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SRCCON:POWER Talks: Rachel Schallom & Ben Mullin on how we cover ourselves

Day & Time: Friday, Dec. 14, 2018, at 1pm

KIM: Hello! Hello! How full are your brains because mine’s feeling full with all sorts of amazing things. I mean that in a good way. Is that gross? I will stop talking and introduce our next speakers. So we have the duo of Rachel Schallom and Ben Mullin to talk about how we cover ourselves in terms of, like, how we talk about our own industry and how that impacts our creators. So Rachel is the current managing editor at Vice, and she also does a lot of stuff for women in media through her newsletter in her cohort and she’s a great person to talk to for development. Ben is a media reporter at the Wall Street Journal. He used to be at Pointer. And I was talking to him about his cat that he loves more than most humans. Also, by the way, Rachel has seen how many times — Something Corporate multiple times? I didn’t know it was possible to be so many times in Something Corporate. So if you want to talk about Something Corporate afterwards. So they’re going to talk about power in the newsroom in how we talk about ourselves and we’re going to do questions, again, at the end. So welcome, Ben and Rachel

RACHEL: Hi, so I’m happy to be here. So, Ben, I’m so happy to talk to you about this because as with most of my work, I just pitch things on conversations that we’ve already had.

BEN: Right.

RACHEL: So let’s start with what got us both interested in media coverage. So I have always wanted to be the very best at what I did and so because of that, I consumed media like it was water and I took those insights and I applied them to everything I did, and I pitched strategies around them, and I treated them like a bible, and then one day, I read a news story about me that wasn’t entirely accurate and it really made me think about how I thought about media sources. So I knew that media sources weren’t always going to offer themselves up that’s going to make themselves look bad because I had, like, this idea that we were all in this in this sort of thing and not, like, that people’s bonuses were on the line. So I’m still reading a lot of industry notes and I get far more emails than I should. But I’m still taking it with a grain of salt. So when I first started writing, I had to take that with me, and have an open forum as possible. How about you?

BEN: So I kind of failed into media for reasons that will become apparent over the course of this conversation, I’m sure. So I grew up — my dad was a microbiologist in the Air Force. He put in 20 years, and he was, like, a walking compendium of, like, maladies, and prescription and is remedies and stuff like that. And I remember when I got to college, I was thinking, oh, I really want to be a doctor. I think I can be good at this. But I always kind of struggled with math. I think you guys can kind of tell where this is going. But I — so I did one semester. Second semester, I took general chemistry. I think I may have failed it the first time then I did it again. This time I had the good sense to withdraw before I failed. And then I audited it, and then when I was going to the professor for help, I was like, I don’t understand this. And he was like, look, if you can’t do this math, you should not be in charge of being in charge of people’s lives so, fortunately, I write about people’s earnings and earnings per share. And then I ricocheted from test tubes to the newsroom which was losing a lot of money, surprise, surprise, we were $60,000 in debt, and so I sold the story to Pointer and I’ve been media ever since.

RACHEL: So let’s get into it. So who has mattered in industry news matters — let’s start over. Who is featured in industry news matters because it can impact someone’s career by raising their profile, putting more clicks on their links, all things like that. So what can we be doing about our job to make sure that a betters group of journalists are represented in the news. And what we’re talking about diversity, we’re talking about a whole swath of things, race, gender, geography, and religion, and lesser known things are, like, areas of expertise, types of journalism, places you work, things like that.

BEN: Yeah, full disclosure: I’m a cis-white dude so I may not be the best person to answer questions about diversity but as you will see, I’m also part of the problem. And so, maybe if I just, like, drag myself in public, the humiliation will be enough to, like, get us all together towards an answer. So in preparation to this conversation, I took a look at the last ten stories I did, and took stock of how many women, and people of color, and white men were quoted. Surprise, surprise, most people that were quoted were white men. Seven of them. One — two were women, and one was a person of color. And, obviously, I know that’s that’s unacceptable. And as I was trying to figure out why, I came up with two, like, broad categories where I think the problems were.

