Brief Review of The Atlantic Interview Podcast

An awesome policy-focused and interview-based podcasts from one of the premiere news outlets of our day.

I’ve now listened to a dozen of the opening episodes of The Atlantic Interview and am enamored. It’s officially ensconced at the top of my regular rotation.

The weekly show, hosted by Jeffrey Goldberg, The Atlantic’s editor in chief, features him doing a relatively in-depth interview of a single guest for about thirty minutes.

I almost look at this podcast as a far better version of some of the “Sunday shows” where the guest isn’t always so heavily guarded because it would be impolitic or that they’re lost in a sea of voices amongst a larger panel where they just can’t develop some longer coherent thoughts or theses.

To some extent, this podcast is starting to fill a hole in my daily schedule that was created by the disappearance of The Charlie Rose show late last year. The sad part is that, at only once a week, I’m going to wish I had a lot more when I’m done binge-listening to the short backlog I’ve got. On The Atlantic Interview I appreciate that the “thing guests may be selling” (book, article, show, film, etc.) takes a pointed back seat to the broader topic(s) at hand.

Much of the strength of what I’ve heard thus far stems from interviews with people that are slightly off the beaten path, but with serious messages and interesting viewpoints. They’ve all been journalisticly solid and almost always provide me with news, viewpoints, and subtle information that I didn’t have before. Another strength is that the show can give guests additional time and depth than they might receive on other traditional shows. The guests so far have been very smart, cogent, and interesting. Their selection has been well balanced for gender, topic, and general variety within the space the show occupies. The show has generally impeccable audio and production values.

While initial guests seem to have an air of familiarity with the host as the result of closer (disclosed) interpersonal connections, I suspect that even when the list of immediate friends in his Rolodex runs dry, the show will easily have enough value and gravitas to successfully run on long beyond this.

One of my favorite parts of these podcasts are the somewhat snarky bumpers that Goldberg puts onto the the end encouraging people to give reviews and subscribe. I kind of wish he’d let loose a bit more and inject some of this kind of snark into the interviews too. If nothing else, he’s at least having fun with a part of the show that would otherwise be typically painful to trudge through.

Suggestions

I’d love to hear more about education policy, health care, public heath, internet, and foreign policy. A few guest ideas I’d love to hear in this format: Tressie McMillan Cottom, Mike Morrell, Susan J. Fowler, César A. Hidalgo, Tantek Çelik, Ellen J. MacKenzie, and Ezekiel Emanuel. Continuing in the vein of interviewing the interviewers, which I find terrifically fascinating, I’d love to see Judy Woodruff, Fareed Zakaria, W. Kamau Bell, Trevor Noah, and John Dickerson in the future. These aside, I suspect that anyone that Mssr. Goldberg finds intriguing, I’m sure I will as well.

Additional Technical Commentary

I really wish their podcast had individual web pages for each episode so I could more easily email, share, or target individual episodes for people. It would also be nice if the main page actually had .mp3 versions of the audio embedded in them to make it easier to bookmark and share through services like Huffduffer.com. I really don’t know why podcasters insist on using third party podcasting services to hide their .mp3 files from the outside world–it’s literally their most important product! Stop it! I find the practice to be as irksome as newspapers that use Facebook as their primary means of distribution, and just like that case, they’ll regret it in the long run.

While Megaphone.fm is a nice hosting platform for the show, I’m not sure why a publication the size and scope of The Atlantic isn’t simply self-hosing their own content using their own URLs.

The content for the show is still a bit scatter-brained. The main page on The Atlantic has the best and most comprehensive meta-descriptions of episodes, while the Megaphone page has some nice individual episode artwork that The Atlantic doesn’t have or present. This is sure to cause uneven experiences for people depending on how they choose to subscribe.

I appreciate that some of the early episodes went to the trouble to have full transcripts and some additional snippet content and images. I miss these transcripts. I do know that doing this can be painful and expensive, though perhaps services like Gretta.com might have some technology to help. If they want to go crazy, it would be cool to see Audiogram functionality, which they could use instead of relying on Megaphone or some other platform.

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🎧 Tracy Chou | The Atlantic Interview

Tracy Chou by Jeffrey Goldberg from The Atlantic Interview
The Atlantic's editor in chief Jeffrey Goldberg revisits a persistent problem in the tech industry: Why is it so difficult for people who aren't white and male? He talks with Tracy Chou, an engineer and long-time veteran of the start-up world whose current work focuses on that problem. She discusses her own experiences with harassment and discrimination, and why those experiences didn't drive her out of tech, as they did for many others.

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🎧 Robert Siegel | The Atlantic Interview

Robert Siegel by Jeffrey Goldberg from The Atlantic Interview
For thirty years, Robert Siegel has given us the afternoon news. Having started his career in public radio when it was a scrappy enterprise, he's spent the past three decades shaping NPR as host of All Things Considered. He retired this week, at a time when NPR plays a critical role in educating the electorate. Jeffrey Goldberg, Atlantic’s editor in chief, turns the microphone on Robert Siegel for a change.

