Inside 2000s MTV with SuChin Pak, What’s a News Desert?, Bat Signal for Singles
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In light of big media personalities getting booted from their platforms and other outlets shutting their doors, V discusses the phenomenon of news deserts and where to find good information in spite of this. Plus, they run through the pros and cons of broadcasting one’s relationship status to the world. V then sits down with MTV trailblazer and veteran journalist SuChin Pak to discuss the value of connecting with curious audiences, especially before social media. SuChin, who now co-hosts Lemonada’s podcast Add To Cart, gets honest about what it’s been like to transition from reporting hard news to chatting about shopping from the comfort of her home. (Spoiler alert: it’s only in the latter that she’s been able to, as she says, truly embrace her auntie behavior.)
Check out Add To Cart wherever you get your podcasts, and follow SuChin on Twitter at @suchinpak and on Instagram at @addtocartpod.
Keep up with V on TikTok at @underthedesknews and on Twitter at @VitusSpehar. And stay up to date with us on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram at @LemonadaMedia.
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SuChin Pak, V Spehar
V Spehar 00:01
Hey friends, it’s Friday, April 28th 2023. Welcome to V INTERESTING, where we break down the viral and very interesting news you might have missed. I’m V Spehar. And today, Tucker Carlson got fired. Don Lemon is dunzo. What does this mean for the media landscape and how much of it is a reflection of a trend. Plus, there’s a new not quite trend for all the single people out there isn’t going to catch on. Then we’re joined by SuChin Pak, host of the add to cart podcast and Titan of the MTV News era. We’re going to talk journalism, do’s and don’ts and how much has changed over the years. All that and more on today’s be interesting from Lemonada Media. Let’s be smart together. What is going on with the news lately? I mean, the news has become the News. This week, we saw the shocker firings of Tucker Carlson and Don Lemon plus the ousting of NBC Universal CEO Jeff shell. Just last week, Buzzfeed shut down Buzzfeed News which affected 180 jobs. And a couple of weeks before that NPR had to layoff roughly 10% of their staff. And not long before that, those morning show hosts who were like hooking up with each other got fired for hooking up with each other. And while all of these fallouts have felt real big and real impossible. This kind of thing is not really new. This plays into the trend of what are called news deserts. There’s a super insightful article that the New Republic put out in 2020. And here’s what they had to say, quote, The University of North Carolina’s husband’s School of Journalism and Media released a report titled The expanding news desert, which showed that over the last 15 years, more than a fourth of America’s newspapers and half of its journalists have disappeared, turning 1000s of communities into news deserts, no longer served by anyone who can provide a comprehensive and accurate description of what is happening in those communities and quote, and while you may think that there are tons of local news stations that surely must be independently run, almost all TV media is owned by just six major companies who have been consolidating narrative from the local to the national stage. Even school newspapers and cable access channels are operating with way less of a budget than in days past, sometimes just being eliminated entirely. And so you have to wonder, what is replacing these traditional legacy mainstream media outlets? Well, Tiktok for one, I mean, that’s how you guys found me, right, but also YouTube and podcasts, which are often free as long as you can tolerate the ads. But they also only really afford you a couple of minutes of commentary per story. Some of the very interesting and deeper reporting is happening behind paywalls that major newspapers or via independent journalists, newsletters and sub stacks. But what’s more frequently seen and shared is free stuff from very official sounding newsy websites that are actually partisan fluff and in some cases, downright propaganda. Here’s another article, this one from the Columbia Journalism Review, quote, An investigation by the Tao Center for Digital Journalism at Columbia Journalism School has discovered at least 450 websites and a network of local and business news organizations, each distributing 1000s of algorithmically generated articles, and a smaller number of reported stories of the 450 sites we discovered at least 189 were set up as local news networks across 10 states within the last 12 months by an organization called metric media end quote. Metric media claims to quote give every citizen a voice in their community, and it publishes over 5 million news articles every month. This network has ties to the founders of the Tea Party movement, and to a nonprofit described by Mother Jones as the dark money atm of the conservative movement. They’ve also received money from the National Christian charitable foundation for growth and Donors Trust, a group that bills themselves as a community foundation for Liberty minded donors. Yikes on bikes, my friends, media literacy has been something that we talk about a lot as mandatory to protecting democracy. But how can you know what you’re reading is legit when there have been great financial efforts put into making propaganda look and feel and in many cases, just straight up replace true journalism. The way to fight it is to talk to your neighbors, talk to your friends. Get your news from a variety of different places and trust yourself. Resist do I’m scrolling a rabbit holing on articles and issues that make you feel compelled to despair or hate for strangers. If something feels off, it probably is. If you find a reporter you consistently like, pay the five bucks for their substack. Get that newspaper subscription if you can swing it. But mostly, you’ve got to talk to people. Don’t fall for the AI chatbot drafted articles and please, for the love of literacy and librarians. Don’t trust everything you see on the internet, and vote. You got to vote. I know we say it all the time. But like we’re just going to have to keep voting till we die. That’s the way that this works. I don’t make the rules. For folks who are worried about where Tucker Carlson may end up. Are you in the right place? He’s fine. Tuckey, is an heir to the Swanson frozen foods empire. He’s made millions of dollars. He’s not going to go to O N or be Glenn Beck’s backup podcast boy, he’s definitely not running for president. And he’s not going to be Trump’s press secretary or fulfill any of the other wild and unhinged fantasies, the focus on truth, social or cooking up. He does not need to work. He has said that many times. And if you read his text messages from the dominion lawsuit evidence pile, he wasn’t happy working. He hated having to hype trump up. He was not proud of the work they were doing at Fox. He hated the leadership at Fox. He is a hateful, sad and frequently fired person. I mean, he’s already been fired from MSNBC, CNN and now Fox. He’ll get over it. And hopefully, we’ll all move on.