The first was, for the most part, newsrooms are still largely white and male. I am a white man. I have a perspective, I was immersed in that culture growing up. That is sort of, like, my default mode. And, clearly, I need to do a better job of adjusting that default mode to make sure that my stories are representative of larger trends in the U.S. and abroad. But also, I think, separately part of the problem is for the most part people that I talk to are the kinds of people who have, like, really sensitive financial information about the organizations they work in. CEOs, board members, corp-dev people. And for the most part, those folks are still largely white and largely male. And so I think what the dilemma is it seems like it’s a self-perpetuating problem. It’s hard to get ahead in the industry if you don’t have a public profile, and yet, if you don’t have a public profile where you’re associated with this important information, reporters are maybe less likely to talk to you.

But what do you think? As a writer, somebody who grapples with this all the time, how do you make sure the stories that you write are sort of representative of diversity trends in general?

RACHEL: So the reporting that I do is reported, but I think it’s a little bit less traditionally reported than you do. So my stories typically come from conversations that I’m already having. And usually my goal is to either amplify really smart voices that I’m hearing, or just take a conversation and push it to a wider audience so that we can continue and see what other insights there might be. Which means that a lot of my sources are people that I know, which, obviously, limits diversity.

And so I try really hard to be representative in the work that I do especially when I’m writing about women in journalism. I try really hard to include women of color, queer and non-binary journalists, women from different-sized newsrooms and different types of journalism but I know that I’m not perfect and one of the tactics that I have found helpful is to — I have people that are there to keep me honest. Like, a personal Board of Directors. And this is important to me because I know that it matters.

There have been a decrease in journalists, sure, but there’s still too many good people across the country that we can’t keep tabs on every person publishing a story. And I’m by no means an industry name but I remember when I first started getting quoted and first started writing, it really helped my networking. So if we scale that and if that happens across the industry, it means that it’s affecting careers, it’s affecting newsrooms and it’s affecting the industry as a whole. So, yeah, it should be diverse.

BEN: You have a cool job and a fancy title, and, presumably, you have some visibility and some insight on a lot of things, right? So I always think about, like, when I’m writing stories, oh, I wonder how people who, you know — who are at their organizations that are being written about, how they receive the coverage. So I’m wondering, like — so for an example, like, a month ago, I got a call from a news executive that I admire who told me that, like, not only — she said she didn’t like the story, and she said that the story was not only that, but it was indicative of broader problems in media coverage, which I, like, took to heart. And so I just want to ask you, like, what do you think the media industry gets from it in general, like, media reporters?

RACHEL: Yeah, so whenever I’m reading news about my own newsroom especially in the cases where I’m a source, it’s a really good reminder of the empathy that we should just show to our own sources. It is so hard to be on the other side of the microphone and there are so many times that I want to yell, “That’s not the whole story!” And so, I think that that experience as a source has made me into a better journalist because of that empathy factor. I think as journalists we’re looking for the graph, what are we trying to say with this piece. And I think with industry coverage we need to let a little bit of that go. Some of the conversations like you have at conferences or in small dinners or groups, a lot of those don’t have resolutions, and sometimes good stories ask more questions than they answer. And it could be powerful, meaningful, knowing that there are other people in the industry thinking about the same questions that you have.

So I think that we could bring a little bit of that focus on just having conversations and not necessarily writing a story with a beginning, middle and end. But what about you? What do you think where we can improve?

