Get in touch

Show Notes

Follow The Data: On this week’s episode of Track Changes, tech journalist Adrianne Jeffries sits down with us to talk about The Markup, a new non-profit data driven newsroom. She talks about the importance of using data to combat bias and about how using data in journalism can bring about greater change. She also addresses the shake up that happened at The Markup in its beginnings and tells us about her personal podcast Underunderstood. 

Transcript

Paul Ford Our audience will be like [nasally], “Really appreciated hearing the thoughtful—” [Laughter]

Rich Ziade Yeah, you have nothing to worry about. 

PF “We’d love to talk about platforms that could stop harassment.” [Laughter]

RZ Our audience doesn’t have sinus issues, Paul. They’re fine. 

PF That’s just me [music fades in, plays alone for 18 seconds, ramps down]. [In deep voice] Journalists. 

RZ We have a lot of media clients. Journalists are great. And thank God they still exists. Somebody’s keep all this shit in check. 

PF This is one of my favorite journalists. When I write something, I often get a DM from this person saying, “Hey, hold on a minute, I don’t know about that paragraph.” 

RZ Oof! [Music fades out

PF It’s pretty good. You learn to love your critics who will cut you off right at the knees. 

RZ Damn! 

PF I know. And that’s why Adrianne Jeffries is here on Track Changes. Adrianne, welcome. 

Adrianne Jeffries Thank you so much. I don’t remember sending you criticism of your stories. 

PF Oh no, you should see some DMs. You’ll be like—

AJ [Laughing] Oh God. 

PF “I don’t know if that Bitcoin ATM is real, man!” 

AJ Mmm. 

PF Yeah [laughs] and it’s—

AJ I’m a compulsive fact checker. 

PF It’s like five seconds after it comes out when you’re in your most vulnerable state. 

AJ Oh no. I know what that feels like. 

[1:14]

PF When I see that little notification in the DM and uh! 

AJ Right, I’m never DMing you again. 

PF No, and then it’s Adrianne and I’m like [pained], “Ok, ok.” 

RZ You ever think maybe she’s just trying to connect with you, Paul? 

PF No, no, I mean I’m just like—it’s symptomatic of a true journalist. Cuz I think you’re like, “Look, we gotta get this right. This is important.” 

AJ [Chuckles] Well I know you and are on the same team, in that sense. 

PF We are on the same team. We want a better, more inclusive, open technology that everyone can access. 

AJ Yeah, and I feel like you’re writing is very much the kind of tech writing that I appreciate, it’s not one dimensional. 

PF Thank you. 

AJ Like you get a lot—you know, I tend to be on the more critical side but I also don’t love the stuff that’s just knee jerk criticism [mm hmm], that doesn’t have context or have insights or have nuance, and so I really appreciate when someone can criticize many layers. 

PF Let’s take a step back, actually. What kind of journalist are you? 

AJ So I just started working at a journalism non-profit called The Markup. And for people who aren’t familiar, The Markup is a slightly different model of newsroom. It is built around having every story be a team of reporter who’s making phone calls, and a data scientist slash programmer who’s building software and building databases. And this is—the whole newsroom is designed like this, so every story is done in these kinds of teams. And the idea is to collect data or analyze some data that we get from somewhere or that we buy from one of the many places that you can buy scads of data from these days. And this model, it exists in some places, there are some people who do it at The New York Times; there are some people who do it at Buzzfeed; and there are some people who did it at Propublica, and the people who did it at Propublica are the ones who left to start The Markup. But our newsroom is different because that’s what all the stories are supposed to be and that’s what’s hopefully—

RZ It’s not a section. 

[3:08]

AJ It’s not a section, right. It’s not a section; it’s not a desk. It’s the whole newsroom is built this way. 

PF So data-driven newsroom. 

AJ Right. 

RZ Why is it part of the whole DNA of the thing? Why isn’t it just an area of a new journalistic endeavor? 

