Inside the Times With Kevin Roose: “I think social media has made text writers much more defensive.”

From an Inside the Times interview with technology columnist Kevin Roose headlined “Filling In on the Microphone”:

How did you get into journalism?

I’ve had the reverse version of the typical 20th-century journalism career path, where you start off at a newspaper, eventually graduate to a magazine and finally work your way up to writing a book. Through a series of freakishly lucky events, I wrote a book when I was 19, before I’d published anything as a professional writer, and it ended up getting some national attention. That got me some magazine writing gigs, and eventually, my dream job at The Times.

I don’t have any cool pre-journalism stories to share from my days as a bartender or a long-haul trucker, because I’ve never done anything else. This is my only marketable skill!

Many of our listeners know you from your work on our show Rabbit Hole. How has it been transitioning from working on a topic you know so much about to hosting a general news show?

Making Rabbit Hole involved going very deep into a single topic and then figuring out how to tell that story in a fresh and compelling way. Whereas hosting The Daily is much more of a grab bag — one week, you’re talking with Liz Day about Britney Spears; the next, you’re talking with Emma Goldberg about ivermectin.

What has been the most surprising aspect of working in audio?

In text, you can reconstruct scenes after the fact. But with audio, you really need to have tape, which means that you’re always, always recording. There’s a kind of hoarding element to it that, in some ways, has more in common with TV production than writing.

Which medium do you prefer (and why)?

Both text and audio have their merits. But (editors, don’t read this) I think audio has some advantages in our current media environment.

I think that social media, and Twitter especially, has made text writers much more defensive. We’re always trying to anticipate how someone might attack our arguments, give us the least generous interpretation possible or interpret what we’re saying in bad faith. Text is a very easy medium to chop up and recontextualize — just take a screenshot and tweet it! — in a way that makes it feel sometimes like throwing bait to sharks.

Audio, by contrast, is kind of an unwieldy medium. You can clip 10 seconds out of a podcast and use it to dunk on someone on Twitter, but it’s not easy, and it requires more effort than most trolls are willing to put in. It’s also a more voluntary medium. People listen to podcasts because they like them, in general, so you end up with an audience that actually wants to be there and isn’t just seeing your work as it randomly crosses their feeds, which makes a big difference.

What has been the hardest/weirdest aspect of guest hosting?

I described it to a friend the other day as being a substitute teacher. It’s a fun gig, but you’re always kind of aware that the students are counting the days until Mr. Barbaro comes back. The Daily is such a beloved show, and Michael is such a beloved host, that I’m just doing my best to not screw up his lesson plans too badly.

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