BEN: In addition to what you mentioned, I don’t think we create in touch opportunities to inject content in the business space. A lot of the business space is transactional. Company X bought company Y. This white male executive is in, this white male is out. I think we should have more structure in journalism like visualizations change automatically, or facts change as new stories come to light. And I think business journalists have a bit of a blind spot when it comes to covering diversity. And I think it comes in part because the financial consequences aren’t as readily apparent of a new merger, or a product, or a debut of a new technology. But this isn’t always true. Like in the runup to Crazy Rich Asians, there was Karen K. Ho who was talking about how it’s going to be a smashing success because there’s a dearth of movies by, and for people of color. And the same thing was true of Black Panther. I think the press did a good job of identifying that that was going to be a movie that was going to be successful. But yeah, I wanted to ask you, like, do you think coverage of the media is being more or less important in general. On the WHP marketing team in general, I notice we keep losing companies to other trade sectors. So, for example, Time Inc. is now gone, Time Warner is now part of AT&T and Time Warner Cable, I think, is now part of Spectrum, or Charter — I’ll have to check. But basically everything with “Time” in the title has seem to have gone away. And a lot of the energy has been seeming going to Netflix, or Amazon, or name your company. So I wanted to ask: do you think we need fewer media reporters and more tech reporters?

RACHEL: So I think there are a lot of media reporters and not a lot of journalism reporters. Media is broad. It can mean a lot of different things to different people. And everyone uses it in different contexts they’re thinking of. But it can easily include movies, television, marketing, blog posts, things like that. So in 2018, we have a lot of coverage of what the Trump administration, and how the Trump administration is interacting with the media. And I just don’t need any more coverage of about what a pundit said about Trump and what Trump said about the pundit. So those are not the important things about the stories that are going under the radar. A couple years ago, I stopped subscribing to a very popular media newsletter because it was the week that Katherine Goldstein’s piece on mothers in the newsroom came out. And that week, you couldn’t talk about journalism without talking about that piece. It resonated with so many people in the industry.

And that’s what everyone was talking about. And the fact that this newsletter didn’t include it, really showed me what their priorities were, and that was struck. And so when I think about what I want, I think about I want more coverage in the journalism industry, people in the news, the challenges we’re facing, and the insights and solutions we can share, which there are a lot of places that are doing that, or several places that are doing that, but I think we can do more of it, and we can be more honest in it. I know that Trump doesn’t want me to do my job. That has been made very clear.

And while press freedom is incredibly important, I just don’t need another hot take about it. I think we should use that energy and that power to empower the people doing their jobs to do them better.

BEN: Yeah, as you know, like, journalistic coverage rely on current employees, former employees to help them tell the stories that matter. And it’s sometimes frustrating — I’m sure everyone has had this experience — where they’ve either been covering a media organization, or they’ve been trying to — an organization that relies on people talking to them for some reason when it’s about their organization, they don’t want to talk. So I’m just wondering, you, obviously, as an executive have to balance your obligations for transparency with obligations for being, you know, like, you, presumably, have important information. So how do you balance your discretion with your transparency?

RACHEL: Yeah, so this is super tough. Like you said, on the one hand, I want to be transparent. I think, you know, for a couple of reasons. One, I want the industry to grow as a whole from a tough situation and see how we can build and solve it together. I think by nature, I’m a transparent person and I think part of that is growing up as a journalist because people believe in transparency so much. But, on the other hand, I’m a leader in an organization and I have to think about what that does to the impact — the impact that that’s going to have on our brand and our staff.

And so, generally, the — hey, guys. So but, at the same time, generally, the industry is really small. It is, like, at this point, everyone I meet has a connection to someone else that I know. And there’s a lot of, like, “I heard this” “I heard that.” “Can you confirm” “what do you know?” And I think a lot of this is done with good intentions trying to build a piece. Obviously, we like storylines, we like transparency, we like those things. Some of it is scum, for sure. But I think even with the best intentions we mess up and we share something that we shouldn’t and I have done this, and it’s one of the worst feelings that I’ve ever felt. But as a leader in an organization, I know that we’re going to have leaks. That’s just how it works especially in a journalism organization and I think that a lot of these are for good reasons why, obviously, a we’re a pro-press organization and sometimes they want more attention to an injustice they see going on in the newsroom and they want to bring that to light in the industry.

