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FishbowlDC Interview With Ex-Gawker Jim Newell

Say hello to Wonkette, Salon and The Guardian Contributor Jim Newell, who recently departed Gawker for what, even he’s still not sure. He worked there for a year and a half as their Politics Editor and left at the end of January. “New opportunities, I don’t know. They were going in a different direction,” he said in a phone interview. “I think they are doing less full-time politics, which is what I was doing there, so I moved on.” When Newell sent me the following email at 2:50 a.m. this morning I figured he had stayed up late watching LMN. He wrote, “Here you go Betsy! I hope it’s alright, I only went on one extended murder fantasy.” Born and raised in Annapolis, Md., Newell looks back on his childhood and describes himself as a shy, not very rebellious kid who lived on the water, which may not mean a whole lot.”We just happened to live in Annapolis by the water,” he said. “We’d look at the water, we wouldn’t go in the water.” For the last several months, he has enjoyed making his own hours as a freelancer, but he thinks he may need to start job hunting for something full-time soon. “I need structure,” he said. “I have just been sitting on my couch for five years. I’d like to do something where I can write longform, where I can go out and report and take a little bit more time. But I’ll take what I can get. I’ve cursed out most of the newspapers in town.”

If you were a carbonated beverage, which would you be? This is a ludicrous question.

How often do you Google yourself? Usually if I want to see if I’m getting any responses to a piece that I’ve put work into. So like once a decade.

What’s the worst thing you’ve ever said to an editor/boss (or vice versa)? “I’m leaving you for Gawker.”

Who is your favorite working journalist and why? I don’t know, there are a bunch of bloggers and reporters I read regularly but there’s no one muckraking investigative long-form shitkicker who really stands out, off the top of my head. Probably because I mostly read “campaign journalism” now, which is all nonsense. I just finished Robert Draper‘s new book about the House, though, and it was excellent. Now I’m reading Steve Coll‘s new book about Exxon Mobil, which is a goddamn professional reporting job.

Do you have a favorite word? No.

Who would you rather have dinner with – Ice’s wife, Coco, Kim Kardashian or Lindsay Lohan? Tell us why. Lohan, I guess. She has stories/is a human being.

The Earth’s human population is dying out and you must save it. You will spend a romantic evening with either Gabby Sidibe (“Precious” etc..) or Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee (D-Texas). Who will it be? (Neither is not an option.) Interesting pair of choices, there. Is Fishbowl DC suggesting that black women with strong personalities are such unappealing potential mates that I’d consider allowing the Earth’s human population to die out rather than procreate with them? I would let the human population die off regardless of who it is, thank you very much. Anyway… Sidibe?

Editor’s note: Easy there, Newell. Precious has eaten a human for breakfast for far less. To insinuate that we think these women are sexually unappealing is wrong. Precious is bursting with sex appeal and watch out if you get in SJL’s way during any State of the Union Address when she manhandles the President for a handshake or kiss. We have previously thrown ex-Rep. Anthony Weiner into the ring for female interviewees but didn’t think he’d be appealing for you.

What swear word do you use most often? Shit. My favorite though is “fucktard,” but only as a treat.

You’ve just been told the big news: You get to have your own Sunday morning talk show. Who will be on your roundtable? (Pick four journalists or pundits types.) Ideally it would be four middle-aged/elderly white men working at the nation’s premier news outlets where they’ve been wrong about every major event of the past 20 years, but I think the other Sunday shows have them all under contract. I think I’d just put four planks of wood in the chairs and meditate for an hour. It’d be less damaging to the world.

On a serious note for a moment, if you could have dinner with a person who has died, who would it be? George Will… wait, really? My grandfather, then, who is actually dead. If that’s a cop-out then Jesus, I guess. I’m not really “into” Jesus but he’s the most famous dead person in this part of the world.

Who is your favorite Boybander and why? (Ezzy, Hazy, Weigel, Attackerman, Beutler) ? “Hazy,” by which you mean “Christopher Hayes” I believe, recently said something nice about this long piece I wrote, and I appreciated that, so right now I’d say him. I like most of the others though, too. I’ve gotta say, though, Betsy, you’ve got to corral together a new group of “Boybanders.” Those people you just mentioned — they’re old hat. Establishment veterans now. Weigel is a High Lord of Slate. Hayes hosts a television show on a Saturday morning before most grandfathers or Amish people wake up. The only thing separating Ezra Klein from David Broder at this point is six feet of dirt. Start harassing the new generation! The Think Progress people, they’re all 15. Buzzfeed doesn’t hire post-pubescents.

