In 2015, I helped start the video team at IJR, a little-known political media startup, heading into the 2016 election. While the site was known for drawing conservatives, we tried to keep the video production unit nonpartisan, offbeat and experimental. Below are just a few examples of just how weird — and viral — things got.
What I did: producer, co-editor, camera op
Total views: 2.2m YouTube, 231k Facebook
Press: The New York Times, TIME, ABC, CBS, The Hollywood Reporter, Politico, Business Insider, WSJ, The Daily Beast, Vox, NBC, NPR, The Hill, USA Today, Mother Jones, NY Daily News, TPM, The Daily Show with Jon Stewart, and many more.
Some context: The bloody horserace that was the 2016 election had just kicked off, and, at one of his earlier rallies, Donald Trump gave out Senator Lindsey Graham’s cell phone number. Instead of asking Graham for comment, which is/was the norm, we asked for a more performative response. He obliged! This video put our video team on the map.
What I did: pitched, director, writer, producer
Total views: 1.45m YouTube, 300k Facebook, $400k earned media
Press: CNN, Rolling Stone, Vanity Fair, GQ, New York Magazine, Esquire, Entertainment Tonight, Decider, Daily Mail, Fox News, The New Republic, Marie Claire, Variety, MSN, HuffPost, People, The Week, Jezebel, The Hollywood Reporter, NBC News, The Today Show, Funny or Die, The Daily Beast, and many more
Context: Ahead of her eventual Trump endorsement in 2016, Sarah Palin reached out to IJR to both promote her book and drum up some press. I pitched this to then editor in chief, Bubba Atkinson, in our carpool and, without hesitation, he said yes. The goal on our end, more or less, was to make it awkward and tap into the internet’s SNL vein, as Tina Fey had just reprised her role as Sarah Palin on the show. We cast Senator John McCain as Palin’s mentor, a la Jack Donaghy, Senator Lindsey Graham as Kenneth, and Kevin Brown reprised his role as Dot Com.
As a 30 Rock diehard, I do want to formally issue an apology to fellow fans of the show for this, but … it had to be done, for the clicks. The video went on to trend nationally on Facebook.
What I did: pitched, produced, on-camera host, edited
Total views: 878k YouTube, 500k Facebook
Context: We were just into the 2016 election, and I was reporting from Iowa ahead of the caucus. American politics had just fissured and cracked, and rallies were getting rowdy. I pitched this social experiment hoping for a glimmer of bipartisan warmth. To control as many variables as possible, I chose rallies on back-to-back days, at the same convention center, one for Trump and the other for Bernie. This hugs-at-rally conceit went onto become copied and recreated by others, months later.