My Internet: Olivia Nuzzi
The politics reporter hate-listens to certain podcasts.
Every Friday, we quiz a “very online” person for their essential guide to what’s good on the internet.
Today we welcome Olivia Nuzzi, New York magazine’s Washington Correspondent and the author of a forthcoming book with Ryan Lizza about 2020. Olivia once visited the metaverse while on mushrooms, respects Joyce Carol Oates for unfollowing her, and admits she has stolen valor from cubicle dwellers with her email etiquette content. —Nick
What's a recent meme or other post that made you laugh?
This Greg Kelly tweet.
What type of videos do you watch on YouTube?
I watch a lot of Dick Cavett and Letterman and Howard Stern. Lately I’ve been watching VH1’s old I Love the TK-Decade—the quality really sucks but you get used to it. I loved that show growing up. VH1 used to be so good. Someone should put Michael Musto back on television.
Do you use TikTok? What shows up on your For You page?
What do you use Instagram for?
I love Instagram. I mostly lurk. I am happy to fall down whatever rabbit hole the algorithm has selected for me at any given time. I use it for reporting a lot, to reach out to people or to get a sense of the shape of their social circle, depending on the piece. I also love shopping on Instagram. The algorithm knows me better than I know myself and I welcome it.
Do you tweet? Why?
With less and less frequency. I will still share my work, or share work from friends or coworkers. But almost anything else, on the increasingly rare occasions where I have a thought and begin to type it as a tweet, I think, Does anyone need to hear from me on this? And the answer is almost always no. I used to use Twitter sort of like a notebook, if I was covering an event or something. It was an easy way to create a real time, time-stamped outline. I’m not as inclined to do that now. Observations about politics and political events, it rarely feels like the right venue anymore. Most of the time when I’m typing something up and I realize as I’m writing it how it will be immediately seized on by some ideological faction, I just delete it or put it in a notes folder to use in an actual piece. Anytime I engage in punditry I feel bad about myself.
It’s silly to have so many thoughts about a website and how and why I use it or don’t use it, but it’s something I’ve had to think a lot about. Twitter gave me a career, in a lot of ways. It was a great daily writing exercise, it connected me with editors and other writers and reporters, and it connected me with sources and subjects and readers. But what nourishes me also destroys me, etc. Talking to a few thousand people is not the same as talking to tens of thousands of people and that’s not the same as talking to a few hundred thousand people. So my relationship to the platform has changed as the scope of my platform has changed over time. At a certain point, I was no longer necessarily punching up when I thought I was, maybe I was punching laterally or down. I try to be thoughtful about it. I would never be like “I will never tweet again!” because who cares but I do try to be a little thoughtful or at least just not an asshole about it. It really rewards assholery.
Have you ever had a post go viral? What was that experience like?
I am constantly having people I grew up with send me posts from random meme accounts where some dumbass thing I said about my inbox making me unhappy has been turned into content. People really fucking love email etiquette content. That’s demoralizing, contributing to that. Like if I never checked my email again I think it would be fine. My life doesn’t depend on me checking my email. It’s a little fraudulent; I’ve stolen valor from cubicle dwellers.
Years ago, I made some joke about emailing as if it will one day be read aloud in a deposition, and I guess the day I made the joke was the day that a bunch of news about the Sony hack broke, so people interpreted it as a sharp analysis of that, but that was giving me way too much credit; it was inspired by someone in politics sending me some ill advised missive, I think. That went viral in such a way that you can now purchase needlepoints and face masks and coffee mugs with the quote printed across it. Not sure who the audience for that merch is. Very weird.
Aside from that, anytime I post something related to politics (that’s not just a piece of reporting) and it goes viral, it’s a sign that I’ve given in to some subconscious need for adulation by sharing an overly simplistic or obvious thought. Even if it’s totally true and justified. Once I see a certain faction of people mobilizing to share something I’ve said of that nature, I’m like, Ah, fuck, I hate myself. I’ve probably never had a smart and nuanced idea that I really cared about and wanted to defend shared widely by the extremely online masses. It just doesn’t work that way. For me anyway.
Who's the coolest person who follows you?
I didn’t think it was cool that she followed me, but I do think it’s cool that Joyce Carol Oates unfollowed me. Respect.
Who's someone more people should follow?
Which big celebrity has your favorite internet presence, and why?
Danny DeVito. Trollfoot.
Where do you tend to get your news?
Most days I start with a few podcasts, depending on what I’m doing. I listen to the Playbook Audio Briefing, which is usually about five minutes long, and then Up First, which is usually fifteen minutes. If The Daily is pegged to the news cycle and I have time, then I’ll listen to that, but if it’s off topic, I’ll skip it or save it for another time, depending on the subject. I check New York and Drudge and The Daily Mail and The Times. This was true before I worked there, so it’s not just that I’m biased, but there are usually at minimum five New York stories a day that I want to take time to read, and if it’s not related to the news and it’s a big news day, I open a window and put them all in tabs so I can go back to them at the end of the day. Most of the day, I’m refreshing the Times app. I subscribe to the Post and the Journal, too, but I don’t actively and religiously read either the way that I read the Times, in part because it’s just a better paper but also because their app is so great. The Daily Mail’s app, on the other hand, absolutely sucks, but it’s better than reading it in a browser. I check it at least twice a day, cursing the ads on the app the whole time.
What's one positive trend you see in media right now? What's one negative trend?