AJ So, what the founders felt when doing this work at Propublica, and this includes stories that you may have seen like the stories around Facebook housing discrimination. A story called “Machine Bias” that was about a sentencing recommendation algorithm. This is software that said, “This person who is in front of you, Judge, is X likely to reoffend and therefore you should recommend a harsher sentence or a lighter sentence.” The algorithm doesn’t make the decision. It just informs the judge. This team took one of the algorithms that was in use in Florida, bought two years of data—of the predictions—looked at how accurate the predictions were, whether or not the person actually did go on to reoffend. And then did statistical analysis on it and realized that the algorithm was judging black defendants more harshly than white defendants. And it had error rates biased in opposite directions. So the algorithm was more likely to say that this black person was going to go do another crime and be wrong, whereas with a white defendants it was more likely to guess incorrectly that they would not reoffend. 

PF So—

RZ This is where we are today, Paul! Algorithms are racist now. 

PF Yeah, they are. 

RZ It’s seeped into everything. What a mess! 

PF It’s almost like racism is a structural problem in our culture [laughs boisterously]. 

RZ I get it. I’m with you. On this. 

AJ So, anyway, to go back to the question of why it’s important to focus on this, I think it’s just you get some advantages when you build the whole newsroom around this idea. You can hire the right people; you can get really good at it. And the reason why we feel like it was important to double down on this right now is because journalism is letting too much oversight slip through. And, as a reporter, for most of my career, most of the stories I was doing are like sort of almost anecdotal. Like, I just did a story that was kind of like this about how Yelp is treating restaurants and it’s like there’s a big difference between calling three restaurant owners and saying, “You have this in your contract,” or being able to collect like a thousand contracts and compare all of them in a structured way. 

RZ Sure. 

[5:23]

AJ And I think in order to really keep a check on what some companies that have a lot of influence over society are doing, we need to scale up. In the same way that they’ve scaled up their impact. 

PF It’s really worth noting, too, that the Propublica newsroom, when they started this out they were focused on data journalism in a way almost unlike any other news org. They’ve done great, great work. And there’s a guy named Scott Klein who runs things over there who’s like just been at it for years. Just like Mr. Data; just thinking hard; building a really good team. 

RZ So you guys started—you made eye contact and you’re like, “Are we gonna talk about this thing?” Right? 

AJ Right. 

PF It’s a time of extremely high drama in the media industry. 

RZ They’re just stressed out. It’s—

PF Lemme tell an extremely high level story so that you don’t have to add too many details—and then add any details you think people should know. 

AJ Ok. 

RZ This is a true story you’re about to share? 

PF Yeah. 

RZ Ok. 

PF So, a lot of people got hired to create The Markup. And many of them from Propublica, Wikipedia, other places. Without naming names, it just—a leadership battle emerged. And Julie Angwin was fired. And the staff, including Adrianne, resigned in solidarity. 

RZ Ok, so why was she fired? 

[6:33]

AJ I mean I think to say “a leadership conflict emerged” is a pretty accurate way of putting it and I don’t have really more insight into it. 

RZ Ok. Disagreement at the top. 

AJ I wasn’t there—yeah. It was disagreement on a pretty fundamental level and—

PF But you’d gone there to work with her. 

AJ I went there to work with Julia, and most of the people on the editorial side went there to work with Julia, and her track record as a journalist was doing these stories and building this field that we thought was synonymous with The Markup. So it was a big surprise when she was fired, and most of the journalists quit, and we also chose to sign a letter publically of support for her. And we never felt like we really got an explanation that was satisfactory for why she was pushed out. 

RZ Wow. 

AJ So, we didn’t feel like the thing that we had signed onto was [oh] what we were getting, so we—we quit. 

RZ Ok, so this thing ceased to exist for a minute. 

AJ Yeah, it ceased to exist for a minute—

PF Well, no, it had a leadership, it just didn’t have any journalists or many editors. 

