When Kate Bennett and Hunter Schwarz were hired away from Independent Journal Review by CNN last month, it was as a two-person team, the way it had been when CNN grabbed BuzzFeed’s entire K-File unit. The plan was for them to embark on a new project together, one that expanded upon what they had done together at IJR while preserving the playful tone established through the Political Edit newsletter they had created there.
That effort is getting its debut this week, with a newsletter that launched yesterday, a weekly podcast premiering Friday, and a new Instagram account, all falling under the Cover/Line label.
The name, as Bennett and Schwarz tells Fishbowl, is meant to denote a magazine aesthetic, but updated for the digital age. “Cover lines are things that you read on the front pages of magazines, shout outs like ‘behind the scenes at a photo shoot’ or ‘five ways to–whatever,'” Bennett tells Fishbowl. “We wanted to use something that felt new and modern but also had a slight magazine feel to it.”
The fact that Bennett references the type of magazine that is rooted, as least in part, in the world of pop culture is an important detail, because what Bennett and Schwarz aim to do with Cover/Line is show that those subject can exist in the same space, the way they tend to in real life. Bennett likens it to a conversation happening over drinks post-work, and Schwarz agrees. “I very much feel like I’m writing this for my friends,” he says. “This is kind how I talk about politics with my friends–this is stuff that I care about, whether it’s pop culture or politics.”
For the pair, this creates a public space for the kinds of Washington conversations they already believe are happening in private. “Sometimes in Washington it’s sort of frowned upon if you talk about fashion in the same breadth as you talk about what happening with President Trump,” says Bennett, “but we make that an ok zone.”
“I moved to Washington from Los Angeles, and I just remember feeling kind of out of place because I was still very much in this L.A. mindset,” adds Schwarz, “and I kind of just soon realized people really do appreciate when you are able to talk about both about politics and pop culture and you appreciate both of those things. It’s ok to wake up and watch State of the Union on Sunday morning and then watch Keeping Up With the Kardashians Sunday night, and there’s a lot of people out there who feel the same way,” he says.
One person who certainly did appreciate their effort was CNN Worldwide president Jeff Zucker. “That was a crazy moment,” says Schwarz of the time he discovered Zucker had been reading The Political Edit. “It felt like we were this indie band who were doing our shows and also we find out this record executive has been in the back room watching us the whole time.”
And while the sound remains the same, the indie kids have a “bigger stage,” as Bennett puts it. “The opportunities are larger and the support system is bigger, and we can do reporting in the newsletter and then go on the air and talk about it, so there’s a relationship between all the different elements of digital and television and the news breaking that we can bring here at CNN,” she says.