DRDB! 6: A Love Letter to Good Reporting

What is VICE, what is the Green New Deal, what is going on with the hospital named after Mark Zuckerberg

We need good reporting. We need good reporting of ourselves, our communities, and our big dumb planet. We need to honestly know what the fuck is going on. There’s room in our lives for conjecture and nonsense, fun and games, astrology, conspiracy theories, whatever an overpaid man is saying on CNN or in the NYT op-ed page, whatever qualifies as “humor” over in the New Yorker, etc etc. But those things don’t tether us to reality. Those are comfy cushions from real circumstances and meaningful information and context and history, you know, all the things that make good reporting good.

I was talking with a friend about anxiety this week (I am almost always talking about anxiety) and how it’s this normal thought process gone horribly awry. Anxiety is a brain spiral cut loose from reality, a self-propelling engine of fears and unknowns and what-ifs. Anxiety is pretty much every frightened and outraged Fox News show: light on facts, heavy on fears and poorly-considered ideas about the world. If you’re caught up in it, you can’t look away. It makes for great ratings and a terrible way to live.

Good reporting is a treatment for that anxiety. It reconnects us to the ground, gives us space to breathe, and helps us understand what we need to know, like a good therapist talking someone down from an anxiety attack. Even if the news isn’t good, it’s concrete, and that’s worth more than we may realize.

  1. A $20,243 bike crash: Zuckerberg hospital’s aggressive tactics leave patients with big bills (Vox)
    When medical bills become a vicious trap. How is San Francisco such a mess? Look at these people spending $3,000 on legal fees to fight a $30,000 medical bill. Look at the Millennium Tower sinking and tipping over. What is going on over there?

  2. The Green New Deal, Explained (Vox)
    Double hit of Vox this week because they are doing Good Work (not counting Ezra Klein). We need a Green New Deal yesterday. It’s nothing set in stone yet, but the scope and working principles are right. 2020 presidential litmus test?

  3. I Was A Cable Guy. I Saw The Worst Of America. (HuffPo)
    “A glimpse of the suburban grotesque, featuring Russian mobsters, Fox News rage addicts, a caged man in a sex dungeon, and Dick Cheney.” Lauren Hough wrote about her ten-year stint as a cable tech and it is the darkest of dark comedy. She is unquestionably an American hero. I hope her ankle is doing better.

  4. “Vice” vs. the Real Dick Cheney (The New Yorker)
    I saw “Vice” last week. I don’t think it’s a great movie but it’s still worth seeing. I’ll go to bat for Adam McKay any day of the week, he’s maybe the greatest comedy writer/producer/director of this era, but something misfired with this one. I think it was his attempt to recreate the infotainment success of “The Big Short.” That earlier movie was based on a deeply and intimately reported book, it had a clear narrative throughline and lots of wonky details to explain, all of which McKay could punch up into comedy. He nailed it. “Vice” doesn’t have the same meaty material to support the film, so it ended up feeling like a lightweight celebrities-playing-politicians cartoon. Sam Rockwell as W. though, nearly perfect.

  5. How Millennials Became the Burnout Generation (Buzzfeed News)
    Anne Helen Peterson’s essay on burnout is going to be a defining text for my generation. It’s about most people I know, how we were raised and how we’re scraping by. Well, to clarify, it’s about most American people I know. University systems and attitudes towards work are VERY different overseas.

  6. “Gay Future: A new podcast adaptation of a recently discovered, never released YA novel by Mike Pence.”
    Because this can’t all be serious and depressing. From Podmass: “It plays like a fever dream of all the Indiana politician’s worst nightmares, particularly that in the future, everyone in America is gay thanks to the efforts of the ‘Gay Agenda.’ Children are raised in orphanages before being sent off to Gay Academy, where they are sorted, Harry Potter–style, into one of two houses: Top or Bottom. But the narrative’s protagonist, Mikey (a thinly veiled Mary Sue), soon learns he might be the long prophesied straight hero who will restore straight order. The result is a playfully subversive piece of audio fiction that dexterously utilizes every genre trope from fantasy and dystopian sci-fi for maximum comic impact, filtered through the author Pence’s inability to conceive of gay life as anything beyond pastel pastiche.”

  7. On Being a Woman in America While Trying to Avoid Being Assaulted (The Paris Review)
    Author R. O. Kwon: “Lately, I’ve come to suspect that maybe a lot of people, especially men, still have no idea what it’s like to be a woman in America going about her life while trying, and at times failing, not to be assaulted. So, these past weeks, I’ve been observing myself.”

  8. Elizabeth Anderson thinks we’ve misunderstood the basis of a free and fair society. (The New Yorker)
    Anderson, the chair of Michigan’s department of philosophy, is about to become many people’s favorite philosopher. “The problem isn’t that talent and income are distributed in unequal parcels. The problem is that Jeff Bezos earns more than a hundred thousand dollars a minute, while Amazon warehouse employees, many talented and hardworking, have reportedly resorted to urinating in bottles in lieu of a bathroom break. That circumstance reflects some structure of hierarchical oppression. It is a rip in the democratic fabric, and it’s increasingly the norm.”

  9. Who Gets to Be Serious? (Jezebel)
    AOC (the hot new acronym for Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez) has drowned out some of the worst political news with some fun dancing videos. This is my favorite thing to come out of this flurry of press. It’s a simple question: who gets to be serious in Washington? As if only stodgy veterans and uncharismatic wonks can be serious. As if only people proposing incremental changes can be serious. See also:

Really excited for my big weekend plans: a full six seasons of Letterkenny are now up on Hulu. Have a good one, y’all. XOXO