Scott Payne interviews Patrick Appel:
Scott: How did you first get involved in assisting with the production of the Daily Dish?
Patrick: I interned for the Atlantic in the Fall of 2007. Andrew’s former assistant, Jessie Roberts, returned to Columbia to finish her degree just as my internship was ending, and Andrew asked me to take her place.... Every day Chris Bodenner (Andrew’s other assistant) and I draft between twenty and thirty posts. Andrew then approves, rewrites, or deletes these posts. We’ve created a blogging labor line of sorts.
Scott: Can you run me through an average day for you?
Patrick: I get up around 8 am, check Memeorandum, and skim new items in my RSS reader until about 10 am. As I’m reading, I open around fifty posts in tabs for closer inspection. I then read through those tabs, delete most of them, and draft the best. According to Google Reader, I have 1,086 blogs in my RSS reader and have read 16,070 posts in the last 30 days. This is down from a high of about 32,000 posts during the height of the election. The blogs are sorted into different categories: politics, right partisans, left partisans, science, economics, pop culture, and so on.... I draft posts steadily until noon or 1 pm and break for lunch.... We try to bank most of the weekend in advance.... At 6 pm or 7 pm, I break for dinner. After dinner, I will usually return to the blog and finish scheduling posts for the next morning. Depending upon the tempo of the news, I work anywhere from ten to fourteen hours a day.
Scott: In drafting those posts, is there something that could be considered a SOP or guiding philosophy that you, Chris, and Andrew share in terms of determining what types of information make the cut to be considered as drafts and those that don’t?
Patrick: There is no standard operating procedure. Each of us has his own interests, but everything is approved by Andrew, and filtered through his frontal cortex, so his sensibility dominates. By this point, the mind meld is near completion, and I’ve an intuitive sense what Andrew will and won’t post....
Scott: What kind of interaction do you, Chris, and Andrew tend to have over a given day?
Patrick: There isn’t much direct communication.... Seeing what Chris and Andrew post and adjusting my searching accordingly is its own form of communication. Chris and I are housemates, so I see a good deal of him, but all three of us can do our jobs independently. When I first started, Andrew would give me daily or semi-daily feedback. By this point both Chris and I don’t need much guidance.
Scott: You’ve been pretty up front about you disagreements with some of Andrew’s positions, specifically I’m thinking about the Trig Palin issue. Do those disagreements cause any tension in the “blogging line”?...
Patrick: Andrew has always celebrated disagreement. This predates the Dish. When he published The Bell Curve in The New Republic, he also published an issue’s worth of articles countering Charles Murray. Whether I agree or disagree with Andrew on a given topic, I will hunt down the best counterarguments and sort through the best reader dissents so that he has to confront the strongest arguments against his position. Features like Dissent Of The Day are the core of the Dish’s identity, and this encouragement of open debate has been hugely beneficial to both our readers and our operation. Its in Andrew’s nature to seek out opposing viewpoints, and my disagreeing with him over various issues has made him respect me more, not less....
Scott: What is the most rewarding aspect of working to produce the Dish for you?
Patrick: It’s hard for me to pick just one aspect. Besides the pleasure of working with Chris and Andrew, being paid to stay informed is hard to beat. The job is a continual education, and even though my schedule is fairly regular, I wake up every morning not knowing what we are going to write about that day. Sometimes the Dish feels like reverse reporting. We publish and then the e-mails pour in; the sources come to us. Harnessing a few hundred thousand reader intellects is awe inspiring and humbling.... Unless you are a partisan who wants to marinate in opinions you agree with, reading places like the Corner or Daily Kos can be mind-numbingly boring. You know how those blogs will respond to an event before you click over. It’s still good to read them to take the temperature of the partisans, but knee-jerk opposition or support makes me trust those sources less because they will twist the facts to fit their agenda. Look at the presidential nominees Andrew has supported since coming to the country: Reagan, Bush I, Clinton, Dole, Bush II, Kerry, Obama. Andrew holds strong opinions, but he will not write something he does not believe. Changing his mind has consequences; he lost half to three quarters of his readership when he turned against the Iraq War. A lesser blogger wouldn’t have risked offending the ideologues. When reading certain pundits (Bill Kristol springs to mind) it’s hard to tell if they actually hold the positions they are advancing or whether they are trying to curry favor and provide political cover. Andrew writes what he thinks, sometimes to a fault. The Dish is also trying to re-invent the magazine online. Everything is run through the prism of Andrew Sullivan’s mind, but we try to include a diversity of opinion. Every time you visit the Dish you should be able to find links to writers you agree with and to writers you disagree with. Andrew’s opinion thus becomes a reference point rather than the final word.... Tyler Cowen makes a related point.... The blogosphere has also made it possible to mechanize serendipity. There are only so many hours in the day to read news stories, blog posts, and watch youtube videos, but on the internet your readers and other bloggers do much of that reading for you and the best content tends to trickle up...
My view of this can be summed up in one sentence from copyright: "A.N. Author asserts his/her moral right to be identified as the author." I want to know who wrote the words I am reading, and whose ideas they are. Patrick Appel needs his own weblog.
Patrick Appel fractures the solitary voice of the Daily Dish and writes:
Life As Part Of Sully's Brain - The Daily Dish | By Andrew Sullivan: A reader writes:
To learn that nearly half the posts on Andrew's blog are not his posts proper (but admittedly prepared under his aegis) is somewhat disheartening. I think the blog owes it to the readers and its own high standards to start putting bylines on all posts.
We tried bylines once and it made the blog read funny. Almost all the posts I write are naked links or excerpts, which makes Andrew a weather-vane in the gale of the larger debate.
I've marinated in Sullivan's cerebral juices for a few years now and know intuitively what he interested in and what to bring to his attention. If Chris and I were forced to byline the posts we write under Andrew's supervision, we would have to own those opinions and draw contrasts with Andrew, as we do when he takes vacations. Bylines would fracture the solitary voice of the blog.
This is the argument that the Economist uses for not having bylines--that the institution works better when people write as instantiations of the hive-mind that is the Economist rather than in their own individual personae. The fact that the Economist is now riddled with bylined columns makes me doubt this--think that it is much more about control, power, and keeping a large chunk of the writers' reputation for the organization.