I’m David Plotz, the editor of Slate. In practice, this means I go to a lot of meetings. Then, at parties, I take credit for anything brilliant written by Matt Yglesias, Emily Yoffe, or Farhad Manjoo.

When I’m not fending off my wife Hanna Rosin’s attempt to destroy the males of the species, I host the Slate Political Gabfest with Emily Bazelon and John Dickerson. We’re doing a live show in Washington, D.C. tomorrow, and there are still a few tickets available!

I wrote a book about a sperm bank for Nobel Prize winners (completely weird and 100 percent true) and a book about the Bible (completely weird and 20 percent true). I’ve also written a lot about my love of barbecue, pies, and Friday Night Lights, and my hatred of pandas.

I'm happy to answer whatever questions you have about Slate, the Gabfest, sperm banks, the Bible, the Washington Post Company’s 401(k) plan, or anything else.

Comments: 248 • Responses: 45  • Date: 

AmiriteShyamalan27 karma

Has Slate successfully monetized your (excellent) podcasts or are they essentially loss-leaders for publicity and conversation?

DavidPlotz32 karma

We monetize! How have you missed the ads we do for Audible and Stamps? They are probably not profitable dollar for dollar directly, but they are so good for our brand that we might do them even if we didn't make a dollar on them.

aviddakota24 karma

Have you ever made anyone on Slate's staff cry?

DavidPlotz13 karma

Only with joy, I hope. There have been occasionally teary meetings in my office. I once cried during a meeting because I was so proud of the person I was talking to, but I don't think he noticed.

Echoey22 karma

You've spoken often on the podcast about your previously-held anti-gay marraige views. I was hoping you could elaborate on them, and perhaps explain why you felt that way.

DavidPlotz39 karma

Echoey, Sure. I went to an all-boys, jocky private school in the mid-'80s. It was a school where homophobia was explicit and never questioned. I absorbed enough of that to make me feel ashamed, and I carried forward homophobic ideas into college. Gay marriage was never really something anyone talked--I probably first heard about it as a serious idea in the mid-90s. At the time, I thought: oh marriage is special. It is a particular, defined institution for men and women, for historic reasons, and we tinker with it at our peril. I was all for civil unions, but I stumbled at marriage. Then my then colleague John Cloud talked to me about gay marriage one day, and explained why it married, and why civil union was a non-substitute, and how important it was to be free to love who you love and make a family with that person. And I realized that I had been an idiot, and have been for gay marriage ever since.

shanepang22 karma

Pandas. We all know your firm stance against pandas in the past. Have your views on pandas softened? Hardened?

DavidPlotz60 karma

Hardened into a diamond-core of loathing and rage. When will Americans wake up and see Pandagate for what it is. The Chinese government charges extortionate rents for us to house, feed, breed their dumb animals. When babies are born, the Chinese take them back, and then rent them to another high bidder. Zoos are literally wasting millions of dollars on this shoddy merchandise, when they could be stocking up with made in America otters or brown bears.

max-fischer20 karma

Huge fan of the Gabfest. Has there ever been a discussion of extending it past the hour mark? I know you're all busy folks, but so much of podcasting lately seems to be breaching the 90 minute mark. What's your mentality in sticking with the 40-50 minute cap?

DavidPlotz11 karma

We would go 90 minutes if the wind took us that way-if a topic got totally out of control and we just kept going and going. But we're not like a Dan Carlin podcast, where we have to recount the entirety of world history in a single episode. I think podcasts should be about the length of a decent workout, so 40-60 mins.

dankois18 karma

Which is your favorite flavor of Fresca? Original citrus, black cherry citrus, or peach citrus?

DavidPlotz17 karma

DanKois--I just noticed this was you!

DavidPlotz16 karma

Original. The black cherry is gross. The peach is vile.

DavidPlotz18 karma

Also, I have a question for you. We're doing a live Gabfest tomorrow night in D.C. at Sixth and I (tickets still available!), and we haven't settled on an interesting/fun third topic. If you have an idea for us, tell me here.

bradspahn16 karma

Can you tell us more about what your marriage with Hanna Rosin? As a feminist dude, I feel like there aren't many examples of really equal marriages that involve two careers and multiple kids, but it sounds like yours really is very equal. Also interested in your "philosophical reasons" for why you don't think couples should live together before marrying.

