Writer and television pundit Tucker Carlson is a co-founder and editor-in-chief of the Daily Caller, an on-line news site launched in 2010. In our interview, Tucker talks about his Delaware ties, Middletown dining options and the “cult-like” life of reporters at the DC.
TSD: You’ve got some Delaware connections –
TUCKER CARLSON: Yes, we have quite a few, actually; my daughter Lillie goes to St. Andrew’s in Middletown and my wife has relatives in Wilmington so we are in the First State pretty often. It’s just an awfully pretty place. Also the Daily Caller’s first investor is Foster Friess, who of course is well known in your state.
TSD: So what are your favorite spots when you are visiting?
TC: Well, I hate to say it but there aren’t that many exotic dining options in Middletown. I am definitely a Waffle House guy but I draw the line at TGIFridays – I like the cheese at the Hotel du Pont – they have this great cheese with fruit in it — it is extraordinary.
TSD: The Daily Caller – tell us about why you started it and how things are going –
TC: We didn’t feel like there were many entrants in this area – we wanted to create a reported news site … a pretty old-fashioned concept where you hire a bunch of reporters and send them out to cover news; politics, but also technology and culture – we have more than 30 now. The sites we saw that were succeeding were mostly aggregating other people’s content and we didn’t have anything to add to that — it is very hard to get better than the Drudge Report.
It is expensive to hire an entire newsroom – you have to have human beings go out and hold notebooks and interview people and investigate stories. We pay low salaries and demand long hours; it is a cult-like environment. People are sleeping at the office working incredible hours but it is a great experience. We are producing massive amounts of content – when we first started about half of our content was aggregated, now it is almost entirely original content.
Also, one of the reasons we started the site was out of outrage at the how the press treated Obama during the 2008 election. You could love Obama and have voted for him but still have been offended by the coverage which was completely one-sided and dumb –and, by the way, the coverage of the Democratic primary was similarly one-sided. Obama was the hero, Hillary was the villain. That’s not how the press is supposed to operate. They are at least supposed to try to be objective and our view is that we have an opportunity and an obligation to bring that balance.
So people have responded – the site is doing great. We are the biggest non-liberal news site for reported news.
TSD: But you don’t really consider yourself a “conservative” news organization?
TC: We’re not water carriers for anyone – we certainly don’t suck up to politicians. I’ve never met a single politician that deserved sucking-up-to. We’re not going to be unfair or pointlessly cruel and we won’t repeat talking points – that would be boring. So much of the press are from the same schools and their world-view is the same – there is truly no diversity. We’re not about intellectual heterodoxy – and we’re not arguing for a right-wing press corps – if every reporter grew up in Utah and went to BYU would it be bad? Yes.
When we are hiring reporters we’re looking for two things: people who have a lot of intensity because this job offers little pay and little sleep. But it isn’t the easy jobs you remember, it is the jobs that demanded a lot of you that are memorable. And the whole point of life is making memories. Second, someone who looks at things a little differently, not to look at what the New York Times wrote and rewrite it. We likely have a higher percentage of conservatives than other news organizations but we don’t ask people their political beliefs. In some cases our people are extraordinarily eccentric – we definitely are a place for people who don’t have normal table manners. We’re not running an etiquette school.
TSD: These Wall Street protests – are they anything we should really be taking seriously?
TC: I think the protests are easy to mock – and certainly I’ve enjoyed mocking them. Most of these people have no clue what they are doing there. They are looking to hook up in the park with beautiful girls and get away from their computer games for a bit – really, all protests are the result of people looking for something different. And the political orientation is stupid – really stupid – as if all of the problems in our country are caused by one percent of the population? It would take a young child to believe that.
However it is really clear to me that something is going on in American life – our last three cycles have been change elections – dramatic swings in Congress and the White House. You’d have to go back to 1932 and 1974 to see that; there is clearly a very deep level of distress and concern over American decline and it is troubling and dangerous. I wouldn’t be surprised if you saw real civil unrest. Will the Wall St. protests peter out? Yes, but if this was June instead of October these things could be going on for a long time.
I travel a lot – it is hard to overstate how insulated Washington is from the economic crisis in this country. Housing prices are still very strong here, and if no one you know is losing his house it is harder to appreciate the depths of our problems. Rural America has been hit very hard – a little town I visit in Maine had several businesses a few years ago and now they don’t even have a gas station.
TSD: What’s next for Tucker Carlson – books, TV, Daily Caller extensions?
TC: I’m having dinner with my kids tonight – I never, ever think ahead beyond the project I’m working on. I don’t believe in it, I don’t plan – I try and live entirely in the moment. My focus at the moment is our work at the Daily Caller. Oh – I am going to be doing a profile of Paul Ryan for Esquire.