So this balance of knowing what to share with both, my staff and with the outside world has been, one, if not the biggest challenge of my transition into a top leadership role. I always want to come for my staff when there’s a concern that’s raised. So whether that’s, like, letting them know what conversations we’re having, what strategies are likely coming, you know, that we always have their back in a tough situation… my gut instinct is always to be transparent to comfort them. But there’s a lot of things that I can’t share until they’re 100% set. And this is for two reasons: one, to, like, set expectations with staff so that we don’t have to turn around and say, I’m sorry, we couldn’t make that work. And also, for media reasons. So I think about that a lot. But I think it’s really interesting, the position that puts you in, because your work somewhat relies on leakers. How do you navigate the friendships that you have, you know, being in the journalism industry, reporting on the journalism industry, how do you navigate those friendships with, you know, the people at the organizations that you cover?

BEN: Yeah, it’s really hard. Like, last week, I had somebody call me, and he explicitly said that there should be a quid pro quo in our relationship. That I passed on an opportunity to write about his business and said that’s not okay. Last — actually this week, somebody called me and said that he wanted our relationship to be more of a two-way street. That I would need to start providing him with information, and if I didn’t, he wouldn’t talk to me anymore. And I have a friend at a really good — I mean, I have a really good friend at an organization that I cover. And it’s hard because I want to ask her about her job sometimes, like, as a friend but, at the same time, I don’t want her to think that I’m bugging her for information for a story. So it’s hard but one of the things that I’ve come back to is people who — you know, the people who are relying on you to just cover them, or people who, like, shut you out because they didn’t like a story, those people aren’t your real friends and that’s been something of somewhat of comfort to me.

RACHEL: So let’s get practical for a minute. Many journalists and organizations don’t know, and this was something that I didn’t know when I was first starting out, that they can pitch projects, and story ideas to industry publications. When I was first starting out, I thought that this was a big thing that if you were picked, it was like magic. But a lot of these things are pitched, right? So what are your tips for getting coverage for a project you’re excited about, or someone on your staff that you think should have their profile raised, stuff like that?

BEN: So as an editor, you know this better than anybody. Editors are busy. They don’t have time to read a 2,000-word email that includes several irrelevant anecdotes and details. Brevity was relevant to me. And I imagine it’s the same for everyone. And also so many pitches that I got as an editor and a reporter also totally misjudged their intended audience. There’s a big, difference between WSJ pitch and Nieman Lab. I think be the people who pitch their stories are just products of the pitches. And it’s harder to say no to somebody you know whose career you’re invested in, and who you’ve helped in the past. I think it’s important to schedule a time for coffee and get a face to a name. At the end of the day, it can mean the difference between getting a thumbs up and a thumbs down. But what do you think? Can you talk about successful pitches in your career, why they were successful?

RACHEL: Yeah, so we just had a pitch accepted to Pointer, where we covered Transday Remembrance. And I think it was part of that was it was really easy for them to produce. It had a news tag. It was a story that allowed them to acknowledge a national day that was happening. It allowed them to cover a news organization they don’t normally cover to an audience they don’t normally cover. So when we pitched it to them, it was a win. We provided photos of the interviewers, and we provided photos. It was really easy for them to produce, which is one of the reasons that I think they jumped at the opportunity. But there’s a ton of pitches that I send out that don’t get responses so I’m just learning how to do this better, as well. And as a columnist, I love when people pitch me ideas because, honestly, there’s just days where I don’t have ideas. So I love story ideas like, especially like hey, a friend and I were talking about this. Would you want to explore that? Or I ran into this challenge or here’s just a really cool project or person you should know about. The hardest thing for me is when someone introduces to me like a scholarship program, something they invest their times on, and I don’t know the details of the program or I don’t know about the details of the program instantly, it’s hard for me to put my name that promotes that. So that’s where I draw the line in pitches that I get. But I think we should turn it over to the audience and take some questions.

BEN: Yes!

KIM: I was like, how am I going to do this? I’m just going to run.