AJ Yeah. 

RZ [Chuckling] How big is this thing? 

AJ Briefly and then—

PF It’s like nine people. 

AJ It’s 13 now. 

PF 13 [laughing], ok. 

[7:37]

RZ My point is that it was a huge blow. It wasn’t a couple of people in solidarity walking out. 

PF My Twitter was not—it was this for like five straight days. 

RZ So, now you’re out. You quit, in solidarity. 

AJ So, yeah I quit. 

RZ Others did. 

PF You’re gonna go work at your fiance’s bar. 

AJ Uh huh. Yeah. 

PF Ok. 

RZ Ok. 

PF Go plug the bar! 

AJ I’m quitting media. My fiance runs an alcohol-free bar called Getaway. Check it out. getaway.bar. 

RZ Well done. 

AJ Occasionally I wash dishes there. So, right, we all quit and then we did not have board yet, and so the funders kind of said, “Woah, let’s take a step back. Seems like something went wrong here.” 

PF In public. Like, Craig Newmark just—there was like a tweet, right? 

AJ Yeah. 

PF And he was like, “Well, we’re gonna take a moment here.” 

AJ Right. And so they basically took three months to sort everything out and what happened in the end was that Julia got brought back. The other two people who were in leadership are no longer there. 

RZ Aww. 

[8:31]

AJ The newsroom returned. And we just announced this on Tuesday, I guess, last week. 

RZ The data and journalism bit is really cool but this is the really good shit [Adrianne laughs]. I mean this is—

PF I’ll tell you what, I—

RZ So it’s sorted out but the people that did the firing are gone. 

AJ Correct. 

PF I have relationships on both sides of this and it just sucked. 

RZ Oh, you know people on both sides. Ok. Oh that does suck. 

PF Yeah, it just sucked. It had—it gave off a lot of bad vibes—

RZ That’s not gonna end positively in any outcome, right? 

PF Well, I mean, here’s what’s good, and this is—I mean the way I see it, just straight up, it’s awkward to say on the podcast: I like Adrianne’s work and I’m excited—

AJ Thank you. 

PF—and I know the team that you’re on. And it’s . . . I need to see you working cuz I really do believe that this industry needs serious critics who aren’t bought into the larger mythos of the industry. I’m a little on the side of like I love it. It’s paying a lot of bills for me. I’m living a pretty good tech life, and I think without that critical voice—I talk to people who believe too much, way too often, and like I want people—I want there to be criticism. So I’m really glad to see it back in the world. 

RZ I mean you just look at news today, right? I mean I’m an outsider, you guys are inside, and journalism is kind of—the waters are pretty muddled right now. And so it’s hard to fight the information in raw like here’s the data. It’s out there. Obviously, there’s still a task in how you frame it and how you report on it that’s still gonna be judged but at least you’re armed with that. I mean you’re going through—

AJ Right. 

[10:01]

RZ—raw information. Right? 

AJ I think you’re never gonna get away from people who are going to say you’re biased in one direction or another. But having the data does help you push back against that. It also helps people who are in a position to make a change, like policy makers, like advocacy groups. It helps them figure out what there is to do. I think there’s a general feeling right now where people are a little bit confused, a little bit unsettled by the way technology seems to be spiraling out of control in some ways—

RZ Untrusting. 

AJ Yeah, untrusting and being able to pin some of that stuff down in a more concrete way and say, you know, instead of this big general feeling of like, “Disinformation is poisoning our elections!” To be able to say specifically how many stories spread from how many accounts on Facebook, and here’s how many people they reached, and here’s what impact they had. 

RZ Yeah. 

PF Talk a little bit about how you got to The Markup. Where did you start? What did you do? 

