Arts and Graphs
On the town this week: Mangesh Hattikudur, Hillary Frey, Ashley Carman, Colin Stokes, Charlotte Klein, Kate Osborn, Foster Kamer, Costas Linos, Philip Bump, China Ziegenbein, Jen Doll, Dashiell Bennett, Sarah Yager, James Hamblin, Brian Feldman, Samantha Guff, Allie Jones, Kelly Connaboy, Leah Finnegan, Donie O’Sullivan, Josh Sternberg, Michelle Carney, Elle Reeve, Jeremy Greenfield and many more…
In times of flux, the media community can feel stretched between the depths of anachronism and the farthest reaches of the cutting edge. This week, we followed the stuff of life to both (very fun) extremes, from a podcast launch that felt like it could only have happened in 2023 to a gameshow book party for a newspaper columnist with, as The New York Times put it, “a 1950s egghead vibe.”
OUT AND ABOUT
On Friday, January 20, the new podcast company Kaleidoscope co-hosted a rollicking follow-up to its first party at the HappyMonday studio in Greenpoint with the rapper Himanshu “Heems” Suri, who many attendees noted they had not seen out and about in some time. The occasion was a celebration of the release of Skyline Drive, an astrology podcast hosted by Kaleidoscope co-founder Mangesh Hattikudur. The host was hanging out in a turquoise kameez and sipping from a Frooti juice box on the upper level of the space when The Fine Print asked if he’d had a hand in choosing the terrifying true crime ads that punctuated his very soothing podcast when we had listened to it. “I didn’t choose those ads,” he assured us, noting that they were programmatic.
For the first time in the history of this column, this reporter’s recorder blipped out not long into the party, producing a silent file. But the proceedings were so memorable (and the pictures so evocative) that it doesn’t feel like a huge loss. Alongside a strong showing from Hattikudur’s family, grooving under DJ Zeemuffin’s gaze were Slate editor-in-chief Hillary Frey (who remains in the midst of wedding planning), Bloomberg podcasting reporter Ashley Carman, New Yorker associate cartoon editor Colin Stokes, Vanity Fair media reporter Charlotte Klein, Articles of Interest podcast host Avery Trufelman, Kaleidoscope head of podcast development Kate Osborn (who blew The Fine Print’s mind when she mentioned that Steven Spielbergdirected the first episode of Columbo), Vice Audio supervising producer Stephanie Kariuki, writer and podcast producer Shruti Ravindran, former Hearst, Gawker, and Mel executive Ryan Brown, Futurism editorial director Foster Kamer (who was ecstatic about Futurism’s reporting on CNET’s use of AI. He noted that the publication is now appearing above the art movement in Google search results. Take that Marinetti!), and Welcome to Provincetown podcast host Mitra Kaboli, who recently bought her first moderately expensive piece of art.
As the night went on, the garage door at the front of the studio opened, letting in the chill January air and revealing a selection from the Malai ice cream shop, which included flavors like Orange Fennel and Pineapple Pink Peppercorn. As the party hurtled to its terminal stage, Kaleidoscope head of business affairs Costas Linos, who recently got engaged in the rocky upper reaches of Central Park, told The Fine Print that the company is anticipating many more to come.
On Tuesday, in the backroom of Porchlight in Chelsea, Washington Post columnist and chart-maker extraordinaire Philip Bump celebrated the release of his book The Aftermath: The Last Days of the Baby Boom and the Future of Power in America. To equitably distribute the twelve copies his wife China Ziegenbein brought in a discreet box, Bump read out demographic trivia questions. “Everyone who answers a question correctly receives a copy of the book,” he told the crowd. “You can pay $30, but it’s far more than a $30 value.” He had a surprisingly hard time eliciting responses to his multiple-choice questions. Asked later how he’d represent his experience of his book release with a chart, he sliced up an imaginary pie chart with his hands. “It would be ten percent trying to figure out what my kids are doing, because that’s what ten percent of any day is, 40 percent wondering if anyone is going to come to this tonight,” he said, “and then it would be 50 percent wondering why people can’t just guess trivia questions when they’re multiple choice!” Our information graphic skills are no match for Bump’s, but it only seemed fitting to try our best to represent his answer in the form of an actual pie chart:
The first book went to young adult novelist, Los Angeles Times contributor, and former Atlantic Wire staffer Jen Doll, who emphasized that she wasn’t feeling too competitive outside the context of demographic trivia. “I’ve lost my ego, I think,” she said. “I still care, but I just want to do the things I want.” Some of her former colleagues at The Wire, where she worked with Bump, were ready to match that mood. (Disclosure: The Fine Print’s publisher and editor-in-chief Gabriel Snyder was the editor of The Atlantic Wire.) “That’s what The Atlantic did for me: I have no more ambitions of being a leader in media, or anything like that,” said Dashiell Bennett, now of Bloomberg. “It broke me, mostly in bad ways, but also in some good ways.” Nevertheless, Bennett, like Doll, is still finding ways to enjoy his work. “For the first time in a long time, I have something exciting about work — I got a new job. I’m still at Bloomberg but now I’m learning to make podcasts,” he said. “Usually, when people ask me about my job, I’m like, ‘I don’t wanna talk about it.’ Now I want to talk about it.”
