Hi, I’m Emily Bazelon, a senior editor at Slate and the author of a new book, "Sticks and Stones: Defeating the Culture of Bullying and Rediscovering the Power of Character and Empathy." I also teach at Yale Law School, where one of my classes is designed around comparing the ethics of lawyers and journalists. Some might call that a race to the bottom, but I try to persuade my students otherwise. I write about the Supreme Court and, when I’m lucky, TV shows like Friday Night Lights and Breaking Bad. I’m also partial to dark topics with hope at the end of the tunnel, like restitution for child pornography victims, which I wrote about for the New York Times Magazine. I love Thursdays because I get to tape the Slate Political Gabfest with John Dickerson and David Plotz. (We’re doing a live show in New York on March 21.) Oh, and when I went on The Colbert Report to talk about my book, I made Stephen Colbert cry.

I’m happy to answer whatever questions you have about Slate, the Gabfest, my book, law school, and the thrill of being a guest on Colbert.

Comments: 142 • Responses: 31  • Date: 

LewAlcindor26 karma

I know you're not in charge of this but I thought if I told enough Slate contributors something might be done. Your comments section is usually filled with some of the more intelligent discussions online but the application itself is horrible. Any way that you guys can join 2013 and have it sortable by things like "oldest first" and "most replies"?


-A frustrated Slate reader

EmilyBazelon16 karma

I will pass this along. Sorry for the frustration and thank you for sticking with us! Comment sections are hard to get right.

butimthrown21 karma

Now that Phil Plait is on Slate, is there any chance you'll expand science coverage to the point that we might get a Slate Science Gabfest?

[edited: fixed typo]

EmilyBazelon22 karma

oh that's such a good idea--will suggest to our podcast maestro, Andy Bowers. As long as I never have to reveal to Phil how very little I know about astronomy.

EmilyBazelon20 karma

Hey Reddit folks, I loved doing this AMA--thanks for making it so fun! Maybe I'll get to come back sometime. It's been a pleasure.


ryanlindly16 karma

Despite the recent studies you have mentioned suggesting that being bullied while young can have detrimental effects for over a decade, we still have a trope about the bullied being somehow more empathetic, resilient, and well-rounded as an adult. At the same time, when an adult commits a heinous crime, it's often reported that that person was bullied a child, as though that explains something about their actions. How does the reality of the adult who was bullied as a child generally compare to those extremes we often render? How do you account for the persistence of these both positive and negative views of the post-bullying adult?

Thanks for doing this. I love the gabfest and look forward to reading your book.

EmilyBazelon10 karma

hey thank you--we love our gabfest listeners! Very astute point you are making. Victims of bullying do have higher rates of anxiety and depression and suicidal thinking as adults. And sometimes they lash out later, like children who are abused at home do. But most of the time, they ARE resilient, and they do recover. So we have to hold on to both of those truths at the same time: Most kids recover, but some don't, and that's why this is an issue worth taking seriously.

jump_the_snark14 karma

What are your thoughts on law schools being sued for misrepresenting labor stats of graduates? And generally, on the future of law education?

EmilyBazelon14 karma

It's a really interesting transitional moment. I'm all for outing the schools that sold students on amassing debt by inflating their numbers of post-grad employment and salaries. I'm also intrigued by the idea of a 2 year degree plus apprenticeship, or year of clinical education. In my experience, clinics and internships were extremely worthwhile.

bassnectarhead11 karma

I really enjoy the Political Gabfest and the sunny disposition you bring to it.

What are your thoughts about the VRA? Do you really think SCOTUS will repeal section 5? And what would the practical effects of that be?

EmilyBazelon10 karma

Oh, poor Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act--it looked like Kennedy, Alito, Scalia, Roberts, and silently Thomas were ready to kill it yesterday at the Supreme Court. Charlie Savage has a good piece in the NYT today about the practical effects and I've written about this in Slate. Basically, the biggest impact will be felt in ways that are pretty invisible: Small counties and cities moving polling places, or curtailing early voting, or changing voting hours in ways that could disproportionally affect minority voters. Instead of DOJ reviewing before these changes can go into effect, it will be on the voters to sue afterward. That's a higher bar.

camtns10 karma

Hi Emily, thanks for an amazing podcast, great articles, and what looks to be a fantastic book. Best of luck.

My question: Slate suffers from a real dearth of voices from people of color. It's really pretty shocking for such a large staff of writers. I think this is Slate's greatest weakness. Both you (at the Seattle live gabfest) and David Plotz (in his Reddit AmA) have acknowledged that Slate recognizes this is a problem, but from what I can tell (and from what I hear and read) Slate has done nothing about it. We are all missing important perspectives. What is Slate doing to change this?