RACHEL: I’ll yell? Get mics that don’t require button downs!

KIM: Can I pull MC privilege? Can I ask a question?


KIM: Okay. I want to push back for a second.

RACHEL: Please do. That’s the point.

KIM: What?

RACHEL: I said, that’s the point.

KIM: So I’m going to be that person. So do words like “diversity” trend reinforce the white patriarchal narrative history of media reporting?

BEN: Say more about that.

KIM: Well, I mean, is it fair to talk about diversity as a trend and not, like, a necessity? You know, because of the way things like that come out. And media reporting has been traditionally, very much white male talking about other white males in their successes and failures.

BEN: Yes, so yes. I read a piece just yesterday. I think a Nieman Lab prediction for 2019 and the piece — the headline was great. The piece — the headline was, “The year they finally realized everyone’s not white.” And the piece talked about how for a lot of the, like, one of the big stories of the year was basically, like, it was — there was a really important story that had gotten overlooked because I think it was an example that had been cited before, it was the 2016 election. And they talked about how it wasn’t just — it wasn’t just white people who voted en masse for Trump. There were specific subcategories within that. And probably the media industry would not have been surprised by the election of Donald Trump if they had been more cognizant of the fact that, for the most part, the worldview that they come from is primarily a white newsroom sequestered, for the most part, in the case of national newsrooms, in New York.

So, yeah, I think Hannah Nikole-Jones says that she’s fed up with the word diversity and should be called inclusion. That it’s not some abstruse trend that the world is suddenly waking up to, but part of your job as a journalist is reflecting the world that you live in, that America is an increasingly diverse place. And, by the way, the people that we’re writing about, and who have been excluded for these conversations for a long time have been here for centuries. So yeah, I totally agree with you, and I apologize if my remarks were in any way skewed toward that way of seeing the world.

RACHEL: Yeah, diversity is not a trend; it’s a must. And I wrote a story recently about the increase of newsrooms doing safety precautions that they typically only did for international assignments and we’re now doing them for domestic assignments. And I interviewed a bunch of white women who told me, this isn’t something that I ever thought about before. Things were so different than they used to be. And then I interviewed a woman of color, and shelves, I don’t know what you’re talking about. Things have always been like this for us. So, for me, I come across stories like this in my reporting enough that it’s not a trend. It’s not like I need to have a source that’s a woman of color to make my source list look good. It’s that I can’t tell good stories without them.

[ Applause ]

SYDETTE: So I would like to both push back and open up a couple different ideas, both for the panel and the conference is we’re tapdancing around one of the biggest section of, which is social media. So a lot of this reporting is coming from and sourced from people who are not in our newsrooms and our metrics are coming from them. So how do we start looking at the idea of: what are we doing with people’s ideological, and experiential identities as a supplement of media, and also, the concept that in a social media age where a lot of our media goes from digital platforms into media and is being braced on social media, that writing about media, and writing about media participants is solely for writing about people within media because we talk about and we plan and strategize ways of going viral. We talk about looking at people’s tweets. We talk about looking at trends. We have social listening devices. So how do we really expand what we mean by media and I’m asking the question but I actually think this, but I think part of our problem is because we have constricted media to the ideas of, you must get a byline and get paid, that writing to our audience in media is part of the issues we’re having because this was a New York Times article, this was a New York Times title of, “We missed the rise of the right wing.” And one of the best quotes ever, in the Mark Thomas leak is a prime contributor — that was a great one. Matt Thompson, I’m sorry. But as a conference and a panel, what do we say when we’re saying writing for media about media especially in a time when our media is coming from other people, and the way that we interact with each other is part of that. Because that question, that framing, I think, is going to influence our ideas of what is not only diversity, but representation. We don’t look like the world we talk about, we don’t look like the people in our stories. But what do we need to be saying about our stories and how do we put them in context? Because things like, oh, I’m writing for my friend, or my friend thinks that I can do this is very different from, “I am a person who has been written about in media, and I am a person who makes media.” I’m an editor, I collect information on technology access. And some of the stories that people write put me in literal danger. They put me in danger that is very physical and very real.