AJ Yeah. I’ve been bouncing around for awhile now. I always wanted to do journalism, did it in high school. And after I got out of college, it was 2008, not a great time to find jobs. Journalism jobs crisis was ongoing as it still is today. And I had a hard time finding my feet but as soon as I started writing about tech, suddenly there were readers and editors who wanted me to write stuff, and job opportunities that started opening up. And so I started writing about tech for ReadWrite Web which was—

PF Ah!!! ReadWrite Web! [Adrianne laughs]

RZ Oh my God!!! Are they gone? 

AJ They got bought. 

PF Yeah. 

AJ And then they rebranded as ReadWrite and I’m not sure where they are today but you don’t really hear about them much anymore. 

PF No, I mean their gonna be part of a thing that’s part of a thing that’s part of another thing by this point. 

[11:46]

AJ Yup. So I learned a lot there about blogging, generally. And also about tech and from there—

PF That was a pretty influential site. Like I mean I don’t think  you get TechCrunch quite like TechCrunch. That thing was there early and—

RZ It was big at one point. 

AJ It was early, it was pretty insider-ey. It was a pretty fluent audience which is [yeah] nice and is a nice challenge to have as a writer because you’re like, “Ok, I actually need to like learn what this means because they will.” 

PF [Over Adrianne] You need to know they’re—they’ll come for you. Oh they’ll be like, “Who’s this stupid journalist?” 

AJ They’ll be able to see right through me, yeah. So, that was a good ramp up for me and then from there I went on to The New York Observer which launched a tech blog called Betabeat. Rest in peace. And then from there—

PF Oh that was Liz Spires. Yeah, that was [yeah] her baby. I remember that. 

AJ Yeah, and then from there I went to The Verge, then onto Motherboard, Vice’s tech site, to a little site called The Outline, and that brought me to present day. 

RZ So The Markup is a little bit of a left turn. Like there’s mission behind this, a little bit, there’s a little more purpose behind it for you. 

AJ Yeah, definitely. I wanted to do something more serious, I wanted to be somewhere where there would be other people I could learn from. 

PF Mm hmm. 

AJ Which is already been so true. And I had followed the careers of a bunch of the folks who had started it. Julia Angwin is the Editor in Chief, she’s a Pulitzer prize winner, used to be at The Wallstreet Journal, before she went to Propublica, she’s done so much amazing work, and was really early to study these quote/unquote “algorithms” in a way that’s more than just like, “Shrug. It’s a black box. It could be bad.” 

[13:17]

PF Yeah, no, and she’s sort of a hero of journalism in this world. 

AJ Yeah, she’s awesome. I think that story—the sentencing algorithm story that I mentioned—machine bias really started a field and if you look at mentions of it in Google Scholar, it’s been cited in a lot of places. And that’s one thing they like to do too is publish the story but also publish a white paper, also publish datasettes. Where possible. 

PF So influence not just audience. 

AJ Absolutely. 

PF This is a thing, right? Media orgs are set up for audience. They’re set up to get lots of people to read and then get advertising—

AJ Yeah, I was gonna say media organizations are set up to make money on advertising. 

PF Right!

AJ Which it’s nice that ours does not have that incentive. 

PF How data-y are you gonna get? Are you going in? Are you learning R?

AJ What’s R? [Others laugh] Um, I’m not—I have started with a little bit of web scraping which I wish I had learned ten years ago. 

PF Oh it’s so good for—

RZ It’s fun, isn’t it? 

PF We should really—like if you wanna do it, we’ll go—let’s get 40 journalists in a room and teach them. 

RZ Yes. 

AJ It would be transformative, seriously. The stuff that I was just—

RZ Does Adrianne know about Mercury? She has to know about—

PF Oh we should tell you about Mercury. 

AJ What’s Mercury? 

[14:19]

PF Mercury is a parser that we wrote and you give it a URL and it extracts clean text from any URL. And you can then do anything you want with that: you can store it in a database; you can make it—

RZ Analyze it or whatever. 

AJ Wonderful. 

