Hey everyone, it's me, Leon — I host the podcast Slow Burn from Slate Magazine.

In Season 1, I tried to capture what it was like to live through Watergate, and now with Season 2, I'm doing the same thing with the saga of Bill Clinton’s impeachment.

You can ask me anything about my reporting for either season, or some of the many bonus episodes we've released for Slate Plus members. I'll be here answering questions from 12:00 PM - 1:30 PM Eastern.

Oh, and here's my proof: https://twitter.com/SlatePodcasts/status/1034564867250970624

EDIT: Thanks for all the questions -- this was really fun! Look out for our new episode next Wednesday, September 12.

Comments: 74 • Responses: 22  • Date: 

FrigOffCyrus13 karma

During the Watergate series, I kept hearing your commentary and thinking, "Hmm, this sounds familiar..." referring to the current day and administration serving. For instance, the episode dealing with Spiro Agnew seemed incredibly poignant. "If you get rid of Nixon, you have to deal with Agnew..." seems eerily similar and paralleling a lot of arguments I see today regarding Trump and Pence.

Was that the idea/your intention in wording as such? The Watergate series was so enlightening beyond what I learned in history classes throughout school, and I genuinely thought I knew the scandal well before listening to your pod. I haven't started the Clinton ones yet, but look forward to doing so. Great pod for long drives and the like, I have to say. Thanks for all your work!

slow_burn_pod16 karma

Thanks for listening! We definitely understood going into the project that there might be a few parallels between the Watergate era and right now -- our initial motive for starting the podcast was that we kept hearing people on the news reference Watergate, and we thought it'd be worth delving deep into what really happened. But then as we worked on the show we kept bumping into these extremely specific, sometimes downright uncanny echoes, and when the episodes started coming out, we noticed that people were responding to them.

At that point we had to make a decision about how explicit we wanted to be, and how much we wanted to try to actively seek out parallels. We decided a) that we wouldn't be explicit at all, because it would get annoying hearing me say "And that's kinda like Trump!" every 10 minutes, and b) that we would NOT try to find parallels that didn't present themselves to us naturally.

I think part of the reason the show resonated with listeners is that it was a way to think through / process the Trump administration without hearing Trump's name.

FrigOffCyrus2 karma

My final follow-up question is this: how much research did you perform/collect when you looked into the impeachment proceedings that began before Nixon resigned? I saw there was a lot and a lot of work done before the Senate GOP swooped in and convinced Nixon to resign as opposed to almost certainly being impeached and removed.

I happened to come upon it when reading about Hillary Clinton's early work on the committee. Also, I remember from a Rachel Maddow episode, that Bob Haldeman's recordings regarding Nixon seeking to pardon Haldeman would have been a separate article of impeachment by itself. I do not remember if that recording was covered during the series, but seemed interesting and that the House Judiciary Committee/Senate Watergate Committee/Special Prosecutor were all flabbergasted by Nixon being open to pardoning guys like Haldeman. Was that tape ever part of your research for the pod?

slow_burn_pod3 karma

Hmm... the practical answer to the question is "somewhat less research than we spent on everything else," for the simple reason that it was the end of the story and we were racing against the clock to get the finale done. We had to be pretty ruthless in terms of what we paid attention to / spend time on that point. But we got really lucky in that we spoke to two people -- Elizabeth Holtzman, who was on the House Judiciary Committee, and Elizabeth Drew, who wrote about it -- who were incredibly helpful to us. I also read an amazing dissertation on the impeachment proceedings by Benjamin Jonah Koch that was incredibly valuable.

slow_burn_pod10 karma

If I may throw something on the fire, so to speak, I'm curious what you all think after watching this teaser we just posted for next week's episode about Linda Tripp: https://twitter.com/Slate/status/1037310348158791680

PeterSagal8 karma

Hey, Leon. I am actually finding the new season even more compelling than the first, but for the same reason: weird echoes of the present. I have many questions, but the first: do you think the GOPers and allies who pursued Clinton for Whitewater and then the sex scandal were acting out of genuine moral/legal outrage, or were just gunning for Clinton with whatever ammo they could find?