V Spehar 06:40
It’s the most wonderful time of the year. No, it’s not Christmas. It’s even better. It’s nerd prom. Have you guys ever heard of nerd prom? The White House Correspondents Dinner, DCS most sparkly nights. And yes, friends. You know, I’m going to be in town for it. And this year, I even got invited to a bunch of those secret society parties. So stay tuned for all the tea on Tiktok. This annual dinner is about celebrating the First Amendment in honoring journalists who cover the White House. The first White House Correspondents Dinner was in 1921 and the first time women were invited wasn’t until more than 40 years later in 1962. That was when then President Kennedy refused to attend and less female journalists were given a seat at the table. Getting a seat is still incredibly difficult. The only folks allowed to buy tickets are big time legacy media news orgs with members in the White House Correspondents Association, and those companies in turn often invite like celebrities and activists and other who’s whose to share an evening of airline chicken breast of vegetable medley warm wine and a quick award show at the Washington Hilton. Prior to World War Two, the annual dinner featured singing between courses, a homemade movie and an hour long post dinner show with big name performers. Since 1983. The featured speaker has usually been a comedian, with the dinner taking on the form of a comedy Roast of the President and his administration. At last year’s events, I ran directly into Kim Kardashian and Pete Davidson, which was absolutely the highlight of my weekend. And I also got to compare hair height with Adam Conover of Adam Ruins Everything. And I even got to shake hands with Trevor Noah. This year. I’m looking forward to Roy Wood Junior’s performance and to seeing what other major figures want to be seen serving civic realness. So again, follow along on my Tiktok and Instagram for all the behind the scenes overheard gossip and other V Interesting content starting tonight. Anytime I have to go out in big crowds, I always feel extra protected by my wedding band. Like don’t get tipsy and try to talk to me because I will literally just start to cry. But for all the single ladies and gents out there, a new kind of ring has hit the market and this one is supposed to attract spontaneous flirtatious conversation amongst strangers, and it’ll only cost you $24.99. But hey, shipping is free. The company Pair is peddling a chunky turquoise colored ring that is supposed to serve as a bat signal for singles. Pair a pair ring a pairing Do you get it? I kind of love it. It’s communicating the opposite of an engagement ring or wedding band and it’s supposed to be just a subtle better than wearing a kiss me I’m Irish button outside of March I suppose. Unfortunately, if you want something to catch on, you can’t really be subtle. Pair recommends that you not only wear the ring but add a pair emoji to your social media bio and attend pair sponsored events and go to their upcoming and incredibly vaguely described pair fest, which claims to be the world’s first singles festival. There’s been some immediate pushback on the idea, mostly from women who remind the company that being single doesn’t mean you’re open to conversations with just anyone. In fact the limit of chemistry and compatibility has to go beyond a shared mutual admiration for chunky green rings. So I don’t know. Would you guys were one does this sound like it would work? Maybe it’s time we just bring back the matchmakers meeting through a mutual friend, or oh, even better, let’s get a reboot of love connection. Chuck Woolery, you’re needed on set five.
