the same. You’re just saying they both exist.

This is another thing that has changed in my lifetime. Just the anger people have toward what they perceive to be attempts at objectivity. They just hate it, and what they just want are people who are going to completely support their preexisting bias as news. It’s not surprising at all that this idea of fake news or the construction of news has happened. That’s actually the logical step beyond the move away from objective reporting, that once you say, “Well, people aren’t robots. They can’t be totally objective,” — which is true — somebody will be like, “We shouldn’t try at all.” Where in the past, it was always, “Well, as a journalist your job is to try to recognize your biases and compensate for them,” but people don’t want that now. It’s not even …

Well, actually … Not to “well actually” you, but that’s a fairly recent idea in journalism if you go back to the Revolutionary War times. By the way, in a lot of other countries, journalism’s always been super biased.

Absolutely. Especially when there were situations … our community would have 18 newspapers. There was all special interest newspapers, but that idea particularly moving through the 60s and 70s and 80s, I thought … Well, here again, this is my bias, I suppose. This is the cultural conditions in which I was raised under and which I pursued journalism under. That was part of the thing that drew me to the idea of being a reporter was I was like, this is something I can do, I think. My ability to detach my personal emotions from what I am investigating, while not perfect, I can do this. And now it turns out that the opposite is what’s desirable. I think it’s really going to change the kind of person who goes into media going forward.

Speaking of careers, you grew up in North Dakota. You got a job at a newspaper in Ohio. You wrote a book and got to New York. How do you think the career arc changes or doesn’t change if you were starting out in 2017? Presumably you wouldn’t go work for a local paper. I don’t know. They’re still around. They still exist.

The honest answer is when I think of what I was like at 19 and 20, I think, if I’m being totally honest with myself, I would have been very aggressively drawn to the aspects of media I currently hate. I know I would’ve. I know the kind of media writing that I find the most off-putting and that drives me the craziest, I think I would have absolutely … In fact, even some of the writing looks the way my writing used to look to me in high school when I was writing for the high school paper. Probably higher quality, I’m saying, but I’m saying the perspective. I’m not trying to say …

Tease that out. What does that look like? The stuff that drives you nuts?

Well, just the idea that who can be the most outraged about this or who can care the least about this? Or, this idea that this person is in the culture, and as a consequence, they have no right to anything beyond the fact that they’re owned by the culture so anything you write about this person is totally fine.

You’d be on Twitter or the equivalent of Twitter?

Yeah, I guess Twitter is part of this. I’m even just saying more like now, do people still talk about the blogosphere? Or is that no longer a thing?

I think it denotes our age, but yeah.

I think it’s done.

I don’t know what you replace it with, but yeah.

Okay, I guess also the idea of what’s happening right now, what do most people think? I need to have a take or response that either contradicts what most people think or is just completely unexpected, because the thing is, the one thing people do not want to consume is the obvious idea that this thing is good or this thing is bad unless you’re going to say it’s so good or so bad that it’s transcendent.

If I like something, I’m going to respond in a way that isn’t just going to be like, “I saw this movie, it’s a good movie.” It’s like, “This movie is changing movies. The fact that I spent two hours in this movie makes me want to kill myself and if I can’t kill myself, I’m going to kill everybody else in the theater.” That kind of thing. You know, when you’re young, you’re a real emotional writer if you’re a writer, I think. The thing is that is what translates the fastest.

If I was a young person now, I would be incredibly attracted to the idea that when you’re 22 you can be a national writer, which was impossible when I was 22. I can’t think of anybody when I was that age …

Cameron Crowe is the only one who did it, I guess. Right?

He did. He did, I guess, but even so, it was like when people were reading a Cameron Crowe article he wrote when he was 22, they felt they were reading about the Allman Brothers. They weren’t like, it’s Cameron Crowe, you gotta read this new Cameron … I think the closest might have been Joel Stein? I don’t know how old he is, I have no idea, but when I was living in Fargo, he was already kind of a famous person. He was in either Time or Newsweek or something. He seemed as young as you could be.

Right, there was Jay McInerney. There were versions, but they were writing books.

Yes. In publishing, that will happen because in publishing there is real excitement over the very young. The very young more so than the young. There’s more excitement over a 21-year-old novelist than a 24-year-old novelist.