Oh God I don’t know
What does "cancel culture" mean to you?
The phrase itself is so politicized as to be useless. The issue, to me, is about grace, and whether and when and how and to whom it is extended.
Do you subscribe to any Substacks or other independent newsletters? What are your favorites?
I subscribe to too many now and miss a lot. But I try not to miss Today in Tabs, Garbage Day, Fourth Watch, Welcome to Hell World, Annie Hamilton’s Substack, Katherine Miller’s Substack, Taibbi, I’m forgetting some I’m sure. Edith Zimmerman has one that I really love of drawings about her life, I think she’s really interesting and her work has a lack of pretense that I admire a lot. Josh Barro is consistently one of my favorite people to read, he’s just really smart and honest and curious. I miss him writing at NYM, but I have and do and will always read him anywhere.
Are you into any podcasts right now? How and when do you usually listen?
I love Normal Gossip, The Indicator, It’s Been a Minute with Sam Sanders, Honestly with Bari Weiss, and Rational Security. I listen to a lot of stuff that I hate, too, that I think is interesting, like Potomac Watch, the WSJ’s politics podcast, which is one of the worst things ever produced in this space. It’s very amusing and it’s a good window into right and “center right” criticism of the Biden administration at any given time, or the talking points they are attempting to generate to become the conventional criticism.
Depending on what I’m working on, I am usually devoting some portion of my time to listening to podcasts for reporting purposes; a lot of politicians have podcasts now, or at least frequently appear on shows they don’t host themselves. I think I listened to upwards of fifteen hours of Dr. Oz podcasts while I was reporting a profile of him, for instance. Three hours just of him and Jordan Peterson. In the Trump era, there was so much information I had to process on a daily or hourly basis, that I really couldn’t do it without being able to absorb a lot of it through audio. It was like there was a limit in my brain for how much I could consume in print, and a lot of the podcasts from that time—Embedded, Trump Inc., All the Presidents Lawyers—were hugely helpful.
Most of the time I used to spend listening to podcasts I now use to listen to audiobooks, but generally when I am actively listening to either, it has to be while I’m occupied doing some sort of task with my hands. Otherwise I get distracted and start thinking about other stuff. But if I’m doing my makeup or cooking or organizing my closet (an ongoing and wildly unsuccessful project) I can focus on it. I don’t listen while I’m walking or driving or flying unless it’s for work or an event and I have to.
Do you use Twitter Spaces or Clubhouse?
Have you ever been heavily into Snapchat? Around what age?
When was the last time you browsed Pinterest? What for?
I don’t think I’ve ever done that.
Are you nostalgic for Vine or Tumblr? Why?
Are you in any groups on Reddit, Slack, Discord, or Facebook? What's the most useful or entertaining one?
Are you playing any games right now?
The crossword, always. I still poke at spelling bee, but my heart isn’t in it.
What's something you might want to do in the metaverse? What's something you wouldn't want to do?
I meditated in the metaverse. I might do it again. I also played a game, I don’t remember what it was called, where you listen to Billie Eilish and defend yourself against an onslaught of airborne gem-colored cubes? I was on mushrooms and I enjoyed that.
What purpose do you see in NFTs?
I am happy for anyone who finds something to be passionate about!
Do you text people voice notes? If not, how do you feel about getting them?
Not my favorite. I’d rather you just call me.
Do any of your group chats have a name that you're willing to share?
What's something that recently inspired debate in the chat?
Whether Jerry Saltz is correct that Sam Waterston cannot be a good actor because he “emits no erotic scent.”
What's your go-to emoji, and what does it mean to you?
I use a lot of hearts and prayer hands. I mean it!
What's a playlist, song, album, or style of music you’ve listened to a lot lately?
When I write, I listen to scores, usually just Bernard Herrmann, usually Taxi Driver and sometimes North by Northwest. I don’t really mix that up too much. I use a focus music app sometimes if things are really dire, called Brain.fm. But when I’m working on a new project I sometimes keep a playlist as a means of Defining The Vibe and I have one going now that I like. It‘s mostly Scott Walker, Donda, Steve Earle, Azealia Banks, Mr. Oizo.
Do you pay for a music streaming service, and if so, which one? When was the last time you bought a music download or vinyl record, CD, or tape?
I love Apple Music, which people always roast me for?? It’s fine??
If you could only keep Netflix, Disney, HBO Max, or one other streaming service, which would it be, and why?
HBO Max. I watch a lot of Curb Your Enthusiasm.
What's your favorite non-social media app?
Sleep Cycle, it’s kind of creepy, it “listens” to you sleep to determine a good time to nudge you awake with quiet music, and if that doesn’t work it grows louder until the time you set the alarm for, when it’s at full volume. But it really helps me when I remember to use it.
What's the most basic internet thing that you love?
All of my interests are basic
Is there any content you want that you can't seem to find anywhere online?
I would like to read coverage of the paparazzi agencies and the celebrity industrial complex more broadly.
Do you regularly use eBay, Depop, or other shopping platforms? What's a recent thing you've bought or sold?
I buy a lot of old issues of New York on eBay. I don’t think I’ve used it for anything else. Depop is great when I’m looking for something super specific.
What's the last thing that brought you joy online?
Every piece of content about Sean Penn in Ukraine makes me remember Sean Penn’s El Chapo piece, which brings me immense joy. Is Sean Penn our greatest living journalist?
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