V Spehar 10:24
Speaking of folks who might not be upfront about their commitments, politicians of all sorts, but especially the ones who have recently changed their party affiliations, the old bait and switch, but this time by your elected officials, and unfortunately, there just really isn’t anything that we can do about it. By now, you’ve probably heard about Trisha Cotham. She’s a North Carolina state rep who ran as a Democrat last fall and then just this month switched to the Republican Party. New York magazine reports that Cotham got elected to the North Carolina House as a pro-choice pro LGBTQ Democrat. And now she’s saying that the GOP actually better reflects her values. This pivot was a real shock to voters across the country. And it got me thinking about how often this kind of thing might happen. Well, friends, it is still pretty rare, but more local politicians have switched parties than you might have thought. Just this month, multiple state politicians have done it. First. There was Cotham in North Carolina than two reps in Louisiana switched from Democrat to Republican while actively in office. Then the West Virginia GOP announced that they are welcoming a current but now I guess, former Democrat to their ranks. Since 1994, 170 state legislators have changed their official party affiliation, and more than three times as many Democrats have become Republicans than the other way around. So these recent moves are part of a larger trend. Some analysts speculate that this is an unintentional bait and switch, that it’s a tactic to consolidate Republican power. And this seems especially possible in the recent cases in North Carolina and Louisiana, because Democrats moving to the other side gave Republicans a supermajority. There’s personal incentive to since lawmakers who are part of the majority party can get more favorable committee assignments. Analysts say that these kinds of lowercase p politics are huge and local government. And yeah, I mean, if you think about it, you don’t see these sneaky swaps happening nearly as often in the federal positions. Now, listen, there’s probably a world where politicians could switch parties on paper but still vote however they wanted to vote. But that is not this world, not with this extreme polarization between the left and the right. And naturally Democratic leaders in North Carolina are calling on Cotham to resign. Because as you might have guessed, her liberal leaning district doesn’t exactly feel represented by a Republican. Okay, so if our elected officials can always be counted on who gives a voice to the people will in many cases, it’s journalists who do reporters, interviewers hosts of acclaimed television shows, I mean, who needs Tucker or dawn when you’ve got the one and only SuChin Pak, SuChin has had a storied career as a journalist and correspondent, and she’s joining us today to walk us through the biggest moments from then to now including her current work on the amazing Lemonada podcast Add to Cart, all of that right after the break.
V Spehar 13:36
We’re back friends, there was a time when you could only go to one place to watch videos and get entertainment gossip. And that place was of course MTV. Instead of going to Twitter or Instagram to catch footage of your favorite celebrity at a concert or wait for a new music video to drop like we do today. You’d have to hope that your sibling wasn’t hogging the TV so that you could flip the channel to MTV. The Y2K decade brought us iconic music videos like Britney Spears toxic and Rihanna umbrella, and ushered in an era full of jaw dropping choreography and viral videos all before tick tock of course, as the network grew in popularity, it slowly moved away from music videos. Besides bringing us some of the greatest pop culture moments in history. It featured new stories that young audiences would find interesting. I mean, MTV had a huge influence on me and the way that I tell stories. Later, it started creating original reality shows like punk or my sweet 16. In short, the network has created its own culture impacting generations of teenagers like me, who would skip school to sit outside the MTV building in New York hoping I’d run into somebody famous. One of the people who have seen these changes up close is MTV trailblazer and veteran journalist SuChin Pak. You might recognize her as the voice of MTV cribs, or as the host of a few Sister Wives reunions, but at age 25 I have Sue became the first Asian American correspondent for MTV News. There, she did everything from covering red carpet events to reporting on 911 and launching a documentary series featuring teams from immigrant families. But as she moves through different projects and roles, stuff started to become foggy. She faced racism and sexism in the workplace. She grew tired of hard news and her definition of unbiased journalism started to blur. Sue, who is now the host of lemonade, as Add to Cart podcast is here to talk about how MTV served as the microphone for young people before social media gave them a voice of their own. And why having integrity and credibility as a journalist matters more than the platform you work for. SuChin, welcome to the nice side of the news. I’m so glad that you’re here.
SuChin Pak 15:50
Oh, good. Good. I’m glad I’m on the right side. Okay. Fantastic.
V Spehar 15:54
I mean, we are going to revisit your 20s. So I don’t know what kind of trauma that will bring. We will eradicate it together.
SuChin Pak 16:00
Okay, good. We’ll hold my hand through the Zoom.
V Spehar 16:02
I will. So SuChin, many of us first get to know you through your gig at MTV News. And it’s time to reminisce about a time when networks were like yeah, let’s put young folks on the air and let them talk about current events and have a voice.
SuChin Pak 16:16
Is that not happening?
V Spehar 16:17
No, I mean, we’ve created recreated that space on Tik Tok and I am informally known as the Kurt Loder of TikTok news, but I think that’s higher praise than I deserve.
SuChin Pak 16:27
That’s nice. You have to start smoking cigarettes in an office with a fan illegally. I mean, he was an icon when I first joined, but he was I mean, I’ve never known him any other way than like the coolest, you know, person in the room.
V Spehar 16:48
I remember when Kurt Cobain died. And that was like the biggest thing to ever happen to me in sixth grade. I was like, devastated. And my mom knew that it had happened. And she like taped Kurt Loder saying that Kurt Cobain had died. So I could like hear it from a friendly face. And I just am so grateful to him for that, because he said it like so straight. And then he was like, okay, and now we’re going to talk about what happens next. But when you were talking to like a bunch of teenagers and even younger kids who were like, absolutely devastated.