It’s funny, because you’re describing — I think correctly — the idea of when you’re a young writer, you tend towards extremes, and now, in modern internet publishing, older people, people like myself, will encourage you to do that. They’ll say, what’s the point of having a middle-of-the-road opinion? Explain why something is great or something is terrible. If it’s just eh, let’s move on. It makes sense because that is, by the way, what an audience responds to. There’s a million versions of eh, why read those, but I understand your disdain and distaste for it as well.

Well, no. The longest time, the one thing nobody knew at any publication — be it newspapers or magazines — was who’s reading this or how many people are reading what? You put the newspaper out, you put an issue of Spin out, you know your circulation and that’s it. You have no senses of what stories are getting … You can kind of go by Letters to the Editor but not really. You don’t really have a sense of what is being consumed. You do all these focus groups. I remember at the Beacon Journal, they would do focus groups where I think they would even make people wear these special glasses to see what parts of the newspaper they’re looking at.

Yep, still do it.

Okay, well the thing is, though, because no one really knew, because nobody really knew what was being read, everybody was like, we got to use our best judgment. We have to think what is the most significant thing here or what should matter to people the most or what is the information they need as opposed to just information they want because we don’t know so we’re just going to have to trust our news judgment.

Well, now we actually know. We actually have the numbers, and that has been hugely detrimental to the industry in terms of being a writer and being a journalist and all of these things, because part of the reason the financial situation of this has shifted so much is the recognition that an incredibly well-reported story that took two months to do about what’s happening in this remote section of Syria, gets about the same amount of attention as someone reading that story and going, “I think what’s going on in Syria is bullshit.”

Right. I either have this debate in my head or out loud all the time when I got on both sides of it, because the counter to that, and the guys from Chartbeat, the people who actually put the dashboard up that shows what anyone’s looking at on your site literally by the second by second and it’s super depressing because they’re not reading anything. They’ll point out that the best-read story maybe of last year or the year before was a very long Atlantic piece about the … I guess the Taliban? No, about Isis.


They’ll say look, if you write an amazing piece and it’s interesting and timely, people will read it. You can’t force someone to read something that’s not interesting and the internet’s dispensed with that, but just shrugging and saying look, “The internet’s making me write shit” isn’t a good response. But I see the other way, which is I’ve seen a million people write “I have got to write shit because this is what the internet wants.”

I don’t even know if you’ve got to write shit. I wouldn’t go that far, but I’m just saying that absolutely the biggest story is going to be the story where the most time and all that investment is, but what’s different is the gap between and responses to that story or stories that involved much less reporting. That should be a chasm. There should be no relationship between the actual story that is done and the idea of people just saying well, what about this though? Or linking to that story and just saying …

That is what, I think, has flattened out, and it’s hard to motivate people to put the investment in for that other kind of story. Here again, this is what worries me about myself. If I was a younger person, I would have been much better at that second category than that first category. I think that that’s what I would have done. I don’t know. It’s just a very different kind of job than it used to be, I think, but that’s probably the case with every job.

In your anthology, you’ve got a handful of shorter pieces you did for Grantland but everything else in there is fairly long. Some of it’s quite long. You’re writing it in an era where you’re fully aware that a lot of people are doing this short-form stuff, fast-twitch stuff. Do you push that out of your mind when you’re writing? Do you have to do that? Or, are you aware that you’re writing in a world where the news cycle went from North Korea and nuclear apocalypse to riot in Charlottesville and presumably we’ll be on a different news cycle by the time this podcast comes out in a couple days? Do you try to be conscious of that or do you just have to push it out of your head?

Well, I’m lucky, too. I never really had to do that. I came in. I was already established enough, especially at Grantland. I always thought I’d never have to be the first person to write about anything. I can almost be the last person. Just the whole reason this has happened, to me, is so much based on luck and chance and all these things. I’m almost hesitant to express that I’m happy that it worked out because it somehow, to me, still seems weird that it happened. I never felt pressure to do that, what you’re describing. That never was part of my life.

Very lucky.