Wherein Jeffrey Goldberg right properly suckers Robert Siegel into recording bumpers and intros for his new podcast. Siegel gives an interesting interview the day after he leaves NPR, though I hope that he get’s re-interviewed again when he’s “old” and doesn’t care anymore.

One of my favorite parts of these podcasts are the somewhat snarky bumpers Jeffrey Goldberg puts onto the the end encouraging people to give reviews and subscribe. I kind of wish he’d let loose a bit more and inject some of this kind of snark into the interviews too.

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🎧 Eric Garcetti | The Atlantic Interview

Eric Garcetti by Jeffrey Goldberg from The Atlantic Interview
The Atlantic's editor in chief Jeffrey Goldberg talks with Mayor Eric Garcetti about what people misunderstand about Los Angeles, whether a mayor could win the presidency, and where he goes to find the best tacos.

There was an interesting question about the difference between Mexican and Mexican-Americans protesting/marching and Irish-American immigrants celebrating events like St. Patrick’s day. While these seem to be drastically different to mainstream Americans now, the primary difference between the two is over 100 years of the change of perception. Not many will easily recall the harsh history and racial slurs that Irish immigrants endured over a century ago and even fewer will appreciate the racial differences from that time period in which the Irish were also not considered “white”. It’s amazing the difference a hundred years of progress and change will effect. If only we could learn from the past and be a lot more open-minded.

I also really appreciate the subtle response about Los Angeles having experienced its own “Ferguson moment” over a decade ago with the Rodney King and other race-related riots, but that we experienced them without the benefit (or maybe harm) of social media amplifying them.

This episode had an odd audio effect that made Garcetti sound a bit “far away”. Perhaps it was potting him up/down between questions that created the problem? Either way, a small blip in an otherwise solidly produced podcast.

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🎧 Jonah Goldberg | The Atlantic Interview

Jonah Goldberg by Jeffrey Goldberg from The Atlantic Interview
Writer Jonah Goldberg talks with The Atlantic's editor in chief Jeffrey Goldberg about being a conservative without a party in the age of Donald Trump. Jonah says there are many factors contributing to the dysfunction and paralysis in the Republican Party, and that thinkers and leaders on the right may have a very small window to fix these problems before the party disintegrates. Jeffrey and Jonah also discuss the experience of waiting in television green rooms.

Maybe I’m reading to or listening to all the wrong sources because I feel like I’m missing candid and open discussions like this one. Here Jonah Goldberg does an excellent job of discussing many of the unspoken problems within the Republican party right now. I wish there was more reporting on issues like these, though the problem is the way people providing their opinions are being vilified by some at the far right of what we used to know as the Republican party.

I’ll have to sample a bit of Jonah Goldberg’s podcast The Remnant for some additional insight to what is happening here. The sad and painful title of the show gives me a good idea of what I might expect.

Game theory gives me some hope that a centrist party may come out of the ashes of the 2016 election to provide some better pragmatic leadership.

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🎧 Richard Plepler | The Atlantic Interview

Richard Plepler by Jeffrey Goldberg from The Atlantic Interview
The chairman and CEO of HBO talks with The Atlantic's editor in chief Jeffrey Goldberg about what shows he should watch next. They also discuss how HBO has tried to develop a healthy company culture within a highly sexualized industry, the high-stakes business of making great TV, and what happened at the end of the Sopranos.

I feel like the first 5 minutes of the interview were missing. Compared to others in the series, this particular episode was awfully bland. I suspect it’s the case that CEOs rarely ever make good interviews because they’re generally hamstrung in what they can and can’t say in settings like these.

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🎧 Jake Tapper | The Atlantic Interview

Jake Tapper by Jeffrey Goldberg from The Atlantic Interview
The Atlantic's editor in chief Jeffrey Goldberg talks with the CNN anchor Jake Tapper about learning from mistakes in journalism, watching the media destroy someone you know, and what President Trump is getting right.

Transcript

Some interesting insight on Tapper’s sense of fairness here. I appreciate the level of comfort between the two participants here and it’s interesting to hear about their personal relationship a bit as context as well. My favorite part was the revelation of Tapper’s brief relationship with Monica Lewinsky and how he viewed her treatment in the media as a result of the experience. It certainly reminds us all that the world needs more humanizing instead of less.

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🎧 Nikole Hannah-Jones | The Atlantic Interview

Nikole Hannah-Jones by Jeffrey Goldberg from The Atlantic
Jeffrey Goldberg, editor-in-chief, talks about America's unequal education system with journalist Nikole Hannah-Jones. How much progress has been really made since Brown v. Board of Education in giving black kids access to equal schooling as white kids? Far from enough, Hannah-Jones has found. And she has some concrete—but difficult—ideas for fixing it.