slow_burn_pod9 karma

Hello Peter! Thanks so much for being so vocally enthusiastic about the show -- it means a lot. This question of whether Clinton's enemies were acting sincerely or opportunistically/cynically is one I think about a lot -- in a way it's the central question of the whole story. I think a) the answer is probably different depending on who we're talking about, and b) I bet the two motivations get mixed together in such a way that even the people being motivated by them don't really know what's going on. I will say that I was surprised to find how much of the Clintons' problems during the first year arose from decisions that made them LOOK like they were hiding something, even when they weren't. I think that made Clinton's critics sincerely suspicious, even when there was no "there there."

coryrenton6 karma

What software tools do you find most helpful in editing and assembling the podcast?

slow_burn_pod6 karma

I use Hindenburg and Trint when I'm working off of interviews, but our producer Andrew Parsons uses ProTools when he's laying up the show.

JustAFatYeti6 karma

I've followed Slow Burn since the beginning of the first season and loved every episode! If you were granted the resources to make a season or episode on any scandal or political moment of your choice what would it be and why?

slow_burn_pod7 karma

Who would be granting us the resources? If it was the universe, and it granted me access to dead people, I would say Teapot Dome. This thread from Dylan Matthews at Vox makes a good case for it: https://twitter.com/dylanmatt/status/1035285643209965568

slow_burn_pod6 karma

OK, Reddit! Need to log off now to continue recording next week's episode. Thanks for all the questions -- this was really fun

megan035 karma

Where do you get all of your resources and research material for the show?

Love the show btw, my coworker and I are hooked!

slow_burn_pod11 karma

Thank you! We read books, watch documentaries, dig through grand jury transcripts etc. We publish a full bibliography for each episode on Slate.com

Mix-Flagon5 karma

Another question:

I've noticed that speaking cadence in podcasting is very important. Ten-word sentences (usually less). What's your rule of thumb on this?

slow_burn_pod8 karma

Yeah, short sentences are really important! No subordinate clauses. As few names and digressions as possible. This was all stuff I learned while working on S1.

WearyRuin4 karma

What do you think of the chances that Kavanaugh will be confirmed?

slow_burn_pod6 karma


megan032 karma

Why do you think so? Do you think the Mueller investigation should halt the confirmation hearings?

slow_burn_pod7 karma

Honestly you shouldn't look to me for predictions. But mainly I think he will be confirmed bc there are more Republicans than Democrats in the Senate. Maybe I'm being cynical / uninformed but that seems determinative

Jamborenners4 karma

Do you like pineapple on pizza?

slow_burn_pod6 karma

Wouldn't throw a fit if I had to eat pineapple pizza but I do not seek it out

Mix-Flagon4 karma

Hey Leon! Former NYO staffer here—you've done good going from intern to podcasting maestro.

Please tell me about your process: E.g., what sort of plan do you have during the research stage to the actual recording and beyond? Do you have some sort of narrative arc that you keep in mind, or does it come at some point in the actual construction of the series?

And what journalism (print, video, podcasts) inspires/informs you?


EDIT: One more thing, how will you celebrate when Jared finally ends up in jail?

slow_burn_pod5 karma

Ohhhh am I allowed to ask who you are or is that against Reddit rules?

We started both seasons by putting together an outline of what needed to happen between episodes 1 and 8, and then divided the timeline into chunks that lent themselves to good opening scenes and cliffhangers. Step two is figuring out what each episode is ABOUT -- not just what happens in it, but what questions we're trying to answer. And step three -- which happens at the same time as step two, really -- is deciding which people we're going to use as our primary vehicles for each episode.

As an example, I knew from the jump that I wanted to do an episode on conspiracy theory during Watergate, but that episode didn't take shape until I learned about Mae Brussell and figured out what her story told us about how the country as a whole processed Watergate.