EmilyBazelon16 karma

You're right, we should be working on this. I don't hire, so I'm not directly involved. I think that this isn't just about Slate: it's also about the education pipeline, and about the state of journalism. It's became a shakier field and that means it's harder for young ppl who don't have a lot of family wealth--more often true for minorities--to take a chance on it.

andrembrown9 karma

Hi Emily, really big fan of the Gabfest here.

What do you think the most likely outcome will be of the landmark gay marriage case (Hollingsworth v. Perry) heading to the Supreme Court next month? With the court being so conservative, is it still likely that Justice Kennedy will be the swing vote in favor of gay marriage?

As my law professor loves to say, it's just Anthony Kennedy's world, and we're all living in it.

EmilyBazelon7 karma

yes that is a favorite AK saying. you know, I didn't want Perry to go up to Scotus -- the case has always made me nervous bec it's so far-reaching. I'm with Obama on this one: better for gay marriage to become legal through state legislators and voters. BUT I have to say I'm feeling more hopeful that AK won't mess this up. The amicus brief that some prominent Republicans are filing in favor of gay marriage should help. And also, there are a couple of ways the court could find in favor of gay marriage without ordering it for the entire country, which I think would be overreaching. So I'm hoping for one of those outcomes.

Sea-Man8 karma

Hi Emily, What would a better way to prosecute sexual assault? The conviction rates in the US are appallingly low, and I was hoping you had some perspective on what might be a better way to go about it. Is there a feasible alternative in the US?

Also, don't listen to David, your cocktail chatters are great

EmilyBazelon7 karma

Don't worry, I only listen to David when he's right. Which does happen every once in a while. You know, sexual assault is just a conundrum: often no witnesses, and the physical evidence often can't determine whether or not there was consent. I don't know the answer to your good comparative law question but I'm gonna put it on my list of things to look into when I have a moment to breathe after book craziness!

MSkog8 karma

With regard to Sticks and Stones:

She also dispels persistent myths...that harsh criminal penalties are an effective deterrent.

Is there any top-down approach that can help ameliorate the issue of bullying?

What misconception about bullying is the largest hurdle to effectively addressing the problem?

EmilyBazelon9 karma

Some states laws, like the one in Massachusetts, do a pretty good job pushing schools toward evidence-based prevention. That should mean not a one-shot assembly or Day of Unity or whatever, but continuous work through the year. It's like a garden: you can celebrate the planting but then you have to keep watering.

billmelater8 karma

As a high school teacher, I hear quite a bit of and about bullying, which frustrates and disappoints. In your Fresh Air interview you spoke of the importance of a guidance counselors getting involved in such conflicts. While we have many resources devoted to punishing bullying (especially of the cyber variety) we don't have any real conversations about it. Unfortunately, most attention in my district is given to response rather than prevention. What role, if any, do you see a teacher playing in raising awareness among students? Should we keep this like our (mandated) sex-education policy, and just assume that the parents will handle it? Thanks so much, and don't let David give you any garbage, your cocktail chatter is always trenchant and entertaining.

EmilyBazelon11 karma

Oh, so nice to hear that David is alone in dissing my cocktail chatter, at least today. I am SO with you about prevention rather than punishment. To me what makes most sense is that at a young age, schools need to help kids learn to regulate and express emotions. That's at the foundation of bullying, right? This isn't all on schools: it should start at home and really most of the responsibility falls to parents. After all, empathy is something you can talk about at the dinner table--it's about asking your kid to imagine herself in someone else's shoes. But schools increasingly raise our kids along w us, so this is where I'd like to see them invest the most resources. I'm a fan of social and emotional learning--see the CASEL website for more.

jmoyer7 karma

Do you believe there's any reform needed for the Supreme Court, such as term limits or more justices? Do you think any such reforms are even possible?

EmilyBazelon21 karma

I'm a big fan of term limits. I like the 18 year limit, which would pretty quickly give each president 2 picks. Seems about right. And it would mean that we wouldn't have a small number of people making such huge decisions for the country for decade upon decade. When the framers came up w life tenure, life spans were a lot shorter.

Hellohappy12347 karma

What do you define as bullying exactly? Where is the line?

I mean, Slate publishes articles all the time that could offend people. This article below just compared pageant girls to prostitution. Another article is basically "Hey EVERYONE! Look at the dumb criminal!"

The point I am trying to make is: there seems to be some sort of notion that bullying is only when kids do it, but when adults do it, its just journalism or free speech. Do you feel like legistative reactions to bullying could in fact then cause overt censorship?



