Matt Yglesias and Laura McGann Launch a Podcast to Counter the Internet’s ‘Bad Takes’ (EXCLUSIVE)

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Matt Yglesias returns to podcasting today with “Bad Takes,” a new show that aims to challenge political pieties that take hold online.

Yglesias will co-host the show with his longtime editor, Laura McGann, who leads the newsroom of the startup site Grid.

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In an interview, Yglesias said the goal of the podcast is to bring political discourse “back to reality.”

“I think there are a ton of very extreme ideas floating around on the left and right on the Internet,” he said. “In some ways, the easiest way to go viral and get engagement is with very wild takes. Part of the structure here is to push back and to bring people back to good sense.”

Yglesias left Vox in 2020 to launch Slow Boring, his subscription newsletter on Substack. He also left Vox’s popular show “The Weeds” last year, and has been without a podcast ever since. McGann was a politics editor at Politico and Vox before starting Grid.

On the new show, they will tackle one “bad take” per week. The show will take the form of conversations between a writer and an editor, with McGann pushing Yglesias to strengthen his argument.

She said the show developed out of their own conversations, in which they would talk about a bad tweet or a bad argument they had seen online. The show’s producer, Olivia Reingold, pushed them to bring their offline dynamic to the show.

“He starts with a fairly clear point of view. I think I play a role in forcing him to pause and think through his argument,” McGann said. “I really do find myself talking to Matt the way I would talk to him as a writer. I think it forces Matt to step up his game and convince his editor of something.”

Yglesias said that one of the challenges is to address topics in a way that is measured, and not ideological, while still being interesting.

“You want to come up with ways into the issues that are not dumbed down but are friendly and accessible,” he said. “A good chat podcast is like spending time with your friends. You want a show that has good vibes.”

The first few episodes, releasing today, will tackle subjects like the climate justice movement and its opposition to aspects of the Inflation Reduction Act; pro-choice activists’ decision to take positions on issues far afield from abortion, like police funding; and obesity, as seen through conflicting ideas of fitness and health and body positivity.

“What we have found over the years is that we often agree that a take is bad, but we disagree on why it is bad or the degree of the badness,” McGann said. “I find that I am less cynical than Matt is on some things. His approach to philosophy leads to a very sharp conclusion. My philosophy is that sometimes more than one thing can be true at the same time. That lands us in different places in terms of the badness of a take.”

Unlike “Slow Boring,” the show will be supported by advertising and will not require a subscription. Yglesias said that when he was doing “The Weeds,” he was able to develop a personal relationship with the audience, and he’s eager to return to that.

“I love my subscribers on my Substack and I love doing it, but you always want as many people as possible to hear what you have to say,” he said.

This is the first podcast from Grid, which launched in January as a home for reporting that brings multi-disciplinary expertise to policy. The podcast is the site’s first foray into commentary, though McGann said she believes it will serve to extend the Grid brand.

Yglesias said his goal is to have a place for conversation that leaves aside the dogmas surrounding a given issue.

“We have a mix of polarization and conformism that are two sides of the same coin,” he said. “People sort themselves into teams. They want to play for their team. They want to bash the enemy. They want to be friends with their friends. I get the impulse… We want to have conversations that pick away at the edges of these things and get at the complexity of what people are talking about.”

McGann said she hopes to provide the audience with a permission structure to reexamine the views of their own tribe.

“Most people do not live on the far ends of the spectrum,” she said. “Maybe they would like a podcast too.”

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