Re Jared, I'll be cautious about premature celebration after writing this before the election: http://www.slate.com/articles/news_and_politics/politics/2016/11/how_trump_son_in_law_jared_kushner_ruined_the_new_york_observer.html

spee774 karma

I’m loving this podcast, Leon, thank you! How long does it take to get each episode together? It seems like there is so much work behind each one. Also, other than the two main ‘characters’, who do you wish most you could have interviewed?

slow_burn_pod7 karma

So, it's hard to say how long each episode takes, because we work on all of them simultaneously. But I can tell you that the first day of research on S1 was 3 months before the first episode appeared, meaning we had a total of 5 months to work on it -- I was in the studio the night before the finale came out doing my final pickups and tweaks.

We started working on Season 2 in April, in hopes of having more episodes in the can by launch.

To your second question -- hmmm. I'm going to say Webster Hubbell, a close friend of both Hillary Clinton and Vincent Foster, who was charged by Ken Starr with (among other things) embezzling money from the Rose Law Firm.

enor_musprick4 karma

What is the origin of your last name?

slow_burn_pod6 karma

I was born in Russia and came to the US when I was 5. That said, I've been told my name sounds Middle Eastern! I've also been told that it might have been a Russification of the German words for "new fact," which I like but can't confirm...

Ralphisagreatchef4 karma

Hi! Thanks so much for doing this, I just started season two after binging all of season one.

I was curious, are there any other stories in a similar vein to the Martha Mitchell story that you discovered and were also sort of lost in the decades since Watergate that you weren’t able to fit into the podcast?

slow_burn_pod5 karma

Hmm -- we were THIS close to not using the story about Peter Rodino looking out the window after the impeachment vote thinking a kamikaze plane was headed for the Rayburn building. I was very happy we found a way to put that in. Ditto the story of the plane crash in NY that killed Howard Hunt's wife -- we ended up using that in S1E5, and I was v relieved we found a way to get it in.

With S2, I already know there are a couple of stories w're not gonna be able to use, but people who attend our live shows in October will get to hear them.

tjraph3 karma

What are the bonus episodes about?

slow_burn_pod3 karma

They're all about different things! But generally speaking I spend about 10 minutes chatting with my colleague Mary Wilson about how we made and thought about the "mainframe" episode that came out that week. Then we play an extended interview with someone relevant to the story we told in the corresponding mainframe episode. For instance, after Ep. 3, which focused on Paula Jones, we had an interview with Walter Dellinger, who was acting solicitor general under Clinton and argued on his behalf when the Jones case came in front of SCOTUS.

mookler3 karma

What's your favorite part about the podcast medium opposed to other platforms? (radio, tv, etc)

slow_burn_pod5 karma

That people can take it in while they're doing other stuff. This is not some genius insight but I really think this is the key to why podcasts are popular -- people just have hours in their days when they can't take in any other form of content

Stan_Mikitas_Donuts3 karma

Leon, This season of Slow Burn has been fantastic! How do you feel about Bill Clinton and the treatment of Monica Lewinsky through the lens of the Me Too & Times Up movement?

slow_burn_pod4 karma

Thank you! That's a big question -- I think I will let the season serve as my answer

uumlout3 karma

Have any criticisms of the show struck a nerve?

slow_burn_pod10 karma

I've gotten briefly peeved when people in DC have tried to stunt on me re: S2E1 by pointing out there's no movie theater in the Pentagon City Mall. They are right, there isn't -- but there was! http://cinematreasures.org/theaters/37256

Other than that no one has criticized the show tbh

unclePaddyJ3 karma

Hey Leon! Love the show!

Assuming the outcome of the Special Counsel's investigation into the current administration et al. is as "explosive(?)" as some may think, would that be what you cover in an upcoming season? Keep up the great work!

slow_burn_pod5 karma

Thanks! I actually think I wouldn't be able to do a good job on Trump -- at least not until 20 years have passed. So much of what makes Slow Burn fun to research and write is that the passage of time makes all these events looked warped and unfamiliar, and I think we're all just way too close to the Trump story to recreate that feeling.

dankois2 karma

Leon: long-time fan. If you were a flavor of Fresca, what flavor would you be?

slow_burn_pod7 karma

I don't know the right answer to this but I will say that whenever I go to Five Guys I stare at the custom soda fountain for a long time before always going with Strawberry Fanta