SuChin Pak 17:16
I know, it is. It is strange too. I mean, I know we started this conversation saying like, they don’t put young people on the news anymore, which is true. But then you have these channels and this space. And I don’t know, in some ways, I would prefer it this way. Yeah, I know. I don’t know if that sounds. I don’t know, hypocritica.
V Spehar 17:37
Because it’s not, like owned by network executives, or because it’s more independent.
SuChin Pak 17:42
It’s more honest, in the sense that like, before MTV, I was like, Connie Chung all the way, right. I mean, there’s one star in the solar system for me. And I just plugged away in MTV, it was a little off the beaten path, because I thought I would do the local news, which I was doing, you know, back in the Bay Area in San Francisco. And then you would just like plug your way into a bigger market. And you know, the grind, which sounds so archaic now. But um, and then I left MTV. And I just couldn’t go back into this idea that a newsroom was honest. And I say that in the sense that like, I think, and I and I wonder if you agree, because I want to know your opinion about this. I just realized that. Nobody just reads the news. And nobody just reads the questions. Everybody brings their own everything to it. And I looked around this newsroom. And you know, when I was thinking about network news, and I was in this network newsroom, being like, nobody here looks like me, nobody here has been through my experience. They’re still using fax machines. Like, I just don’t understand what this is anymore. Like, I don’t understand how I can trust the news. And I just, I think, coming from in TV where we had, you know, the diary format, and for those listening that don’t know what that is, but it was a bit groundbreaking, where news reporters, young news reporters would take their own, quote, unquote, cameras. And we would do these video diaries as part of our news story. And that felt way more honest than this idea that I had that you read a teleprompter and it was the evening news and it was really unbiased, and, and all of that. Anyway, I go on and on. But so that’s why I feel like in some ways, I’d rather just hear the news from someone I just already know where they’re coming from. I could also see the other side of that, which is this bubble, that so many of us find ourselves in separated, separated from each other, not understanding.
V Spehar 19:54
It’s tricky, but so often, to your point when people are trying to figure out what is TikTok news or what is modern news? Older folks will be like, Well, you’re the Walter Cronkite of TikTok. You’re the current […] of TikTok. It’s always a man. I’ve never been compared to like Barbara Walters.
SuChin Pak 20:12
Only Connie Chung.
V Spehar 20:13
It’s only Connie Chung. I know they’re like, you’re kind of like a baby Rachel Maddow. I’m like, we are the same age. We are almost the same age. But and I understand that. But I agree. I think it’s like we have this idea of the way that news was supposed to be right. And it’s this like person at a desk, who’s very seriously reading you the truth and nothing but the truth chatter completely unbiased. And it’s like, of course, there’s bias. We’re talking about humans and storytelling, and that’s something that I loved about MTV News. And I think young people more eagerly recognize when you’re bullshitting them. And so MTV News was like, yo, this actually really sucks right now and we’re gonna talk about it. How did you end up at MTV?
SuChin Pak 20:49
So, you know, I ended up at MTV, just in the very traditional way of I auditioned, Serena was leaving the newsroom. And so they needed a girl. One girl was leaving, and one girl had to come in. Right. And so I auditioned. And but by then I had been doing TV and news and hosting, and that sort of thing, you know, since I was 16, so probably close to 10 years. And I think, MTV, then, you know, was in its era of like, ma’am, on the street, like, you, can be a DJ too, win a contest. And, and, and that was fantastic. But the newsroom was very much like, We need someone with experience. And I, you know, had that. And so that’s how I came to MTV. But I had been working in local news, I had worked at Oxygen, I, you know, I had just kind of been plugging away at it for years until MTV.
V Spehar 21:48
And then what was your first assignment they gave you?
SuChin Pak 21:51
I believe it was like, it was either MTV20 or 25. It was like a big anniversary. And so they had a huge concert slash party, slash whatever. But my first big news story was that fall in September, which was 9/11. That was it, you know, up until then, I had kind of, you know, I was still in training, so to speak, you know, so I was still doing the news, but it was kind of not in rotation quite yet. And I was still getting my feet on the ground. But once that happened, it was all hands on deck. And then from there, it was, you know, the rest is history kind of a thing.
V Spehar 22:32
How did you approach the idea of explaining 9/11 to young people on a mostly entertainment channel?