We said at the beginning, you write about sports and music and I have not asked you a single sports question. Before we go, let me ask you about that. Football. There’s the Malcolm Gladwell argument that says football is going to go away because it’s brutal and no one will want their kids to participate in it, and there’s another argument that says people are watching less football because we’re living in a Twitter, Snapchat age. The third argument from the TV folks and the NFL says football’s as popular as ever and any discussion otherwise is not valid. You want to pick a camp there?

Well, the Gladwell stuff, we’ve got to see how that starts manifesting itself at the high school level, because I do think that in some parts of the country, it’s already the case where there’ll be such social pressure not to allow your kid to play football that it will almost be like allowing your kid to do that will be seen as almost an anti-intellectual move. But now, in other parts of the country, that won’t be the case at all.

The question will be, can the college and pro game survive without the underpinnings of youth football? My suspicion is this: What it will probably do is it will reduce the sophistication of football players coming into college or coming into the NFL, but that will probably keep the game where it is now. The game keeps getting more and more complicated because now you have these kids who — instead of playing football in the fall and basketball in the winter and baseball in the spring — they just play football all year.

Play basketball full-time. Football full-time.

They play seven on seven. They’re all specialized. You’ve removed that … What that does is that makes college kids more pro ready. A lot of quarterbacks that come out of college now are probably more pro ready than a guy in the 70s would have been during his fourth year in the NFL. Maybe that will back off and the game will stay the same, in which case, at the pro level, it will never seem to me … There’ll never be a situation where we’ll say people, adults, can’t play football if they want to. It’ll never be we’re going to ban this straight up. I don’t think that will happen because we’d have to ban …

We still have boxing.

Bull riding. Would we allow people to go skydiving and all these things? Why is that possible? The only reason that football is different is because there’s so many people who are involved with it as fans, casually, that they suddenly feel complicit in this possibly unethical thing.

Do you think your kids and their peers, and by the way, kids who live in red states, will be watching football when they’re 18, 20 years old?

Certainly in the American southeast, absolutely. As long as football is on, it doesn’t matter what state you’re in, people are going to still be watching it. People in New York are still going to watch football if it’s on. They can say that it’s going by TV ratings, that football is slightly less popular. Well, everything is less popular. If everything on television is less popular, the thing that began at the apex of the mountain is still going to be the apex and that’s still live sports, particularly pro and college football.

Yeah, I make that argument the other way around, which is just that of course a different version of it is the same thing. The NFL guys were saying no, no, we’re just down because of … Well, they weren’t saying Tom Brady. They were saying it was down because of Trump. It was down because of the election, which didn’t make sense to me that people were spending time watching a debate instead of a football game. It just didn’t sink, but it did make sense, I think, that if people were watching less TV in general, they would also watch less football and that it wouldn’t be immune. But no one wants to hear that, or at least the NFL didn’t want to hear it.

I watch “The Red Zone” when I can. Now, no one has ever asked me what I’m watching on Sundays or ever. Is that still how television ratings are deduced or is there a way now … It seems like they should be able to put a chip in everyone’s cable box and tell us exactly what’s watching and what’s not being watched.

It’s automated, but it’s still a sample. They’re not scanning everyone but they’re no longer asking you to write down on pen and paper what you’re watching. They’re able to track more accurately what you’re watching but they’re still doing it from a sample.

It doesn’t feel like football is less popular, partially because it has become a more popular thing to anecdotally debate. Is the argument over whether or not football should exist still good for football? People are still talking about it then. It seems like it’s in the news more.

Although, I think they’ve pushed that debate down. I think it’s really hard to have that debate with any sort of rigor because it gets super uncomfortable because you talk about people blowing their heads off or being permanently crippled. If you see what Jim McMahon looks like today, and you’re our age, it makes you feel really not great.

Yeah, it also depends on who you’re talking to. I think that there are the conversations about the problems with football, the debate over that. There’s the public debate that we see on Slate, or whatever the case may be, where people are talking about it and that’s one kind of argument. Then, you have another kind of argument among people who don’t really care at all, and weren’t really interested in football, and the only thing they know about football now, or have the investment they have, is the recognition that you can die from it.

But then there’s this other debate among the dangers of football between people who love football. That one is hidden because even if you’re one of these people and say I got thrown onto one of these talking heads shows. Suddenly, I’m on “First Take” and this question comes up. I’m certainly going to think of myself as well, I’m in public now so I’m going to try to detach myself from basically any kind of emotional feeling I have about this and talk about it almost like I’m discussing some kind of business strategy.

