Who are you?
Matt Bai is a political reporter and staff writer for the New York Times Magazine, Bai graduated from Tufts in 1990 and received a Masters from the Columbia School of Journalism in 1994. Bai began his reporting career at the Boston Globe's metro desk; he spent five years as a national correspondent for Newsweek before coming to the Times in 2002. Bai has covered all sorts of national news: everything from the Columbine shootings to John Glenn's last space voyage to Mike Bloomberg's mayoral campaign. In recent years, Bai has focused primarily on intra-Democratic Party politics. He is the author of The Argument: Billionaires, Bloggers, and the Battle to Remake Democratic Politics, an analysis of the progressive movement. Bai's work has also appeared in both the 2005 and 2006 editions of The Best American Political Writing. Matt covered the 2008 presidential race for the New York Times Magazine.
Matt Bai, and I’m a political writer for the New York Times magazine and author of the book, “The Argument: Billionaires, Bloggers, and the Battle to Remake Democratic Politics”. I was born and grew up in Trumbull, Connecticut, which is a little town just outside of Bridgeport. I think anybody who spent any time in Bridgeport . . . It’s not far from here. It makes me a Yankee fan. You know but I think anyone who has spent any time in Bridgeport or in any of the industrial cities of the Northeast would understand how, you know . . . where my worldview is formed. Because you know for me, I grew up around . . . in pockets of affluence huddled around these old, great industrial cities that were just rotting; and that were unsafe; and that were uninhabitable; and where . . . and where the economies and the social order had fallen into great sort of chaotic disrepair. And . . . and I was always told there were places you could go and there were places you couldn’t. So I could take the train to New York City, and I could see Yankee Stadium from the train. But you never got out in Harlem because Lord knows what would happen to you if you got out in Harlem. And I grew up wondering why you couldn’t go to those places and what had created those conditions. And as soon as I was . . . started to get into journalism that’s where I went. I went first to the South Bronx, then to the Boston Globe to cover the projects in Boston. And I was often . . . Somebody asked me recently . . . I won’t go on and on with all questions, but this one matters to me. Somebody asked me recently . . . I did an interview with a book site, and they said, “What writers influence you?” you know. And I had to think about it for a while, and I said, “It’s not political books.” I can’t think of many political books that have been influential to me. But novelists who have understood much better than non-fiction writers, than journalists have, the condition of sort of dying industrial America and what it means to us as a country. And so, you know, people like Richard Russo who writes about this over and over again; and Philip Roth who wrote “American Pastoral”; people who’ve, you know, who’ve captured this moment at the end of the industrial age that sort of defines where we are. So I grew up right at the heart of that moment.
Recorded on: 12/13/07
From small town Connecticut to the New York Times.