EmilyBazelon21 karma

Bullying doesn't mean offending someone. It's physical or verbal abuse that's repeated over time and involves a power imbalance--one person lording it over another, chronically, to make the other person miserable. Criticism and mockery online is different, right? It can be hurtful, sure, but there's no evidence it creates an increased risk of lasting psychological harm, which is true of bullying defined properly.

BudLeonard7 karma

How did you transition from being a lawyer and teacher to a lawyer, teacher, and journalist? How do you balance the two, and what advice would you give to recent law school graduates who are looking to diversify their career options?

EmilyBazelon7 karma

I worked as a reporter at a small newspaper in CA after college--the kind of entry level job that barely exists now--and then I went to law school bec I felt stuck and also because I just wanted more education. I didn't plan to practice law though I was open to that possibility. For me, law school has been hugely helpful. It gave me a way to ask questions, a framework for understanding, and a whole world to write about. I think the tricky part is taking the risk of jumping out of the queue of regular legal work. One way to do that is incrementally, by freelancing, so you can try your hand at writing professsionally before going for it FT.

Learned_Hand_016 karma

If you could choose one member of the Supreme Court to immediately resign, who would you choose, and why?

As a followup, who would win in a knife fight, you or Dahlia Lithwick?

EmilyBazelon5 karma

Dahlia is smarter and savvier than me--she would win!

catsinpajams6 karma


EmilyBazelon9 karma

No, everyone has not been bullied. If you use a limited defintion, like the one I posted earlier, then this is not normal, majority behavior. It affects 10 to 25 percent of kids--including bullies, victims, and kids who are both--and that's been true for the last decades. What's different now is the Internet, which can make bullying feel 24/7, and which also makes parents of my generation nervous bec we didn't grow up w it, so we're having to figure out the effect on our kids without having gone through it ourselves.

EmilyBazelon5 karma

oh but also wanted to say, not a boneheaded qu at all. Important one!

Jolimont5 karma

I really enjoy your work, thank you. How do you put up with Plotz?

EmilyBazelon12 karma

I love that in Plotz's AMA, someone asked him why he gives me a hard time on the gabfest, and he asked if it was me writing in. (Not.) Now in my AMA, I'm getting all the sympathy. You know, I love David (and John too of course). I mean really. I've been known to bring tissues into his office bec he's someone I can safely cry to. He's also one of the smartest people I know, so he always make my work sharper. And of course the show would be no fun if he didn't take shots!

ArchibaldLeach5 karma

You teach at Yale law school. Out of curiosity, are you aware of the current debacle in legal academia (schools using a methodology that doesn't prepare their students for a life as a lawyer, charging tuition that has skyrocketed because freely available, non-regulated student loans, i.e. no caps, that are the only non-dischargeable form of debt in this country? That they are have been graduating 2 lawyers for every available job for a decade now)? Just wondering since you are a journalist.

ArchibaldLeach4 karma

Mostly answered here, thanks. Although I have disagree with you, as an attorney, re internships. We should pay tuition of around $25 grand a semester for the pleasure of giving free labor? Internships are largely the playground of the rich and a run around the wage laws of this country, What was once a small exception to labor laws has been taken advantage of to a grotesque degree. Honestly, only out of touch boomers or people who can take advantage of the free labor think this has been a good change in American life.

But yes....more clinics and one year less of school are good ideas. Still would like to hear your thoughts on skyrocketing tuition based solely on non-dischargeable loans.

EmilyBazelon9 karma

I don't think students should pay $25k a year for internships either. Maybe the better word is apprenticeships. They should pay a stipend or at least be for free. Skyrocketing tuition worries me enormously. It risks turning the federal student loan program into a cash cow for fancy buildings and faculty salaries and gimmes. Bad news.

SmashBoomPow4 karma

Hi Emily!

I was wondering if you could talk about what to you, as an editor, makes a story "Slate"? That is, what are the topics, themes, undercurrents, etc. that you are looking for in a pitch that make a story right for Slate and not particularly another publication? Thanks very much for your time!

EmilyBazelon3 karma

My feeling is, we look for one of two things: a fresh and surprising take on a big news story, or a tale of some quirky or odd or touching thing you've never heard of. In Jurisprudence, the column I edit, I sometimes err on the wonky side but always look for pitches and submissions with clear explanation. I want people who aren't lawyers to be able to read those pieces without getting any kind of a headache.

prophetben3 karma

I'm a huge fan of the podcast and your Supreme Court reporting. While, I'm not a parent, the subject of bullying interests me. I saw the documentary Bully that came out in 2011 and it kind of blew me away that kids are so horrible to each-other these days. My question is what's your pitch to me to buy your book. From what I've heard your book has a "how-to" approach to dealing with bullying which seems like would appeal mostly to parents and educators. Did you write the book just for them, or also for childless non-educators who are generally interested in sociological trends?