SuChin Pak 22:40
Well, number one, we were all living in New York, I’ve never reported on a story that actually was the thing that was happening, you know, outside my door, you know, I think as a reporter, you know, your life is just kind of on the road, you know, following the story and getting assignments and, and it’s always you flying in somewhere, or driving in somewhere, and then trying to get your bearings. So I think that there was an authenticity there and a realness and a rawness that was, there just you couldn’t, not there, because when the cameras turned off, you were still in the story, you know, every day. And so there’s that. And I also think that the newsroom at MTV was run like a newsroom. I think the rest of the building, you know, would dip in and out of TRL and be like, you guys are having fun down here. Because upstairs, it’s, it’s, you know, we had a daily news meeting, it was very Yeah, it was very, very much that way. That, you know, we all our sources were, you know, we had to have them verified and, and all of that, which then gets to the point of, you know, I always say Twitter killed news. And so, for us, at least, the world that we lived in on the 29th floor at the MTV building in Times Square was a newsroom and I think I never felt like it never felt in congruence to me to hop back and forth. I think mostly it was that at that point, we were kind of the microphone for young people. And so there was a lot of there was a lot of you know, confidence from that knowing that like this, we’re there’s an audience here for it. And there’s a way of telling the story that we can connect to.
V Spehar 24:30
Did you find living inside the 911 story that when those cameras were off a lot of your like sourcing or the material you’re coming up with to report on was your own as the source?
SuChin Pak 24:41
Absolutely. And like any newsroom, you know, when you go into that morning meeting and you’re pitching your stories like it’s a dogfight, you know, everyone wants to be on the agenda.
V Spehar 24:53
I saw the worst part of 911, did you see the wall in set in Grand Central with all the pictures on it?
SuChin Pak 24:59
Do you want the exclusive, you want the angle you want all of that. So you go in there with, you know, you don’t just go in there with like, I kind of have this idea. You can’t I kind of have this idea with Gideon and you know, Kurt and John, you don’t I mean, everybody had to be on point every morning, you know, in that meeting.
V Spehar 25:20
Yeah. Because, I mean, you said you were on the 29th floor of the MTV building a building that I stood outside of many times as a younger person to watch Carson Daly do TRL, oh, are you kidding me? I grew up in Connecticut. We used to illegally leave school take the train from Fairfield train station into New York stand outside TRL and make it back home before my mom had to pick me up from cheerleading.
SuChin Pak 25:44
What was one of the with trips? Do you remember what artists was?
V Spehar 25:49
Britney Spears. She would shut down times square and we were just so crazy for her and at the time she was dating Justin Timberlake and they were both on the episode. We like skip school to watch Carson and like just dance outside people who remember the MTV experience of like the late 90s, early 2000s It was like TikTok is now where people were like addicted to it. It was what we love to do. It was like right on the money when it came to giving information and entertainment and balance.
SuChin Pak 26:20
Even more because Tik Tok now there’s, you know, a gazillion channels on Tik Tok, there was only one place. That’s the crazy thing is the one place. I mean, like, can you imagine, like trying to think of right now? What is the equivalent where the majority of young people, it was live at the same time every day, turn their attention to one content, like one piece of media. I mean, it doesn’t exist anymore. It was like in its own bubble.
V Spehar 27:05
One of the questions that I have all the time is like, what is a journalism and people will be like, Are you a journalist? I’m like, I’m a tick tock personality. And they’re like, what you’re doing a journalism, you worked for the LA Times. And I’m like, my time at the LA Times was so unusual. It was a new media contract. I don’t know. What do you think? What is the journalism right now?
SuChin Pak 27:23
So for me, I always felt like the difference between what we were doing versus right, what you were doing what they were doing, let’s say at that time, you know, on Twitter, or whatever it was, right. I mean, I think you could boil it down to like, verified sources. I couldn’t put anything on the air that we could not verify our sources, you know. And speaking of Britney Spears, I’ve told the story, where wouldn’t she had her first child? And we couldn’t report on it, you know, until we had verified that. And but I mean, by the time I got on to TRL, I was like, if we can’t tell these feet, what are we even doing here? You know, so what do you do, like the whole world is saying, but we haven’t verified that with anybody, any of our sources. Nobody was talking. Nobody was verifying that completely. So. So even, you know, on a small story like that on a silly story like that, you know, we always had to stand especially because we were MTV and expect it to be a little bit you know, unhinged. I think our news director was very adamant that like, we hold ourselves to that standard.
V Spehar 28:38
I’m like, what is the difference here?
SuChin Pak 28:40
To me, it’s, I still feel like, that has to be it like, what is the difference between any person just turning on their camera and deciding, alright, well, I’m going to report on the news, or I’m gonna report on whatever it is. And their sources are Reddit threads. I mean, like, right, and but they’re reporting themselves, you know, they’re gonna get in the blazer, and they’re gonna, I don’t know, do whatever the thing that they do, you know, and is that news? Is that journalism? I mean, so what is the difference between so to me, it still feels like it’s somewhere in that vein, right? Be when you do your stories. I know that the thing of also about what I find overwhelming is like, how do you have the time to, there’s so you’re putting out so much content and so much news. And all of it has to be verified to a degree I would imagine because of who you are. And people hold you to a standard that they may not hold other people to. Yes, right. And so how does that even work?
