Read: Young people might actually turn out for the midterms.
Divided social-media feeds, partisan podcasts, and a splintered media landscape suggest a country that’s unable to bridge its ideological differences, and Pod Save America is certainly part of that, speaking to a devoted but self-selecting audience. The extreme partisanship online, Lovett said, “is a natural response to a new experience, which is being neighbors with everybody. We are so close to so many people all the time, [and] so many views that used to be harder to access or harder to reach are in your face. I think some people respond to that by protecting themselves and siloing themselves off; some people go crazy and respond to every tweet.”
“We think of bubbles as: There’s a liberal bubble and a conservative bubble,” added Favreau. “But there are also different communities that care about different issues ... that aren’t political. We don’t really think we’re going to pierce the conservative bubble anytime soon, but we have been thinking, over the last couple years: How do we reach people who may have the same values that we have, but don’t necessarily pay as close attention to politics?” As a result, political outreach is a crucial cog of the Crooked Media machine: Its website includes a ballot guide and the registration aid Vote Save America.
But to Pfeiffer, “conservative” and “liberal” media cannot be easily compared. “When you look at studies of media diets, conservatives consume only conservative media, which is trash,” he said. “Liberals consume mainstream news: CNN, The New York Times, NBC, ABC … You have these outlets on the right whose job is to try and win elections for Republicans. Prior to Crooked Media, there was really nothing like that on the left: a media outlet centered on encouraging progressive activism with an actual goal.” The show is, in a way, an answer to Fox News and the other right-leaning news outlets that exasperated the Pod Save America hosts when they worked for the Obama White House.
“People ask us if we’re biased. Yes. I wear it on my sleeve; I donate money, I speak at fund-raisers. I tell you that,” Vietor said. “I think there is a way to do this [in a way] that is a little more honest.” Pod Save America is attempting to combat the “asymmetry of the bias,” he explained, whereby left-leaning editorial boards for outlets such as The New York Times try to give ample space to right-wing voices, but the same (in his eyes) does not happen at right-leaning organizations such as The Wall Street Journal.
“We try to make sure that the facts and information we provide people are true, and when they’re not and we make mistakes, we try to correct them,” Favreau said. “While we’re biased and have an opinion, that’s different from allowing yourself to be a propaganda machine.” That belief, to him, is what sets Pod Save America and the Crooked enterprise apart from the partisan news organizations they’re opposing. “You have to fight it by calling it out for what it is. I think print journalists do a great job of this. I think television networks do a poor job.”