EmilyBazelon6 karma

oh so glad you asked. I did write the book for parents, educators, and teeangers--my dearest hope is that kids will read it, at home w parents or at school. For you: There's lots of psychology and sociology in it, and here's a big thought: Violence is down in our society, and so we have the wherewithal to concentrate more on psychological harm. Bullying is a significant form of it, so let's see what makes sense in this arena. And also a storytelling pitch: the book is mostly a narrative, and it will make you think about your own growing up. Not in a bad way, but evocatively. Or so I hope.

EmilyBazelon6 karma

Is that at all convincing?

Girrlkitty3 karma

As a modern journalist, how do you find the balance between edit and sales. I'm in the business as well, and there used to be a very firm line between the two, but recent years have seen it blurring, with publishers not outright demanding stories, but there is a lot more... "collaboration" than there used to be, it seems. Editorial isn't completely separate anymore. How do you feel about that, since at the end of the day, publications can't go out unless they make money, but have we gone too far in that direction? What steps would you like to see taken in mainstream media to try and reverse that trend?

EmilyBazelon7 karma

I think the most important thing is clear disclosure. Advertorials are OK if they're in different fonts or colors--clear visual signs that this is different territory. We're not going back to the world of brighter lines bec the media business has just changed--newspapers were profitable bec of the marriage of news to display and classified advertising, which is over. But yes super important for readers to know what's what.

Cannae2163 karma

Which is your favorite Yale a cappella group?

EmilyBazelon5 karma

The Slavic Women's Chorus! I just hope it still exists.

thunderlips1212 karma

Emily, it's my birthday on March 21 and I will be at the live show. Can I get a shout out??

EmilyBazelon5 karma

If we start doing this, how will we ever stop? But hey, send a note to us at [email protected].

UVdogastrophe2 karma

What is your favorite and least favorite thing about living in New Haven?

EmilyBazelon7 karma

I love my neighborhood and the Italian grocer on my corner. I don't like how I can't ever flip off bad drivers -- too small a town, might know them!

tompen2 karma

In your experience (I think I've seen you on twice), how much of the Colbert interviews are edited to make him look good? Is he really as spontaneously brilliant and funny as he appears? Or is it the magic of good editing to make good television?

EmilyBazelon6 karma

Each time I've been on, the segment has been edited to make it work best at TV. It's more about helping the guest look better than helping SC. And yes he really is incredibly quick and smart. What strikes me most when I'm in the studio is the energy level it takes to do that show night after night. It's electric.

mazaui0 karma

Have you ever looked into the possibility of women being more biologically inclined towards empathy versus men?

In my life (anecdotally, of course) I've noticed that women in my life tend to be more empathetic than men, and therefore in my opinion they make the world a much better place. As a man, I try and act more empathetic, but it is increasingly hard to with all of societal pressures pushing me towards the traditional "manhood."

EmilyBazelon11 karma

So you started w biology and ended w social pressures. Why assume the first when the second is so apparent?

fricks_and_stones0 karma

How big of a problem is sexism in the modern journalism world. I’m male, and whenever I listen to the Politcal Gabfest; I find myself thinking through the same series of three thoughts: A) This Emily Bazelon women is amazing; she’s extremely smart, articulate, and successful, and at the same time she exudes a very youthful, attractive, and approachable persona. Which leads me think B) Wow, I’m kind of sexist. Which leads me to C) Maybe that’s a requirement for female in the media; a double standard requiring them to be both intelligent and attractive.

EmilyBazelon12 karma

Forget that this is about me, bec that's embarrassing--why is this sexist? I can see that it could be sexual, but if a woman had the same feeling about David or John, would we think twice about it?

shifty_sam-3 karma

My lunch break every day: Slate + Reddit. So, this is perfect. I was really pumped recently when Hanna Rosin answered my question in an AMA. And now you're here too!

QUESTION: Will you also answer this question so that I have a Slate twofer?

EmilyBazelon3 karma

How can I resist! Happy lunch.

mikefromtulsa-6 karma

In your "The Last Shot" article you promoted "Ban[ning] the sale of rapid-fire ammunition." Are you aware that there is no such thing as "rapid-fire ammunition"? Ammunition is just ammunition. You can shoot it in any gun chambered for that round. A .308 round can be shot in a bolt action (single shot) rifle or in a fully automatic machine gun. What were you trying to refer to when you said you want to ban the sale of rapid-fire ammunition?

EmilyBazelon5 karma

yeah I meant ammunition that can be rapidly fired. Large magazine clips. Better?