Transcript

This may be my favorite interview of the series so far. There’s so much to unpack here that the discussion should probably have gone on for a few more hours. The differences in how this issue differ in various parts of the country make it a difficult problem to handle.

My initial inclination is that one cannot (easily) have a government take over of private schools. To equal the playing field however, one could completely defund private schools and force them to live on their own steam. This would potentially free up a pocket of money that could go to improving better integrated and un-gerrymandered schools. I suspect the economic forces would help level the playing fields, though a tremendous amount of work would still be required as follow up.

I’ll have to revisit the issue, but I have a feeling that the public good built into public schools and hospitals creates a different “market” than the traditional capitalistic ones because the root of these institutions is to build a “public good” which is hampered by the infrastructure costs of otherwise allowing directly competitive forces to create an equal access market.

I do find it interesting that in the Los Angeles area I have the option of almost 20+ potential schools while when I lived in Georgia and South Carolina there was really only ever one real option (without a tremendous amount of travel) for school choice.

I love Nikole Hannah-Jones‘s perspective and want to read more of her material. Fortunately she’s got a really interesting looking website, which should make doing so a whole lot easier. I hope others do as well as this short interview barely scratches the surface of what looks like some awesome thought.

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🎧 Masha Gessen | The Atlantic Interview

Masha Gessen by Jeffrey Goldberg from The Atlantic Interview
Author and activist Masha Gessen’s new book about Russia won the 2017 National Book Award for nonfiction. The Atlantic's editor in chief Jeffrey Goldberg talks with Gessen about what Vladimir Putin wants, what Donald Trump’s election means, and how Americans should think about Russia's interference in 2016.

Transcript

A stunning interview on Russia and how it relates to world politics. I’m ordering Gessen’s book The Future Is History: How Totalitarianism Reclaimed Russia.

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🎧 Maggie Haberman | The Atlantic Interview

Maggie Haberman by Jeffrey Goldberg from The Atlantic Interview
To make sense of President Donald Trump's first year in the White House, many have come to rely on Maggie Haberman. The powerhouse reporter for the New York Times talks with Atlantic editor in chief Jeffrey Goldberg about how her career covering New York City politics for the tabloids has given her a unique view of Trump. To Haberman, Trump's brashness and need for approval are partly products of his distinct experience of New York City.

A fascinating interview to be sure. There’s some subtlety particularly about Donald Trump that is injected here that I wouldn’t have thought about previously. I certainly don’t have more hope as a result, but I do have a lot more nuance in how he functions and interacts with others. There is some particularly fascinating discussion on language/linguistics which impinges on some of the discussion in my article Complexity isn’t a Vice: 10 Word Answers and Doubletalk in Election 2016.

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🎧 Steve Coll | The Atlantic Interview

Steve Coll by Jeffrey Goldberg from The Atlantic Interview
Steve Coll is one of the foremost chroniclers of the war in Afghanistan, now in its eighteenth year. Coll talks with Atlantic editor in chief Jeffrey Goldberg about why the war has persisted, well after the idea of a military solution lost any luster it might have had. They discuss Pakistan's struggles during the war in Afghanistan, and why disrupting the terrorism networks that now thrive in the area might require much more than just American troops.

I wish I’d caught this podcast earlier to have been able to potentially see Coll at Vroman’s in Pasadena last week. I’m putting his books on my to read list.

I love some of the discussion, retro and introspection on the topic of the issues of Pakistan and Afghanistan. I’m still working through some of Fukuyama’s ideas about the growth and formation of governments that I think could make a sea change in how we deal with issues in countries like these, but my ideas aren’t yet fully formed in terms of providing prescriptive policies yet. Hopefully I’ll get there some day.

In the erstwhile, this is a brilliant and wonderful interview. I’m loving this series more and more.

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🎧 Bill Gates | The Atlantic Interview

Bill Gates by Jeffrey Goldberg from The Atlantic Interview
The mission of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation to ease suffering around the world may be somewhat at odds with the "America First" sentiments that propelled Donald Trump into the presidency. But Bill Gates is moving ahead with enthusiasm. He tells Jeffrey Goldberg, The Atlantic's editor in chief, why he's still optimistic, and how he feels about no longer being the richest man in the world.

Here’s a case where this podcast runs a bit off the rails in interviewing someone perhaps too “popular”. It’s a good interview and certainly a “get”, but I’m not sure I learned too much interesting here that I haven’t seen or heard elsewhere. Much of the strength of what I’ve heard thus far stems from interviews with people that are slightly off the beaten path, but with serious messages and interesting viewpoints. The other strength is that the show can give them additional time and depth than they might receive on other shows. I’m not saying that Bill Gates doesn’t have anything interesting or important to say, just that he isn’t revealing anything particularly new here that I haven’t seen elsewhere.

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