Also circulating were Atlantic deputy executive editor Sarah Yager, her husband, doctor, and former Atlantic staff writer James Hamblin, the fastest runner in media softball Brian Feldman (another Wire alum), and CNN video producer and former New York magazine party reporter Samantha Guff. A contingent from new Gawker, including contributing writer and Gossip Time Substacker (and a Wire alum, too) Allie Jones, chatted in a corner. Asked what’s made her happy outside of work recently, senior features writer Kelly Connaboy said, “it’s interesting you assume work has made us happy.” “You say that right in front of me,” said editor-in-chief Leah Finnegan, “as if to hurt my feelings.” Connaboy adeptly adjusted course. “We were just talking about how Philip Bump is the only person who Gchats us anymore,” she said. “That makes me happy.”
On the other side of the room, CNN correspondent Donie O’Sullivan invented a little color while introducing abundantly bearded former media reporter and current Morning Brew executive editor Josh Sternberg. “It’s his first time outside in four years. A lot of it had to do with the restraining order, he couldn’t be around kids. It was just a big misunderstanding really,” O’Sullivan said. “Yeah, I misunderstood,” Sternberg joked.
Earlier that day, Bump’s paper had conducted layoffs, and documentary producer Michelle Carney was bubbling over with nerves about how metastasizing austerity would redound on her work. “I’m worried about what comes next because all of the streamers are condensing,” she said. “Two years ago, you could get money to make anything, and when I’m done with what I’m working on, I don’t know what I’ll work on next.” But if media should collapse, at least two party attendees had a place to retreat from civilizational conveniences. Mother Jones senior reporter Tim Murphy and Lapham’s Quarterly senior editor Jaime Fuller had spent Christmas with Fuller’s family in the Adirondacks. “My family’s house is run on wood heat,” Fuller said. Did the fires have to be continually stoked? “There was a point where they stopped doing that,” said Murphy. “I think on Christmas day, we came back and it was 45 degrees, so there are hazards, but it turned out okay.”
CNN correspondent and former Wire writer Elle Reeve and her husband, erstwhile media reporter Jeremy Greenfield showed off pictures of their admittedly very cute dog. “He’s a genius,” Reeve said. They were eager to use the latest technology to demonstrate that. “We used ChatGPT to write a screenplay wherein he can talk. He spontaneously learned how to speak English and had this puckish spirit, a little mischievous but harmless,” Greenfield said. “The next day we woke up with this feeling that he actually could talk.” Reeve clarified, “well, he could speak English because you don’t want him to just be able to talk and not be understood — ‘He speaks Russian? I don’t know Russian.’” They’ve found some non-canine applications too. “We also used ChatGPT to have the Saudi Arabian government write a full-page New York Times ad apologizing for doing 9/11,” Greenfield said. “Honestly, it was very therapeutic. I felt really apologized to.”
➾ 6 p.m. Rolling Stone writers Rob Sheffield and Brittany Spanos will discuss a new anthology titled The 500 Greatest Albums of All Time at the Rizzoli Bookstore in Midtown.
➾ 7 p.m. Vanity Fair senior Vanities correspondent Delia Cai will discuss her debut novel Central Places with fellow novelist Sarah Thankam Mathews at Books Are Magic on Montague St. in Brooklyn Heights.Wednesday
➾ 7 p.m. Jewish Currents senior editor Ari Brostoff will discuss their essay collection Missing Time with n+1 contributor and editor of the film Aftersun Blair McClendon at n+1’s offices in Greenpoint.
➾ 7 p.m. Russian writer and cardiologist Maxim Osipov will talk with New York Times Book Reviewcontributing essayist Jennifer Wilson at McNally Jackson Seaport in the first installment of the bookstore’s fiction and non-fiction conversation series.
➾ 7 p.m. Project director for propaganda research at the Center for Media Engagement at the University of Texas Samuel Woolley will discuss his new book Manufacturing Consensus with The Guardian and Wall Street Journal contributor Jem Bartholomew at the Strand’s Rare Book Room.