DavidPlotz21 karma

bradspahn, Second question first: I discourage couples from living together before marriage when they can, for this reason. If you don't live together before marriage, when you get married, you start together fully anew. It is a complete clean start. And it enables you--or perhaps compels you--to overlook the annoying habits your spouse undoubtedly has that would infurirate you had you been living together beforehand. If you discover, once you move in together after marriage, that your wife cannot properly load a dishwasher (which she still can't!), that doesn't cause a fight, a schism, a point of friction. It is just a small fact that you must adjust to, because you're married. People who live together are constantly being rubbed up against their partner's minor flaws and annoying habits, and it wears on them. I like moving in after marriage because it trivializes the trivial.

Hanna Rosin is amazing, but you know that. I don't know that our marriage is really equal. It is more that the inequalities flow back and forth. We don't split things 50/50 or anything like that. It is that there are periods when I have more responsibility for the kids and periods when she does, periods when my career is front and center and periods when hers is. And we are pretty good about watching out for each other. We've just come out of a period where Hanna has been traveling a huge amount for her book, and it's clear that she'll be a bit more domestic in the coming months, and I may be less. I don't think it occurs to either of us that our own career or life is more important than the other's. We went into marriage knowing that, and we've done a pretty good job sticking to it. Plus, we have incredibly generous parents who help out, and a great babysitter, and great friends, and wonderful children, all of which simplify the complexities of family and work life.

webdevcrazy16 karma

What was the most unexpected thing you learnt from reading the whole bible?

DavidPlotz40 karma

God--what a jerk! I was unprepared for the essentially unpleasant, rageaholic nature of my God. I assumed there was some lovingkindness in there somewhere--I know the Christians have that--but there was very very little. On the other hand, the most admirable people in the book are the people who argue with this implacable, rageful, irrational deity (abraham, Job, Gideon, Moses).

Also, basically every woman in the Bible is a prostitute.

DavidPlotz16 karma

Dear Reddit, Thanks for a lovely couple of hours. See you over at Slate, or at the live Gabfest tomorrow night. Love Plotz

bluthru15 karma

Hi David, I love the Slate podcasts and look forward to the political gabfest every week. (You're never allowed to stop.)

Currently, the Slate website doesn't have the same pleasurable user experience as the podcasts. The social sharing widgets are fixed and stare you in the face and the comments seem to be bursting at the seems with bored fox news readers. In other words, I think your current web site is devaluing the Slate brand.

Thinking outside of the website box, something like "The Magazine" would be a great companion for reading Slate:


DavidPlotz14 karma

Thanks for the tough love criticism. I will look. We are heading into a redesign, so it's good to see models that our readers admire.

Notoriousj_o_e13 karma

Hi David. I love Slate and your podcasts, but they all seem to be a very east coast centric. Are there any plans to expand the scope of either (A west coast Slate office?), and is Emily Bazelon as adorable in person as she seems on the podcast?

abetacular11 karma

Definitely interested in this - I'm an avid listener in Chicago, previously from California, and the mentality that you, Emily and John share seems extremely East Coast-centric. That's somewhat inevitable since NYC and DC are there, but I think someone living outside that bubble would have a really interesting perspective.

DavidPlotz15 karma

Notorious, pdonahue, abetacular Thanks for this thread. Definitely the worst thing about my job is that I spend WAY too much time sitting in my office answering email, and way too little time going interesting places and meeting new people--especially people who don't run in my world. It makes me narrow! Slate is certainly concentrated in NY and DC, but have staff in Ohio and California, too. I don't think Slate is any more blinkered than any media outlet is.

On my Romney prediction--that actually reflects a different character flaw. I am a happy person who is an innate pessimist. I assume the worst will happen, and so I am rarely disappointed. Assuming that Romney would win--an undesirable outcome, in my view--was that at work. I even made actual bets on Romney winning, as a form of emotional hedge.

prophetben13 karma

David, I'm really amazed at how good the Political Gabfest is. You guys make it sound so easy, but I've listened to enough other podcasts to know you guys have put a lot of work into making it super special. How were the three of you picked as regular members of the gabfest. You all have great voices for "radio," I love that all three of you have very distinct voices. Was that intentional?

DavidPlotz11 karma

Thank you, prophetben, Not intentional! In fact, a lot of people can't tell John and me apart. Excep t they realize I am the one who sounds like an idiot, and John sounds wise.

alma911 karma

What is your favorite publication other than Slate (or one of your favorites)?

DavidPlotz16 karma

As an editor, I envy and adore New York magazine, which we subscribe to even though we live in D.C. It is perfect as a magazine--beautiful, always clever, bold, provocative, fun. I read the New York Times more than I read anything.

gchidi9 karma

Here's one: David, you have a masthead with 62 names on it. After a quick, crude and perhaps imprecise examination, I find one -- the recent-intern Aisha Harris, is African-American. One -- Blaine Sheldon -- is Latino.

