When we heard that Julie Mason was leaving her post as White House Reporter for Politico to begin a radio show on SiriusXM’s P.O.T.U.S. channel, we were intrigued. While many reporters love to hear themselves talk, not everyone can hold an audience for three full hours. Not only is she hosting her own radio show, she’s also keeping extra busy this time of year as Secretary for the White House Correspondents’ Association. Mason is known for her bawdy personality and sharp wit, so our preconceived notion was that radio could fit her like a glove.
We caught up with her last week to see just how natural a transition it has been to go from print to radio. Upon entering the impressive SiriusXM complex in the NoMa neighborhood, we were greeted by Patrick Ferrise, Mason’s producer. Immediately we can see the perks of working here. It’s constantly stocked with snacks, drinks and goodies for visiting guests. Ferrise sips a can of seltzer and says he never really drank soda until he started working there.
As we enter the nerve center of the P.O.T.U.S. studios, Mason is deep into prep for her show, “The Press Pool.” In the next room, Tim Farley, the Program Director of the POTUS channel is wrapping up his own show, “The Morning Briefing.” While she continues to prepare, Julie says that she is enjoying the adjustment to radio. However, there was a learning curve. Her bosses told her that she was going to need to learn how to run a soundboard, which is something many talk radio hosts don’t even do anymore. When we’re talking about the soundboard, think of the control center of the Starship Enterprise. A large console of glowing lights and buttons that, for most people, might as well be part of a space shuttle. Mason says, “My employers have been so patient with me as I learn my way around the board (Limbaugh doesn’t run his own board!) and all about radio.”
As Farley wrapped up his show, Mason assumed her position behind the console and kicked off the show. She started by talking to Stephen Dinan, National Politics Correspondent for TWT about the now-dead Buffett rule. And then things started to shake up a bit. POTUS (The President, not the radio station) began talking about increasing oversight on manipulation in the oil market. This is what makes P.O.T.U.S. different from almost any other radio station. They carry it live, uninterrupted. They also carry Jay Carney’s press briefing uninterrupted each day. It’s a task that has given Mason many headaches considering Carney is rarely on time. We asked if this was a constant source of frustration. “Killing that time before the briefing is a radio skill I am learning, along with making a smooth transition when he finally comes to the podium,” she says. “It’s not frustrating, it’s challenging! Which I am sure is Jay’s intention. We are the only news organization that still runs every briefing, which I do think is pretty cool, for all my grumping about it on the air.” After POTUS wraps up, Mason checks in with their in-house Washington Correspondent, Jared Rizzi. It’s time for the briefing.
While the briefing is carried live, Mason gets to step away to decompress. The night before, Bill O’Reilly had called Mason a “loon” because she suggested that he and Glenn Beck may have damaged the Fox News brand. Tim Farley enters to make sure that Mason has seen an email he sent to her suggesting a new logo for her show: A picture of a loon. Mason takes the ribbing in good stride and says she realizes things are different now that she’s in radio. If someone had called her a partisan loon while she was still working in print, she might have gotten in trouble. Now that she’s in radio, her bosses could not have been happier.
The whole time that Mason and I are chatting… her producer, Ferrise is continually giving updates on what their plan is. Considering Carney’s late start, several guests have already been cancelled and they are working to figure out how to manage what’s left of their time. This is an ongoing struggle for the radio team, but they glide through with relative ease. Mason says that she and Ferrise have a “real trusting relationship.” There have been many times that she’ll be in the background cursing the names of guests who didn’t show up on time while Ferrise calmly addresses the situation from his producer’s booth, away from the howls of profanity and anger from Mason.
For all of Mason’s talk of being nervous and scared behind the microphone, she has a comfortable — and dare we say fun — grasp on her medium. She and Ferrise select an eclectic mix of music for the show including The Clash and The Sex Pistols.
Mason seems pleased with the jump from print to radio. She says she enjoyed her time at Politico, so the decision to leave was a tough one. She has a unique outlook on the career change. She figured that she must give up something that she loved to get something even greater. “It was a total gamble with my career, but I felt like I needed to give up a job I love, at a place that I wanted to work, to take a risk and create something new,” she says.
So far, the gamble appears to be paying off. You can listen to Mason host “The Press Pool” weekdays at noon on SiriusXM channel 124.
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