Author: Bobbie Johnson

You’re interviewing somebody, not dating them

Leave a comment
Media / Workbook

Interviewing people is hard. It’s not easy to talk to someone to try and understand who they are and what they’re about. In journalism, you’re trying to get interviewees to say interesting things too—things that hold up on the page, sound good to the reader, that get the subject to provide a kind of forensic self-examination. The result is that the best interviews are elevated to an art form. But interviewing is also a skill […]

Mo Willems on pandemic parenting

comment 1
Media

Marchese: When I was first putting together my questions for you, I realized that a lot of them had to do with things like how we can help kids with the ambient stress of parents’ worrying about the pandemic or politics. But maybe it’s wrong for me to assume that a successful children’s-book author has unique ideas about kids’ emotions. So let me ask you: Do you think you have special insights about kids? Willems: […]

Weeks 41-43

Leave a comment
weeknotes

They make no sense, deserts. They are an affront to comprehension. I’ve never been anywhere so empty than these alien landscapes, scarred and parched, impossible for me to comprehend. And then you have the preposterous oasis, the cities carved out of rubble, the green valleys hidden between folds in the mountains. They are inventions. Deserts make no sense, unless you are a snake or tumbleweed or a cactus. We escaped for a change of scenery, […]

This is preposterous

Leave a comment
Media

A review of Zeke Emanuel’s new book comparing health systems across the world has as good a description of the American maze as I’ve seen. Britain is so lucky to have the NHS; I find it literally impossible to explain to people here how the system doesn’t have to be this way. By contrast, the US health care system—if one can call it that—excludes more people, provides thinner coverage, and is far less affordable. It […]

Rate my room, Swiss hoarding edition

Leave a comment
Workbook

We’re all spending a lot more time on Zoom these days. Hangouts with friends are a lot like work meetings are a lot like coffee chats are a lot like calls to family. And we’re all spending a lot more time thinking about—and commenting on—our Zoom backgrounds. Room rating is a thing. I wonder how the developmental psychologist Jean Piaget would have gotten along with it all. I mean, I don’t think he’d have cared […]

Weeks 38-40

Leave a comment
weeknotes

Silence, as usual, means a heavy workload. Closing an upcoming issue of the magazine, pushing along another large project with lots of moving parts, and helping corral our election coverage has been intense—that’s on top of the day to day business. Next up the election, which I suppose is my third or fourth time around, depending on how you count it. We moved to America shortly before the 2008 Obama victory, which I think skewed […]

The biggest smallest story in the world

Leave a comment
Media

Jiayang Fan’s story about her mother’s ALS, covid, and Chinese propaganda was very affecting. Somehow she found herself in the middle of this whirlwind that illustrated—graphically, confrontingly—two huge global stories: the coronavirus pandemic and Chinese politics. But I was utterly riveted by her interview on the Longform podcast, which seemed to add a whole set of extra layers.

The reverse Chotiner

Leave a comment
Media

Britain’s left is riddled with anti-trans views in a way that continues to disappoint me. This interview with Judith Butler in the New Statesman is a great example of that, and of how to think about representation and poisonous discourse. We see a journalist trying to prod a certain kind of answer out of a thinker, and the thinker responding by rejecting the premises of questioning in an artful and coherent way. I confess to […]

Zombie news

Leave a comment
Media

For nearly as long as there has been newspapers and magazines, there have been people who use publications to launder their own reputations or advance their own agendas. Press barons were a real thing before fake news, and media ownership is still a great way for the powerful to access even more power. PR folks, meanwhile, take great pains to try and place op-eds by, or positive stories about, their clients in the pages of […]