PF Yeah, so it’s got actually millions and millions of uses that people—it’s just this sort of piece of infrastructure that we built, the DNA of it goes back to this thing called Readability that Rich built. [Mm hmm] Anyway, so you’re scraping. 

AJ So, doing a little scraping. I think what I’m doing most of right now is learning to think about stories as data stories and learning where data can be acquired. And what can be done with. And we have an amazing editor of data science, Leon Yin. Who used to be at Data & Society and worked with John Donovan and also was at NASA and is just crazy good at it. So just having conversations with him about my fuzzy ideas of what I wanna be able to document is helping me shift my thinking as a journalist a little bit away from like call three people and you have a trend to being able to get something like dead to rights documented. 

PF Analyze society and you have a trend. 

RZ I mean you gotta start with a hypothesis, right? Of some sort. And I guess sometimes stuff gets left on the cutting room floor. It’s like, “You know, I think there’s a thing.” And then you dug in and there isn’t a thing. Do you still write it? Or do you just say, “Uh, I guess there’s not a thing.” Next thing. 

AJ That’s a good question. That’s something that Julia thinks would be cool to do is write like no hypothesis and publish data. You know, we are doing like Leon calls it the stupid version of collecting the data, like quick and dirty at first, to get an idea of whether it’s worth going down road. We have a really small staff right now. So I think we’re trying to avoid no hypothesis right now. We’re trying to have a pretty good sense that there’s something there and from talking to them I know that they’ve started with hypothesis with the past and they didn’t confirm the exact hypothesis but they found something. So, I think for now we’re trying to find actual exciting findings. 

PF It’s also early days. So, there’s kind of gonna be a story there, right? You’re gonna be poking around, figuring out [music fades in] where things are and how this world’s gonna work [music plays alone for six seconds, ramps down]. If you need something built! [Music fades out] Like we wouldn’t do the data journalism for you but we would build a platform to help you do data journalism. 

[16:37]

RZ You know what’s good about us, Paul? 

PF What’s great about us? 

RZ We’re not dropping a cookie and slipping a Postlight ad. We’re just gonna say it to you for a minute. 

PF Straight up marketing. Just relax. Here we are. 

RZ In the middle of it, this is forthright. 

PF Yeah! Let us build an app for you, let us build a platform that powers that app. 

RZ You give us money . . .

PF We’ll give you an app, or a platform, we’ll [Rich chuckles] figure it out, we’ll do your product strategy. Whatever you need. And you know what’s—

RZ Good ol’ business! [Laughs

PF You know what’s great about it? You know what’s good? We’re gonna drive it with design. And [yes] you know what you get at the end? 

RZ Beautiful work. 

PF That helps you generate more money so that you can come back to us and we’ll do more [Rich laughing] work for you. 

RZ [Laughing] Spend it again. 

PF That’s a circle of happy capitalism here at Postlight [music fades in]. So get in touch, [email protected] [music plays alone for six seconds, ramps down]. What’s your overall relationship [music fades out] with technology? In my head I have you as a skeptic but now you’re working for a data driven startup. 

AJ I think I like technology and I have been kind of on the early adopters side, not like super early adopter but, you know, medium early adopter. 

[17:38]

RZ Do you use Facebook and Instagram and all of it? 

AJ Nah. 

RZ Or are you freaked out? 

AJ I just quit Facebook and Instagram. 

RZ You did? 

AJ Yeah. 

RZ But not—

AJ Although now I have like a fake Facebook and Instagram profiles. 

PF You sort of have to for work. 

AJ You have to for work. Facebook has started to shove things behind their walled garden, so you can’t even see like some business pages. 

RZ To look it up, yeah. 

AJ To look stuff up—

PF Someone hears from Jadrianne Aeffries that’s possibly you [Adrianne laughs]. 

RZ Something like that. 

PF Something like that. Yeah. 