Then, if I’m talking with the people I know who really love football, it is a different kind of conversation. We’re still talking about the same things, but it leads me to believe that the interest in the game is maybe a little deeper and more profound than the critics of football and its dangers realize.

Yeah, I don’t know if the critics are that loud, frankly. I think there’s Malcolm and a few other people. Most everybody wants to watch football when they can. Maybe they just watch a little bit less of it.

That doesn’t make any sense. Watch less of it.

No, the more articulate way of saying it is they’re watching a lot of other stuff, so football is one of the things they’re watching but it’s competing for their time with lots of other things like Twitter or their phone, or Twitter on their phone. Maybe they’re just going to spend X amount … That’s actually the more sophisticated argument for the NFL. They’ll say the number of people watching football is as great as it’s ever been. They’re watching slightly less. “Our reach is still good,” is their version of putting it.

The other thing the NFL’s doing is, it seems as though they’re hiring every expert in the world of CTE stuff. If you know a lot about CTE, the NFL is going to hire you and that’s a very smart philosophy because they’re just going to basically employ every person who understands this after a while. They’ll really be able to control the discussion.

I feel like we could continue this football discussion for a while. It would have to be over a beer and I would get less articulate as we go, so I’m going to cut my losses. Chuck, you were great. I want to do this forever. I’m glad we did it.

Thanks for having me on.

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Chuck Klosterman wants you to talk about what he wrote — not how he wrote it

The essayist and author of “Chuck Klosterman X” talks about Taylor Swift and the future of journalism on Recode Media with Peter Kafka.

Chuck Klosterman hates magazine profiles that start with the subject’s first and last name (luckily, this post is not a magazine profile).

“Like, Peter Kafka overlooks the menu as he — you know, I hate that,” Klosterman said on the latest episode of Recode Media with Peter Kafka. “I’ll do anything to avoid it. I think it just sounds better to use a pronoun than a person’s name. If the story starts with ‘she’ and Taylor Swift is pictured next to that story, no one’s going to be like ‘Who’s that? Who’s he talking about?’”

Klosterman is widely known for the essays, profiles and columns he has written for outlets like Esquire, Grantland and the New York Times Magazine, about people like Jimmy Page, Tom Brady and Kobe Bryant. His newest book, “Chuck Klosterman X,” assembles some of those writings into a “Defiantly Incomplete History of the Early 21st Century.”

You can listen to the new podcast on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Pocket Casts, Overcast or wherever you listen to podcasts.

On the new podcast, he explained how he tries to avoid some of the other common tropes of profile writing — like pretending that he and his subject are casually hanging out someplace, when in fact they’re only together because he is writing about them and they have something they want to promote.

“Some writers really hate the idea of ‘it’s just going to be dinner’ [with the subject] because they’re like, ‘What am I going to write about?’” Klosterman said. “I never feel that way. I almost prefer that. If someone reads something I write and the thing they come away talking about is the way the story is written, that means it didn’t work. They should come away talking specifically about something the subject said, that changed the way they now perceive them.”

He also explained why, when he profiled Taylor Swift for GQ, he didn’t write about what she was wearing or what she looks like, even though he would do that for a white male subject. For journalists and writers today, the reactions to what they have written have become an established part of the package.

“The thing is, it will change the way the story is received, particularly by people who don’t actually read the story,” Klosterman said. “They’ll just sort of isolate one part of the story and then the assumption will be that this is what the story must be about.”

“It’s not a meaningful enough detail to take that risk,” he added. “The ultimate idea is, you want people to read your work and to come away with an idea that they didn’t have before or to take an idea that was pre-existing in the culture and sort of shift it or morph it into something that illustrates its complexity. What you don’t want is to have a story just becomes someone else’s politics.”

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

  • Recode Decode, hosted by Kara Swisher, is a weekly show featuring in-depth interviews with the movers and shakers in tech and media every Monday. You can 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 all of 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 finally, Recode Replay has all the audio from our live events, such as 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 Peter. Tune in next Thursday for another episode of Recode Media!

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