V Spehar 29:47
I’m gonna give you the secret. It’s dyslexia and ADHD. Okay. So here is this is where this conversation what is a journalism comes from? There are so many legacy news outlets that we know Oh no have a super bend. They’re purchased by billionaires and they they’re there to propagate whatever worldview and narrative that you want it to be whether that’s left or right, then we have this super powerful thing. That’s always been the way that news has come to the average person, which is citizen journalism, pure journalism. Yeah, my friend saw this, I trust my friend, they told me about it. I believe that and now we can go from there. And now that everybody has a phone, we’re seeing all that like first person video footage, like I think of like Donella Frazier, who we wouldn’t be where we are in the George Floyd case and justice situation, if not for her video. So it’s, you know, so that to me is like that is a journalism, then you have what I do, which is I just have a very special unique ability to recognize patterns and to decide what boundaries I’m going to put around what truth is, I want to tell that incorporates bias, right, that’s like me deciding for my audience what I think they should hear today and shielding them from stuff that I think will upset them or not be productive. And I think it’s so interesting, where and I wonder where this narrative came from, that journalism is perfectly unbiased, straight, hard fact. So much of what’s happening in the news right now is humanity based is person based, is based in civil rights. And all of that has like, you need the context of the person’s feelings included in it. So to me, I’m, I’m trying to chase this down, what is the journalism because a lot of the reporters at the legacy magazines that are doing incredible work, that’s a journalism, nobody will deny that. But there are also people on the street who are just concerned citizens that are doing some of the best citizen journalism, that doesn’t always ratchet up into a national story. Totally. It’s tough.
SuChin Pak 31:39
All of those things, you know, what you do the Tick Tock to us, whatever, it doesn’t matter, tick tock, it’ll be tick tock today, and it’ll be something completely different tomorrow. So like, for us to dismiss something because you know, it feels too new or too young. It’s just history will prove you wrong again, and again. But I think when you talk about the citizen journalism, when you talk about what you do, again, to me, at least, and I keep going back to this is what is the source of it? Right? So like, to me, it’s about the credibility of it, you know, there are news stations, you know, network news, places that for me, don’t have sources don’t have credibility, don’t have integrity in the way that they do their story. And so, for someone to say, I videotaped this, I saw this with my own eyes, I experienced this. That’s the truth. I mean, that’s about as close to the truth as anyone can even get, you know, is I mean, that’s legally binding truth, you know. And so for me, it goes back to that. And to me, I say, that’s journalism. To me, I say that, that is news. And I say that, that whether your legacy or not, whether you’re on a network with you how big your studio is, how tiny your camera is, to me, it goes back to what is the source, what is the source of the truth of what you’re saying. And if the source of the truth of what you’re saying is already from a distorted place, then to me, it’s just more distorted noise. But I can judge for myself, whether the source from what you’re speaking of is already biased, like, so that to me is journalism. And so that gives a wide umbrella. But it also shuts out a lot of noise that I feel is just so harmful, and we already know what that is, I just ignore that part of the world, you know, to a certain degree.
V Spehar 33:27
Speaking of noise, you transitioned out of TV into the very, very crowded, and broad world of podcasting, what made you say, Okay, I’m gonna leave the news behind the TV news stuff for a minute. And I’m going to do a podcast like, what was that moment like for you?
SuChin Pak 33:45
Well, I had left behind TV news a long time ago. And I think that, you know, when you leave something behind, and nothing is there, it there’s no one to tell if there’s no news. It’s just is like, I hate doing this anymore. I’m pulling the plug on that. And then I had gone into the route of like morning news and talk shows and you know, because that’s just like the natural right?
V Spehar 34:09
Oh, we are going to talk about that at the end. A treat to the audiences. The last section of this show is going to be about all about how searching and the reunion shows and all the fun kind of stuff that you got to do. But we’ll get to that next. But so you’re sitting and you’re like, I have to do a show. I have to tell stories. I’m gonna do a podcast.
