Journalism, as a practical pursuit and a broader social institution, is interesting enough; it’s just different kinds of stories, pretty much, and stories are pretty good. This is what makes it so startling and strange that talking about journalism, at least as it is normally seen online, is absolutely the dreariest dead end imaginable, just an ouroboros of anxiety and pettiness and cheesy simpering bad faith that both overstates and utterly misapprehends what is important about it while completely missing any of the interesting or fun stuff. It does not help that most everyone doing it feels like they’re living on borrowed time, professionally, because that never helps anything. The macro-level conversation is sour and shitty, the micro is kind of terrified, and all of this means it’s mostly to be avoided. But!
But some writers you just want to talk to, and so we broke that rule. Drew and I asked Vulture’s Rachel Handler to join us on the podcast this week because we both love reading her writing—here, for instance, is her masterful bit on the bucatini shortage that brought America to its knees over the winter—and because the craft and wit she brings to it suggested that she’d probably also be fun to talk to. And it turns out she really is!
Some of the conversation was about journalism, I guess, although a lot of that was pegged to her and Drew’s shared appreciation for Oprah’s masterful questioning in her televised interview with Prince Harry and Meghan Markle. I did not watch that interview, although I’m sure it was very good, but was able to participate in the other conversation topics touched upon. We touched on the ups and downs of cooking while stoned—Rachel has done it for work, I uh have never done it—and interviewing people on the damn computer. Some of this, I guess, was technically Journalism Talk, but only in terms of being about various stories being told, and how. It turns out to be surprisingly easy to have a conversation about this kind of thing that avoids The Wokeness Wars when you actually have something else to talk about.
Recurring themes recurred, as such themes will, across the back, Funbag-enhanced segment of conversation. We discussed early, fun, non-journalistic jobs we had during bygone economic bubbles; Rachel used to work at Groupon, which opened a brief but lively round of Let’s Remember Some Venture-Backed Fads. We addressed the fear of social atrophy/being expected to wear normal pants in a reopened world. I managed to cop to some moderately dark online behavior without any inducement at all. A normal conversation, all in all, or as close as we ever manage to get on the podcast. Considering the risks inherent in a conversation like this one, I’ll call it a win.
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