We just re-elected an African-American president, and Slate has published several pieces about the increasing power of the multi-racial Democratic coalition. And yet ... Slate's staff is demographically less diverse than the Republican Party.

Now, don't get me wrong. I like The Root. But it's the publishing equivalent of telling people at a party about how many black friends you have. How do you expect to get stories that accurately reflect the society you cover when you have a staff that has no cultural connection to the South, to communities of color or to people who don't live outside of New York and Washington D.C?

DavidPlotz7 karma

This is a fair point. We're a whiter, urbane-er, coastal-er staff than is ideal. We undoubtedly miss or misperceive stories because of this.

NinjaDiscoJesus9 karma

What did you think of the inauguration speech yesterday?

DavidPlotz17 karma

perhaps because I have lived in DC for so very long, I have been exhausted with speeches. Any politician worth a dime can deliver a great speech, and most of them can write them. But so what? It is very very very rare, vanishingly rare, for a political speech to make a difference in the world. Politiical change never happens because someone makes a nice speech calling for it. It happens because poltiicians and interest groups commit political capital and labor and money. The Obama speech was a moving, effective speech, well delivered. I don't think anyone will remember it in a week, much less in a year. Can you remember anything he said at his first inauguration? I can't.

fblom8 karma

I started reading Slate because of Hitch. Can you tell us a memory unedited about him?

DavidPlotz14 karma

We would have lunch once a year to reaffirm the Slate/Hitch partnership. My favorite was one--perhaps in 2009--when he had me over to his apartment in the Wyoming. The lunch was sausages, wine, and Hitchens talking to me for about 2 hours about his childhood, and his awful boarding school. I hadn't realized till then how much of his hatred of arbitrary authority and abusive authority came from the childhood experience of a brutal, arbitrary school.

JaSmiths8 karma

Hi David, I have loved Slate for a really long time. I would love to intern for you guys but cannot afford an unpaid internship. Are there any plans to pay interns in the future?

DavidPlotz5 karma

We pay our summer interns, which is a start. We still don't pay our termtime interns because we use students. Send me an email and see if we can figure something out.

brenbuescher8 karma

Slate has an awesome staff - How would you describe your leadership philosophy and your management style?

DavidPlotz7 karma

brenbuescher, or as I like to call you, "mom":

Editing Slate is very easy, because it mostly involves getting out of the way! Mike Kinsley had a rule when he started Slate: No assholes. We have stuck hard to that. Like Mike and Jacob Weisberg, my predecessors, I think my most important job is hiring people with the right sensibility--smart, funny, bold, energetic--and watching them do wonderful things. We tend to hire best available players rather than positions.

komputerwelt7 karma

What's your stance on the elections in Israel today?

DavidPlotz14 karma

Incredibly depressed. My wife is Israeli and has lots of relatives over there, and it has become harder and harder to visit. I don't see how Israel backs away from the settler-driven, expansionist, occupationist path it is on. .

Notoriousj_o_e7 karma

What is one book from the bible you think everyone should read regardless of their religious preference?

DavidPlotz12 karma

Easy. The Book of Ruth. A lovely lovely short story. Like a Jane Austen story. If you like it, it will be a gateway to tougher books with more god in them. If you don't, you've only wasted 15 minutes.

MrJM7 karma

Any chance of adding any comics in addition to Doonesbury?

DavidPlotz6 karma

ANy suggestions?

DavidPlotz6 karma

Hi AMAers--I have to take a 45 minute break for a meeting, but will be back to answer some more questions after 3. Thanks Plotz

UVdogastrophe6 karma

Other than your fellow Gabfest panelists and your wife, who is the most enjoyable person at Slate with which to argue/discuss political and societal issues?

DavidPlotz5 karma

Love this question! I have the great good fortune to share a hallway with the following murderer's row: Josh Levin, Bill Smee, John Dickerson, Will Dobson, Matt Yglesias, Dan Kois, Will Saletan, Dave Weigel. It is heaven for argument!

For pure office BSing, I would say Yglesias. I love economic thinking applied to noneconomic problems, and Matt does that better than anyone I know. But really, every single person at Slate is someone I would happily squabble with.

sdkstl6 karma

I'm a reader since launch & was a subscriber. Two questions: 1) Would you charge again for Slate? 2) The online magazine field is a lot more crowded than when Slate first launched. How would you describe its role in today's media landscape?

