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Longtime Rolling Stone Contributor Matt Taibbi Discusses His New News Venture

And his famous squid


Specs
Who Matt Taibbi
New gig Editor of an as-yet-unnamed digital magazine for First Look Media
Old gig Contributing editor for Rolling Stone

Rolling Stone was such a hugely influential platform for you—is it risky to go to a digital startup?
Sure. It’s definitely a risk. It’s a professional risk and a creative risk. But this was an opportunity to do something different from what I’ve been doing. I had been only writing a certain kind of thing for a while, and I was definitely attracted to the idea of creating something new.

What’s your goal for this magazine?
I’d like to create something that lasts. I grew up around journalists—my father was a TV reporter and I’ve been around newsrooms my whole life—and I was always really interested in the fact that when reporters did the news, it came off in this really polite, refined way, but off camera in the newsroom, they talked about it in a completely different way. I want to cover the world in the same voice that people use in the newsroom.

According to First Look Media, your magazine will be focusing on “the ongoing financial crisis.” Tell me more about that.
It might be a little broader, actually. It’s not going to be solely about Wall Street. What’s going to be consistent with our particular publication is a kind of approach—investigative but also satirical and written in a certain voice.

What kinds of stories are you planning to cover?
I hope we focus on investigative pieces with a high degree of difficulty. The reason I like doing the Wall Street stories is because they’re hard to unravel and they’re a challenge to make palatable for wide audiences.

Are you going to miss working in print?
I’ve been in print my whole life. I’ve worked in every aspect of putting out a print publication—I remember when I had a newspaper in Buffalo, throwing stacks of newspapers out the car window and having ink on my hands. I think that print will always have value. But the Internet’s where it’s at in terms of the future.

You have a lot of experience with Russian media, having lived there for 10 years and co-edited a newspaper in Moscow. Will you be covering the situation with Russia and the Ukraine?
I’ll cover some of that, but honestly, I think that experience shaped the way that I look at American politics more than anything else. There was a certain kind of corruption that I got to see up close in the ’90s, and I think that a version of it is being repeated here in the United States.

What do you think about current news coverage of Russia?
The problem that reporters have with covering Russia, and really with any foreign news story, is that in order to explain things to American audiences, they have to cartoonize all the characters. But it’s a highly ambiguous situation. To say that there’s anyone who’s on the right side in this particular conflict in the Ukraine is shortsighted.

How sick are you of hearing the term “vampire squid” every time you’re mentioned (Taibbi likened investment bank Goldman Sachs to the sea creature in an 2009 article in Rolling Stone)?
On the one hand, it drives me nuts because that’s not the only thing I’ve ever written, but on the other hand, it’s kind of cool, actually. A few weeks ago, they had these protests in Denmark when Goldman was going to buy up part of the Danish energy grid. People were holding up vampire squid posters. It was pretty fun.

 

 

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