SuChin Pak 34:26
Well, yeah, I mean, it wasn’t that deliberate as you know, while I love podcasting, and this is kind of what right now is the main form of storytelling. Like it felt very refreshingly low stakes. Meaning that like, I could just roll out of bed and just be myself. I didn’t have to put on makeup and hair and then have a producer whittled down my questions and have only you know, 38 seconds to say exactly what I want to say and then have someone else cut it You know, it just it, TV can feel very, it’s so out of your control. You know so much of it, you’re so much of your story is just left to a team. And hopefully you trust that team. But for me, podcasting was like, oh, I’m the boss, the CEO, the marketing director, I am my intern, like, this felt manageable. It felt like, okay, like, I could throw myself into something because I can stand behind this, like 100%. There’s nobody else that is responsible for podcasting our show than us. That’s it. We’re the bottom line. So that felt really safe to me, like coming from a world where I felt so you know, you just get there. And you and I always say like, You’re the first one cut, and the last one called, you know what I mean? Like, they have the whole show put together, and they’re like, Alright, let’s get someone to read it. You know, let’s get an Asian person who we got here. Like, all right, you know, Lisa’s working. We got that old and TV, you know what I mean? Like, and then you come in, dear. But it’s like all this, somebody else’s idea. Somebody, you know, that kind of thing. But I think I had not thought about doing podcasts, even though I had been a fan of podcasts. And I had done some podcasts that were quite different than what I’m doing much more journalism, you know, about finance. And then I did a bunch of stuff about really amazing community workers. And so I kind of had dabbled in it. And I felt really comfortable doing it. But it was cool up who is my cohost on Add to Cart who had a lot of success. And she really comes from the podcast world. She came to me I had met her through some advocacy work that we were doing with time’s up. And she was like, do you want to do a podcast? And I was like, Absolutely not. I have no desire to rehash the frickin news. I have no desire to be sad every day, like I’m coming out of that era. Like, this is me. I just want to do my own thing. I want nobody to watch me. I don’t want to care about what I say and do I don’t want to be on. I think for so many years, I had lived in this like, tiny little box that I never felt comfortable being upset or angry or sad, right? Because it just felt like Who the f are you? Like you got the golden ticket? And like, How dare you be upset? How dare you voice your dissatisfaction? You know, like, so I That’s me. That’s my trauma. That’s my brain. And so I was like, I’m not getting in front of a mic. Are you insane? And we kind of he she kept kind of coming back to it. And I was like, the only way that I would do it is if we talk about something that means absolutely nothing to anybody else. And that is the stupidest thing that anyone could ever talk about, that nobody will ever hold me to the fire against. And that is what I’m buying. What is the shit that I buy? That I’m into? What are you into? What’s the, you know, what’s the cool book I should be reading? What’s the serum? I should, you know, like the auntie behavior that I have just embraced in my 40s of telling everybody what toothpaste they should be using, like, I want to be fucking passionate about, you know, like, I want to go eight hours on why, you know, this particular floss has changed my life. Like, that felt liberating to me after years of like talking about things that matter, you know, and but we started it off that way. And I was like, and I just want to laugh, and I just want to hang out with you for an hour and be done with it. So that happened, and then locked down. And then the insurrection. And then Asian hate crimes. All of that happened, you know, within the first few months of us, you know, doing this podcast, so I couldn’t just talk about my credit card purchases anymore, because I wasn’t able to get out of bed and I was sobbing and you know, when coolabah would ask me, you know, so how are you doing? And, you know, I was thinking about my mom and the Bay Area and what was happening in our universe, and then she would start crying. And so it’s become a podcast where yes, ostensibly, it’s about the things that you buy, but it really is about that’s just our way into where we are at this current moment. And guests come in with stuff. And then they’ll tell us about something they buy. And then we get into a crazy conversation about sexuality. And I’m like, What are you talking about? What is this thing? Like, why are you obsessed with this particular, you know, brand or whatever it is, and then you find out this whole side to someone that you never knew existed? So, to me, it feels very intimate and exciting, and it feels very different than anything I’ve ever done before. And it feels a little scary and it feels fun. So all of that is still there for me. And then when it isn’t, then I’ll move on to whatever the next chapter is.
V Spehar 40:10
Speaking of like brands and consumerism and the intersection that there is with societal issues, recent story in the news I’m sure you’ve seen it about the Bud Light sponsorship of trans performer Dylan Mulvaney, have you seen this?
SuChin Pak 40:27
Now I, you know what I saw something about Bud Light. But I was like I don’t I didn’t look into what the story is. So explain it to me.
V Spehar 40:34
So Bud Light has sponsored this trans Tiktok, her actress and activist Dylan Mulvaney, who’s incredibly popular, who does all of these very positive stories, and she had this series called 365 days of being a girl. And so on the 365 day, Bud Light sent her a bunch of beer, they put her face on one can and you know, they were like, congratulations, you’ve been to 365 days of being a girl. And it was a little celebration. She made a little tic tac about it very adorable, very great for our community. Well, Kid Rock for some reason, Dylan Mulvaney must show up on his for you page, which tells you everything you need to know about what he is actually interested in, in my opinion, because the only stuff that shows up on your for you pages and stuff you’re interested in, saw this got very offended, said Bud Lights gone woke bought a bunch of cases of Bud Light shot him up, it was like, I’ll never drink another Bud Light again, I’m only drinking Coors there, Wilk there, whatever. And it’s been a conversation now for probably like a week and a half about did Bud Light put Dylan Mulvaney in front of an audience that was going to reject her and was you know, going to be stirred to violence? Is she an authentic Bud Light drinker? And Was she a good choice as a spokesperson if they weren’t doing that? And how much does any of this matter? Because the number one thing people are talking about right now is Bud Light.