DavidPlotz9 karma

Sdkstl Thanks for reading for so long, and subscribing back in the day. 1. I don't see Slate charging subscriptions. But I can easily see us having a membership program, where we would charge for a membership that would offer special benefits like private events, or free tickets to live Gabfests and the like. But not a subscription. 2. For a long long time, Slate was in a category of one, or maybe 2 (with salon), the online only magazine. What's been wonderful in the past 7 years has been the emergence of so many healthy, clever, innovative online only sites that are not principally news sites, and the online success of traditional magazines like the atlantic. The health of the category has been good for all of us. There is more advertising, and more readers who now get to read across sites (Slate AND the Atlantic AND HuffPo AND Daily Beast AND Gawker...). More competition has been good for all of us, and forced us to innovate constantly. It has also made us realize that we have to stick to our comparative advantage: Slate is smart and funny. THat is what we do best. We hew to that, and succeed. We have added categories--we do a ton more science than we used to. We change writers and editors. But we stick to that. And the results have been good. Our audience has been growing very rapidly.

mcfors6 karma

Who is your favorite vendor at the Dupont Farmer's Market?

DavidPlotz6 karma

Heinz (sp?), the Swiss guy who sells amazing, unfashionable vegetables. I love his uncompromising ethos, and the kale kills. What about you?

mcfors2 karma

Is that the bearded guy at Next Step Produce? Great place. I also like the second apples from Toigo Orchards (only 99 cents a pound) and eggs from someone named Tom - he's stationed near Atwater Bakery and the singing Street Sense woman.

DavidPlotz2 karma

Yup, next step.

jlansner6 karma

Are there any plans to do a super gabfest, with you guys, the Culturefest team, the HUAL team and the Double X team all together?

DavidPlotz5 karma

We hope so. Gabfestapalooza.

Hypatio5 karma

Does it hurt inside how Emily almost always has more insightful commentary on the gabfest? Whereas your views are predictably contrarian, she is capable of backing up her views with facts and legal opinions. Not to mention a more pleasant sounding voice. Is that why you bully her so much? Maybe the inner peace of a Panda can inspire you to persevere.

/Needed to be asked. I do enjoy your banter and opinions though;)

DavidPlotz14 karma

Hi Emily!

amgowada5 karma

How does working with gab-festers affect your relationship with them as their boss?

DavidPlotz5 karma

That's probably a better question for John and Emily. They are both joys to work with. We have been doing the show long enough, and are good enough friends in real life, that I suspect they don't trim their sails around me. I hope they don't. God knows I deserve to be smacked down most of the time.

WrigleyJohnson5 karma

What made you switch from being a DOJ paralegal to a journalist?

DavidPlotz8 karma

That was definitely the best career error I made. When I graduated from college, I thought I wanted to be a lawyer, so I took a job as a paralegal at the Department of Justice to see what lawyers did all day. I loathed it. Two days after I started, I was desperate to leave.

I sent my resume (college newspaper and bad college clips) to 93 newspapers around the country. Only one, the Winston Salem Journal, offered me an interview, and then a job. The week of my Winston Salem interview, I saw a job opening at the Washington City Paper, the alt-weekly in DC, and sent my resume and my undergraduate thesis, which was about Marion Barry, The editor, Jack Shafer was intrigued by the Barry thesis, and offered me a job, which i took. I covered DC politics for Jack--the most difficult and rewarding job I can imagine.

johnsemlak5 karma


I continue to be fascinated by the 47% video and it's perceived impact on the election. What would Slate have done if you had tracked down this video rather than Mother Jones; and do you have any comments on how Mother Jones handled the story?

DavidPlotz8 karma

We would have aired it! I hope we would have handled the story with the courage and intelligence that MoJo did. That was a tremendous scoop, deftly handled.

jjmccullough5 karma

Do people call you "Plotz" or "David" in day-to-day conversation around the office? I notice on the podcasts people sometimes make what appear to be revealing slips of the tongue.

DavidPlotz5 karma

Both. Increasingly PLOTZ because we just hired a third David.

ihniwmansb4 karma

What is John Dickerson really like?

DavidPlotz17 karma

MrJM and ihniwmansb, John was actually hand carved out of black rhino horn, then brought to life with an incantation involving spider webs by a benevolent witch. He can do only good in the world, and eats only cotton candy. John is more or less how he seems. Very smart, superhard worker, very funny in a disarming way. Excellent guitarist. Talks too much about Dylan.

epitaxy4 karma

As a fan of Slate and bloggingheads.tv, I was happy to see Slate promoting new bloggingheads videos. I was hoping that this alliance would lead to more Slate contributors being on diavlogs. But it looks like this stopped in October. Am I correct that bloggingheads is no longer associated with Slate?