And how does that factor into a media discussion around media environments with whether or not you write about this person is about a friendship relationship when I’m looking at some of the reporting that has been done on media. The rise and connection of so many friendship circles with right-wing Nazis. How do you miss the rise of right-wing Nazis, but writing in closed media circles, did you miss it, or did you not cover it, and when do we start bringing that into the conversation because for some of us, it’s not about whether or not I get stories. Can I go home tonight? Because how many of us have had safety plans since 2014 and earlier. And I think that’s something that we have to talk about.

KIM: Hold on. Pause. This is, like, an obstacle course!

RACHEL: Um, yes. I feel very strongly about safety, which I can have an entire session on. I think that that is something very real and much realer for certain subsets of our industry than others. Something — and this is only a small piece of what you mentioned but something that I have started to really think about and really practice, both in the work that I’m doing in the Vice newsroom, and in the work that I’m doing in writing about media is a lot of ideas are sourced from people of color on Twitter.

They have a different perspective to a story whether that’s something as simple as a take on a movie that just came out. Maybe they point out something that you missed. And we are striving to get better at — instead of being like, ooh, that’s a really good idea. Let me assign that to someone on my staff. Reach out to that person, and let them write that themselves so that we’re not stealing that and we’re thinking about that more in media ourselves. And one of the things that I love doing is watching smart people talk to each other and listening in and seeing how that’s going. So if I think something they’re saying is interesting, how can I use a platform to amplify their voices instead of me taking my take on what they already said. Because I think we should get better about the implication of the idea belonging to the person who brought the idea to the table.

KIM: Other questions? Like, everyone’s getting out of my way now. I’m not gonna trip. I promise!

AUDIENCE: Thank you. So for a long time, media outlets used to have a public editor. That’s very uncommon now. And so, increasingly, media-industry coverage has grown, but hasn’t actually taken on a role that is similar to the public editor, meaning they are critical of the coverage that is created, they are critical of the language that is used. And I’m curious to know, for me, what role do you see editors playing being critical in their own industry, especially the lines you use, the coverage that actively harms communities and not just covering the media industry as, like, this capitalist machine but actually something that is important and valuable to communities.

RACHEL: So I think there’s a couple of barriers in covering the media industry critically that I don’t think I fully understood until the last couple of years. And a huge one is the decline of public editors. And I think I turn to a lot of non-profit journalism organizations that do some reporting on media to fulfill that role and a lot of them, they can’t because they rely on those newsrooms to pay their bills, whether that’s through signing up for training programs, making donations, have their staff volunteer as mentors, different things like that. They need those relationships to be positive ones in order to remain alive.

And so, there’s a limit to the critique they can provide. So I think that’s how we’re seeing journalists doing it themselves, which I also think is a barrier, too, because especially if you’re a person or kind of, or a woman, or someone from another minority group where getting a job is already harder, I need to choose my words extremely carefully so that I can get another job. So I think there’s some real barriers to the people already in this space to do that.

So, yeah, I mean, I think it’s absolutely necessary. I don’t know what the answer is. I know that they are, as an industry, I would love to see a little bit more freedom there where you didn’t feel like it was — you were going to get blacklisted by saying something against the New York Times. And I think a lot of people who do that, especially on Twitter, who are calling things out, who are offering them perspectives, I think as an industry, we need to recognize how brave that is because that’s not easy and that work is mostly done by people of color and women who already have a harder time getting jobs.

