Borderstan: Last time we chatted, you were working as a White House correspondent for The Washington Examiner. Now you have your own Sirius radio show, called The Press Pool on POTUS (Politics of the United States). When did you make the switch? How did it come about? And why did you take the new job on satellite radio?
Mason: After The Examiner I went to Politico, which I loved and still do. I covered the White House for Politico for about a year. They are great — very bold, and a real spark in what still feels like a dying industry, a lot of the time.
But I wanted to make a big change with my career after writing for 25 years. I felt a real urge to shake things up, go in a whole other direction while I still had the time and the will. So about a year ago I moved to SiriusXM. Hosting a daily radio show gave my career just the shot of life I was looking for. I get to use knowledge, friends and sources from writing in a whole different way. I also picked up massive new skills — I run my own board and I am learning all about broadcasting.
Borderstan: What types of things do you cover on your new show?
Mason: It’s all politics, still lots of White House. My guests are almost all reporters, bloggers and pundits, so it’s a real insider-type show. I also use a lot of humor in my broadcast — because politics is hilariously funny and pretending otherwise is tedious and dull. I fear that for women in politics especially, there is a fear of not being taken seriously and so many project an urgently grim demeanor at all times. I am not like that, I love to laugh at stuff. I also play lots of great punk music from the 80s between interviews.
Borderstan: Give us some details on what it’s like working on radio? How is this different from what you’ve done in the past?
Mason: It’s totally different. My broadcast is three hours every weekday and afterwards I rarely want to talk or think about politics, at all. I thought I would miss writing and feel thwarted in some way, but I really don’t. And I have always been of those people about whom others say, “Tell us what you really think, Julie,” so radio feels like a good fit. I try to avoid being too sanctimonious. It’s a lot of talking. My show is all interviews, though — and learning to not interrupt others has been a challenge.
Luckily the company matched me with a great, really experienced producer, Patrick Ferrise. So it’s also very collaborative (by which I mean, “Patrick does all the work,”) which is also different from newspaper reporting.
Borderstan: Who is your favorite person you’ve interviewed or had on the show, so far?
Mason: I recently interviewed Kitty Kelley on her new picture book about the Kennedys. She was such an unexpected delight. So warm, friendly, funny and flirty — we all loved her. Also it’s great fun to have Maureen Dowd on the show, and I love having all my old friends from the White House beat and Capitol Hill on to talk about their work. Really, the only bad interview I have had so far was Bob Woodward. He was very grumpy.
Borderstan: What’s your typical day like? When do you begin prepping for your show?
Mason: I drag into our studios in Northeast ahead of the show, times may vary, and start prep. Patrick books the guests and does all the planning. When the show is done, my day is pretty much over — and that has taken some adjustment after 25 years of midnight phone calls from editors, working all hours and grinding it out on deadline. It’s so strange, and I don’t like to mention it to others because I fear their hatred and resentment.
Borderstan: Your Twitter account mentions you used to be a punk (and you alluded to punk music in your last post for Borderstan) — Are you ever able to catch any shows in the neighborhood? Who are you listening to these days?
Mason: I was one of the DC hardcore denizens of the 80s, and I am still nostalgic for those days. But now on the downstroke of 50 (I just turned 47) I listen to more XX, the Yeah Yeah Yeas and older, non-hardcore like the Clash, Pretenders and Roxy Music, most of the time. But I still rock out to Minor Threat when I clean my apartment (not often enough, sadly).
I rarely go to shows because they start too late and I just feel like some creepy old vulture lurking around.
Borderstan: Tell us about best of 2012 with Anderson Cooper?
Mason: Hahaha. Well, my show has fans in the strangest places and even though I still do a lot of TV, I was surprised when the producers for Anderson’s big year-end show called. We taped a few weeks ago and it turns out a bunch of them listen to the show and love it, I was so happy. So look for that on CNN after Christmas, I think it will be fun. I did declare naked Prince Harry the story of the year.
Borderstan: Any new favorite places to eat/hangout in the hood?
Mason: I just had brunch at The Pig and it was really good, although I don’t understand the insistence on biscuits. But the cocktails are insane. I might even be too buzzed right now for this interview. I also love the Italian hoagy at Whole Foods, and the organic wine selections at Big Bear Cafe, which is close to the SiriusXM studios.