AJ I do have one that’s like, it’s my name because as a journalist you generally are supposed to identify yourself and not hide behind trickery [yeah]. So I have one that’s like—but the profile says, “This is just for work.” Although still I have some friends from long ago who are like, “Oh you’re on Facebook, let’s be friends.” And I have to break it to them that we can’t be friends this way. 

RZ Do you have one of those devices where you talk to it and it just makes you toast? 

AJ No, no way. 

RZ No Echo? No—none of that. 

[18:38]

AJ I think that’s probably the most creepy thing for me right now. 

PF So you’re on lock down. 

AJ I am on Twitter. 

PF Oh, what’s your Twitter handle? 

AJ ADRJeffries. 

RZ Ok. 

PF J-E-F-F-R-I-E-S, friends. 

AJ Mm hmm. I think my relationship with tech like that aspect of it, the privacy, security aspect is more to do with being a person who like publishes things online and like also is a woman online and having been mobbed in the past, and seeing my colleagues get mobbed, so in general, I’m like very careful about uh. 

RZ But Netflix—

PF What was the worst? Was it The Verge? 

AJ Oh yeah, definitely The Verge. 

PF Yeah cuz that crowd, they’re like, “You said about Hotwav phones?!?” [Adrianne laughs] And then they’re just—

AJ I remember there was this woman who was a comedian in LA and she made a crack about The Lego Movie and she got harassed off Twitter. So, for that reason, I’m just like—

RZ [Over Adrianne] Well, I mean, with respect—there’s a red line here. 

PF [Over Adrianna and Rich] Not a bad movie. 

AJ—generally kind of locked down the social media. 

PF God [others laugh]. Ugh. Alright, so what else are you doing besides starting up data journalism these days, what are you doing? What are you up to? 

[19:36]

AJ Yeah, well, I have a podcast. 

PF Oh what a surprise! I never thought [Adrianne laughs]—I didn’t think that would come up in our podcast. 

RZ This is not The Markup podcast. 

AJ No, this is something I started—

PF Is The Markup gonna have a podcast? 

AJ The Markup is going to do some stories in audio and some stories in video. 

PF Yeah, cuz that’s the law. 

AJ No, because we wanna reach people where they are, as they say. And also because The Markup’s model is like Propublica’s model: stories are creative commons and we’re copublishing a lot of things, we’ll be doing with partners. So other news organizations, some organizations that are best in audio, best in video, so that we can get more distribution. 

PF I’d just like to say, too, if anyone from The Markup is listening right now, the way to distribute your data is as reusable SQLite files that can be read with the datasette Python API. If you have any questions, get in touch. Love to talk you. That’s approved by the Library of Congress as a file format and I have a lot of thoughts about it. Ok. Back to the show! 

AJ Interesting. I’m gonna pass that along. 

PF [Laughing] I don’t believe you. 

AJ [Laughs] I mean there may be someone who feels the same way, honestly. 

PF Ok, good. 

AJ So—

RZ Your podcast. 

AJ My podcast, I started working on a year ago with some friends I met on The Verge and have worked with in different forms, at different places, various times. And we have made a lot of videos and a lot of things together, different kinds of media products, but always in the warm embrace of giant publication. 

PF Sure. 

AJ And—

[20:58]

PF The Verge likes a good review of like a consumer product. 

AJ Yeah, definitely. And so we thought like what if we just made something for ourselves? And at the time I think we had less—we were less busy. So we started on this podcast and we decided we’d do eight episodes for the first season, and we finally launched it five weeks ago. So we’re five episodes in. 

PF What is this podcast? 

RZ What is it called? First of all. 

AJ It’s called Under Understood. 

PF Under Understood. 

AJ Yeah. 

PF Ok. 

RZ Good. 

AJ The idea is stories the internet forgot. So each episode, one of us finds something we wanna know more about. We tried to find it on the internet and it wasn’t there. So we decided to go report it out. 

PF Dun dun dun! 

AJ Yup. 

RZ Fun. 

AJ Yeah. 

PF Give me a story. 