When you pig out what do you eat? Cheeseburgers and chocolate cake. Oh, you asked what I eat when I pig out. Usually I’ll just steal a whole trash can from outside McDonalds and lick the wrappers before the grease hardens.

What is your absolute favorite item of clothing in your closet? We want the fabric, the brand, the store and the price if possible. If it’s a certain kind of underwear we don’t want to know about it. There is a cheap T-shirt that I got from Old Navy that says “Sao Paulo” on the front of it. God knows why, but since 2005 it has usually been the first thing I wear after doing laundry. I don’t care about Sao Paulo but the shirt just fits well. Otherwise in the summer I usually wear these “short-sleeve button down shirts” that are all the rage in Milan. A couple of them are from Armani Exchange, though, and they cost I dunno $60 each or thereabouts.

Pick one: Mad Men, Scandal or True Blood. Mad Men. (Breaking Bad is better though.)

Have you ever had a tarot card reading? No.

Have you ever had a near-death experience? No, I keep picking bridges to jump off of that are far too low to the ground.

Ever been arrested? No, I don’t leave my house.

Tell us a secret not many people know about you. I am a “golf nut.” I played on my high school team.

What scares you? Snakes. Drones. Unsustainable civilizations, the way people always assume there’s a solution to some fatal problem when there probably isn’t, and all that.

What’s your most embarrassing career moment? One time someone sent me a picture of “Peggy Noonan and Major Garrett getting drunk at a bar,” which I didn’t examine closely enough, and I posted it and was like “look at all these two I bet they hooked up ha ha ha”… sadly it wasn’t either of them, as their lawyers explained to me shortly afterwards.

Have you ever been fired? I have been part of an editorial restructuring process that was moving the outlet in a different direction.

When and why did you last laugh so hard you had tears in your eyes? I can’t remember. Not too long ago I watched the CNN special “Wolf Blitzer’s Trip to North Korea,” and was dying the whole time. “Hello little boy,” Wolf would say to a North Korean child. “Do you watch CNN?”

When and why did you last lose your temper? The last time I read something about American politics, because it was wrong. Also, I just bought one of those new MacBook Pros with Retina Display for thousands of dollars, and it stopped turning on after three days. I cursed out most of the Apple Store, and then bought the same model all over again.

Who would you want to play you in a movie? Who are the redheads? “The Sherminator” from American Pie, although he’d have to put on a little weight. Now I’m sad.

Do you have a me-wall? If so, who’s on it? I don’t know what that is and I’m not looking it up.

Who should just call it a day? Everyone who writes about politics, myself included. Narrowing it down more, the entire Washington Post/New York Times opinion stables and editorial boards. Also: Anyone who writes about Facebook and/or Twitter as though it “matters” in any life-changing way, politically, economically, etc., or is worthy of deep sociological examination. I was reading something on the Atlantic the other day about how Facebook chooses to resolve disputes among users, and the writer was making all sorts of non-ironic social science allusions. Who gives a shit? A lot of people do, is the sad thing. It’s a website, on the Internet. If I ran the Facebook, any user who came to complain about another user — seriously asking for mediation in a “dispute” with a stranger on a website — then both users would be killed, in real life. “Wah wah I was playing Farmville and I bought all these pigs for $1.99 each in actual real-life money and then someone said something mean about my pigs, wah wah.” Oh, in that case, just walk down that dark staircase there while I lock the door behind you; someone will be waiting to take care of you. Everyone is a such a baby now.

From TMZ Founder Harvey Levin: You are about to be served your last meal. What will it be? Hi Harvey! Two dozen jumbo Maryland blue crabs.

From The Daily Caller’s Josh Peterson, our last interviewee: Would you rather be an immovable object, or an unstoppable force, and why? Hi Josh! “Unstoppable force,” what with the force and lack of stopping.

Finally, please come up for a question for our next FishbowlDC interviewee. This one may live on indefinitely. Make it good. Do you think that your work is good for, or at least not detrimental to, society?

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