DavidPlotz4 karma

For the moment, no. Bob Wright remains a close friend to slate, but that relationship is on hiatus.

bluepast4 karma


You have expressed on many a gabfest that you lean towards first amendment absolutism and more than most, you seem willing to seek out profitability for you company on the internet

As someone who both sees the internet as a unmatched tool for freedom of expression and as a please of commerce, what adjustments to the current laws governing internet (either more/less or updates to current) would you like to see our government embrace over the new few years?

DavidPlotz7 karma

I would like to see a major change to copyright/ip laws, with sharp restrictions on the rights of copyright holders of older works.

bfrunner3 karma


DavidPlotz5 karma

I felt like I had jumped into an icy pond. I knew it was coming, but it was a shock nonetheless.

plusroyaliste3 karma

I read Slate every day and my favorite contributor is Dave Weigel, mainly wanted to encourage you to keep him around.

My general question is to what extent pageviews drive decisions about subject matter to report on at Slate? Obviously there's a basic commercial consideration but there are some red meat topics (ie. marijuana) that are known to drive page views and that some online outlets focus on to get that traffic. Is that a major incentive when stories get pitched and, if so, how do you balance that against not wanting to report disproportionately on subjects whose importance doesn't necessarily correlate with their popularity?

DavidPlotz3 karma

Like all of our competitors, we carefully track metrics. I can tell you that 33,603 people were on Slate 10 seconds ago, and 2,910 of them were reading a piece about Google. And one of my major goals--and one that my bosses inparticular judge me on--is attracting more readers to Slate. So we are constantly looking for ways to increase our audience. That said, Slate's comparative advantage is wit and intelligence, so we often make our biggest gains from our smartest stories. That's not to say that a traffic-whoring piece about a celebrity breakdown won't get traffic, and that's not to say we won't run such pieces, but in general, the smarter we are, the better we do. The key way you get traffic is not writing sleazy stories, it is writing MORE stories. The most important thing we do to increase our audience is to publish more. More enticements of more different kinds brings in more readers. (For example, we recently added Phil Plait's Bad Astronomy Blog, which has brought us a bumper crop of very smart, lively, science and astronomy-minded readers.)

arthurprescott23 karma


Would you be willing to have an uber-podcast with Josh Levine, Stephen Metcalf, and yourself one day? Or would that be too much alpha-male in one room? Would Josh be relegated to beta-male status due to his milder personality? Would Metcalf be a domineering brow-beating intellectual or the nerd in the corner? There are too many interesting possibilities not to explore this at least once!

Also could do another cross-over podcast with the secondary members: Fatsis, Stevens, and Bazelon - where Fatsis and Stevens debate boardgames and Emily moderates.

DavidPlotz6 karma

We have considered have a Supercast, where we do a live show of ALL the podcasts.

Cassius62 karma

Hi David, huge fan of the Gabfest/Slate. Two questions:

1) Do you think the Dems would be better positioned to negotiate a compromise on Social Security and take a harder line on student loan reform, considering seniors almost never vote for Democrats and the Dems have far more political sway with younger voters?

2) I'm a polisci student. Any chance I can work at Slate in any way? I really love your work. Thanks!

DavidPlotz3 karma

It may be the case that seniors vote for Republicans as a whole, but still 40-50 percnt of them vote for democrats. They also give a lot of money. Dems cannot afford to throw them away: They vote in such huge numbers and in such key states, that Dems have to keep them in play. That said, I WISH that one party would go harder against seniors. It would make our poltiics healthier.

lgold342 karma

Dumb question, but just curious - in the gabfest you introduce yourself as Slate editor and Emily Bazelon as senior editor. Which title is higher?

DavidPlotz5 karma

Ha! I'm the editor. Sometimes I call myself editor in chief to make this cleared. I am in charge of the editorial side of Slate, so Emily (and John) are lower on the masthead.

likepigs4 karma

I've heard Josh Levin call himself "number 3." Who is second in command?

DavidPlotz6 karma

Julia Turner, Slate's Deputy Editor.

Lubaf1 karma

Is there any interesting longform stuff in the Slate pipeline that you can talk about?

DavidPlotz2 karma

Lots of great stuff coming, but I think people will kill me if I preview their projects.