[21:42]

AJ So the last episode I did was about how I called a restaurant recently to order delivery directly from the restaurant and I opened up the Yelp app and called the number that was in there for delivery, and as it was ringing this recording came on and said, “This call may be recorded for awesomeness,” and I just thought, “Something’s weird here. Like something’s not right here.” And so that sent me—

PF What were you ordering by the way? 

AJ Sushi. 

PF K. So not plantains. 

AJ No, not plantains. So anyway that sent me down a rabbit hole of trying to figure out why this restaurant had this recording because when I asked them about it they had no idea what I was talking about and they told me I had called a different number. 

PF Hmm. 

AJ So, that story went through a few twists and ended up at Grubhub and you should check it out. So that was the most recent episode. We’ve also done an episode about this guy who tested a form of male contraception on his own body for 11 years called—

PF Did you talk to his children? 

AJ Yes, we talked to all—No, he—it worked, actually. It worked a little bit too well. So that was one episode—

PF She’d good at teasing these. [Adrianne laughs] Dun dun dun! 

RZ Is it a pill? What did he do? 

AJ It’s called testicular heating. 

PF This is fun to say because you’re not a particularly sales-y person but you are like [others laugh] locked in on this, it’s pretty good. 

AJ Really? [Laughs

PF Yeah, you’re like, “And then he wore the shirt but it had all those teeth. Anyway, you’ll have to [Adrianne laughs] listen to the podcast!” 

RZ She teased it which is exaclty—

[23:11]

PF She teased two!! 

RZ Yeah, she teased two. 

PF So, wait where is your podcast appearing? 

AJ You can find it in any podcast app pretty much. Just search Under Understood. 

PF Are you guys like part of some network or you just said, “To hell with it”? 

AJ No, totally self funded. [Paul sighs

RZ Well done. 

AJ Negative profit. 

PF That’s great. So you had a minute after the implosion of your previous job and you said, “To hell with it, me and my pals are gonna go uncover ridiculous shit from the world.” 

AJ Exactly. And it’s nice for me because like any hobby that I have is like probably gonna be journalism in some form but this is like light, fun journalism. For the most part. 

RZ Do you have a co-host?

AJ Yes, there are four of us. That’s the only way we could get it done. 

PF This is so great. 

RZ Is The Markup—just to close it out on The Mark—is anything out? Have they done anything yet or is it just? 

AJ Prelaunch. 

RZ Prelaunch and this little hiccup obviously delayed things a bit, so. 

AJ So before the hiccup, we were hoping for a July launch. Now it’s probably gonna be later this year. 

RZ Got it. 

[24:10]

PF Ok. Can I make an observation about publically funded new media kind of companies? Cuz I’ve seen this pattern with others. Launch the website. Get something out there. No matter what. 

RZ It’s not that different than software. Just get out. Learn. 

PF If you don’t launch the website it just let’s everybody sit around the office and talk. 

RZ Yeah, but I think they wanna go out with some meat. 

PF This is the danger. Cuz you got your wealthy funder. This is you and me talking—

AJ I totally agree with you. I think it’s like just put up the website. Like nobody remembers the launch of anything—

RZ Yeah. 

PF And if you don’t do it, it gives everybody—it’s too many smart people thinking about how the future’s gonna go. 

RZ Well, two weeks ago we talked about the self-imposed deadline. We have this Postlight labs and they could easily be run away trains. They’re like six projects. 

AJ Totally. 

PF They do. With smart, lovely, talented people working on them—

RZ Oh no, they’re working hard and they wanna make ‘em better and better and better and then we turn to marketing and said, “Book the event.” [Laughing] And everything started to line up right towards that date. 

AJ That’s what we did with the podcast too. We were like, “You know we’re just gonna launch on July 9th.” 

RZ Yeah, that’s the—

PF Well you’re a group of people who know how to get stuff out. It’s a superpower. 

RZ Also, we’re people who are addicted to getting stuff out. 