BEN: Yeah. Yeah, I agree totally and I’ve found it pretty frustrating when the New York Times, after Liz Spayd, she was a previous public editor, after she left, she succeeded Margaret Sullivan, but after she left, or her contract expired, after she left, the New York Times didn’t point another public editor. I thought it was hypocritical of the New York Times which is an example of group of journalists who have questions, as a gatekeeper, their position as a role is to ask questions for people in power. They thought the readers’ center was a good substitute of that. But I don’t think it was. Another good example of somebody who has — so another example is BuzzFeed, right? Ben Smith has said, they don’t need a public editor because they have social media but, again, that’s another example of a place where, like, somebody on Twitter can’t go to your newsroom and pound on Jonah Peretti’s door and ask him a whole bunch of questions about why that Tasty video didn’t have — that was a bad example. Why if they have problematic coverage, why it was permitted to run and what could be done to fix that. And especially in a time when journalists are under scrutiny than ever for not being transparent enough. I think the thinking inside the New York Times when they eliminated the public editor was they didn’t want that — they thought that there were — the public was conflating the public editor’s remarks with the editors’s remarks, or the editor-in-chief’s remarks, and from the outside, it wasn’t clear who was critiquing whom and it looked like it was on the part of the editor but I think people on social media for the most part, those who are level and good-faith criticism organizations can tell the difference between Margaret Sullivan and Dean Baquet, or Marty Baron, but that’s a bad example because The Post doesn’t have an ombud.

RACHEL: I think probably very few people in this room have the ability to have a public editor so I think the one thing that we can think about doing because I think a lot about what power do I have in this specific situation is creating a culture, whether that’s within your own team, whether that’s within your own organization as a whole where it’s okay for people to critique the work of other people. And to also take that a step further and issue apologies that are actual apologies and talk about the work that you’re learning, and the work — you know, where you messed up, where you learned from it, and publish those things, and sometimes that’s through, you know, Medium posts of, like, we did this project. Here’s what we learned. Sometimes that’s through, like, an actual apology. But I think it starts with a culture that allows critiques and that builds on it not being personal but it being for the betterment of the journalism that we do.

And I think it’s really important that we hold people in other industries and other organizations accountable, too. Because we all get lumped together. When a piece does a problematic post, that is somehow all of our fault. And that reflects on us. That reflects on how people portray the media, portray journalism. So, yeah, I want everyone to be better at this but I have control over my specific team and I’m going to start there.

KIM: Maybe one more question? Oh, Robert.

ROBERT: Well, first of all, thanks — for someone who spoke last night, I get nervous speaking in front of folks, and there are different strategies to when you present especially to this lovely group. My question is can you talk about — and this is coming off awkward — sorry. I noticed that there was a lot of card-reading for your answers and I’m wondering if you can talk about the thinking behind what feels like a scripted conversation a little bit. Because people kind of noticed that and I was scratching my head when someone noticed that and said, “Okay. I’ll be the asshole.” So can you talk about the thinking in terms of how you approached this panel, this discussion? And I don’t mean to make you feel self-conscious at all.

BEN: Not at all.

ROBERT: But I think out of respect, to be transparent, that thoughts were had about that. I’m just curious to know your thinking and giving you a chance to address it.

BEN: Personally, I knew that I was going to be talking about really sensitive subjects and I didn’t — I wanted to make sure that — I wanted to make sure that I had said exactly what I meant to say and I tend to be improvisational, and I kind of go — you know, I kind of tend to go off topic. So, for me, I just really wanted a cue to sort of help me stay on task and focus on what I wanted to say and so that personally is sort of my perspective on it.

RACHEL: I was nervous… um, yeah, I can totally see how that would come across. And I think we — I mean, I touched on this a little bit when we were talking about transparency and what we want to say and our intentions of what we want to say and not always coming across…

BEN: Yeah, and — sorry, I cut you off. I was just gonna say, feel free to catch me after, I would love to have a more improvisational back and forth with you. I’m sorry if it came off like that public because I do want more opportunity for a more spontaneous interaction.

KIM: I can also be very loud. Well, thank you Rachel and Ben for that very thoughtful conversation and Q&A.

BEN: Yeah!

KIM: So we have another round of sessions in 15 minutes.