PF Yeah, this is the tricky thing about journalism: it’s literally a group of people who utterly understand deadlines. They know that if they don’t hit the deadline, all reality—

[25:25]

AJ We don’t get attention. 

PF Yeah, every—yeah [laughing] that’s right. 

RZ Well, no, that’s an artefact of, “We gotta do the run,” right? “We gotta do the press run.” 

PF Get the thing out. 

RZ But that’s still there, I think culturally—

PF And there’s no product unless the thing is, you know, in the mailbox. 

RZ Yeah. 

PF Yeah. Alright, so Under Understood, Twitter, and, you know, coming soon. 

RZ So long as they settle on a deadline! [Laughs]

PF And a staff! The Markup. 

AJ Mm hmm. 

PF Alright, well it was great to have you.

AJ We also have jobs. 

PF Oh, do you really? 

AJ Yes, we’re hiring. 

PF Journalism jobs. 

AJ We are hiring a couple investigative reporters; we’re hiring some explanatory reporters; and we are hiring a graphics person. 

RZ Cool!

[26:06]

PF The sweetest plum, a journalism job in 2019. Get in there! 

AJ Yup. 

RZ Yup. 

PF Alright, Adrianne, thank you for coming on Track Changes. 

RZ Thank you, Adrianne. 

AJ Thank you so much. 

RZ This was fun. 

PF Alright, Rich—

RZ Yo. 

PF That’s a person who sees the world of technology a little differently than you and me. 

RZ You know I think some of it comes from a personal place but she’s also sharing out what she’s learning and others are doing it too cuz technology kinda got away from us a little bit. 

PF A little bit! Little tiny little—

RZ You know, there’s still some magic here. Like Google Maps is unbelievable—

PF I love it. Look, I love it. I love it. 

RZ But it got away from us. We need that. We need that. 

PF I wish it wouldn’t just sort of, you know, look like a molten face screaming my name over and over again. I mean there’s just that element of tech where it’s just like, [gruffly] “Paul!!! I see you!!” 

RZ Yeah, yeah. I love all of it. I don’t think I’m that interesting. Maybe that’s a bad way of looking at it. That’s why I don’t mind all the stuff. 

PF Oh because the—

RZ I have The Google Home, I have all of it because I don’t care. I’m boring. 

PF Well, that’s the thing: you and I don’t pay any price. We get all the benefits. 

RZ Why is that? 

[27:09]

PF Different people would say different things. Some would say, “Well, cuz you’re white dudes and the world’s set up for you.” [Music fades in]

RZ Mm hmm. 

PF Others would say, “Because you’ve got money and families and the world’s set up for you.” Like others would say that those two are somehow linked. Others would say that you are—“Because you’re already in technology, you’re like completely skilled users who get that kind of set your own parameters for how—” 

RZ We know how to manage it. 

PF We have control and authority and we’re able to manage how our own lives operate. So we don’t feel that powerless. 

RZ Yes. 

PF But it can make you feel real powerless when like if I need customer service at this stage of my life, I can usually get [yeah] customer service cuz I buy things that, you know, [yes] like I dunno my Nissan Rogue, they’re gonna call me back in an hour and it’ll be ok. 

RZ Yeah. Fair. 

PF Right? Or you know optimum—it’s whatever the hell it is. 

RZ You’re right. You’re right. I’m in a better spot. 

PF Exactly, and so I think like that’s why we don’t have that experience. 

RZ Fair. 

PF Anyway, it’s good. Criticism is very important and it’s good to see people. Good job, Craig Newmark, sir . . . and all the other funders. 

RZ Yes. 

PF For throwing some money in the new kinda data journalism. This’ll be fun to watch. 

RZ Yeah, if you have things you want to talk about. 

PF Oh yeah. 


RZ Anything, [email protected] 

PF Yeah, we love talking. Let us know. 

RZ Have a great week. 

PF Bye.