SuChin Pak 41:47
Now we all have to go out. I’ve never drink a can of beer in my life.
V Spehar 41:56
So these are the things like that are so interesting about Yeah, like to your point consumerism and social issues. And then folks don’t realize the buttplate actually has a very long history with the gay community. They sent a bunch of beer up during the Stonewall riots at one point, but light was the beer of people who were pro union and pro queer. And so like, you know, it’s such a fascinating show that you do you accidentally stumbled on this, like, very interesting thing.
SuChin Pak 42:19
I know. I kicked myself.
V Spehar 42:22
What are some of the themes that you’ve been so surprised by and doing the show?
SuChin Pak 42:25
I mean, I think that that’s a big theme in the sense that like, I’m just going to be fully transparent. But I think the bud light thing is a really interesting conversation and something that we’re having in some ways that’s related. You know, Lululemon wanted to come on as a partner. Kulap is a huge fan of Lululemon. I only say culottes because I don’t I’m not an exercise person. So is not one of the things that I’m into. But you know, over the past many years, Lululemon is extremely problematic. And, you know, the founder of that company who’s no longer on the board, obviously, still profits from Lululemon said that they named Lululemon Lululemon because he thought it would be funny to hear people in Japan, I think it was or an Asian country try to pronounce L, three times in a brand. Okay, so here we are. What are we going to do with that? And so cool, and I but okay, here, here we are, right? We’re two women of color, that want to create a space where other disenfranchised folks can come and talk about silly things can talk about their election, talk about the most important things can talk about the safety of our people can talk about identity and politics and all that plus serums. Right, here we are this corner of the media space? And do we reject a check from a company right that has a problematic past? And then what do we do? We have to either go off the air or scramble for other small indie brands that are struggling themselves to pay for our voices, right? Like I’m also not comfortable with that. I’m like, Fine, fuck it, have Lululemon write us a check. And let’s take that check and make some good use of it. Right? And so we kind of went back and forth, because the initial gut reaction was like, no. And then I was like, but what does this mean for us? What does this mean for what is what are we doing here? You know, if we’re always going to try to only that partners and sponsors that have never been problematic, we will never get those big checks. We will never grow we will never get a bigger audience and we won’t have this uncomfortable position of trying to figure out like who we are in the face of this and so I say this, you know, and so Lululemon is a partner and we’ve had conversations with them. We’ve had this exact conversation on the air, you know, with our audio and super transparent about it. And I’m really comfortable with where I stand, which is, I think that for us, as you know, minorities to only be relegated to a small space and not be able to touch the bigger the broader, more massive marketplace unless they’re willing to come to the table. What it does is it quiets our voice it I don’t think it serves what it serves. And so that I think it’s an interesting conversation. I think it’s an interesting conversation you’re having of like, all of these brands, is there, is there a new launched brand that doesn’t have a social impact arm that doesn’t have an environmental packaging? You know, Ben’s, you know, like, what, why are they doing this? It’s because we’re, we’re into it, we’re buying it, we’re, we’re, this is what we want. And so we’re changing the way Procter and Gamble does, things are changing the way that Unilever does things. It doesn’t make them a good company overall, does, I’m sure if we dug into other terrible stuff, too. But we I’m buying a pack of bud light, you know, like, what does this mean?
V Spehar 46:17
Right, you know, I’m living out of we talk so much about harm reduction, and I feel like we may have hit into like harm reductive capitalism, like could a brand be both bad, make amends for that bad thing they did, and then be rewarded, you know, by being included in the community again, in the future? Yeah. Seems like Yes. And how much of capitalism can be subjugated to harm reduction? I don’t know. But let’s push the borders on that. Let’s push them as far as we can on that. It seems to be working to
SuChin Pak 46:45
me, you know, like, it’s like, give one get one have one did the zero waste, you know, I mean, it’s all I’m sure a giant marketing wash to some degree, but at the same time, I’m like, these people think that the bottom dollar is that we care what we buy. And it’s not always I mean, I have I’m a Prime member at Amazon, you know, anything. I have an Amazon
V Spehar 47:09
store, but I won’t shop at home depot, right? Like, we all have different things that matter to us. And we’re not going to be perfect.
SuChin Pak 47:17
Like, I’m not going to shop it at Walgreens, but I’m a Prime member. Yeah, like we hold multitudes is how we say it, you know, like, there’s contradiction and, and all of that. But I think that that is the fullness of who we are and the conversation. And that’s honest, like that is what we’re talking about V. And that’s, I think, the core of what this show is about, but what you do and what I do is just like, I don’t care what it is, right, wrong. You know, at the end, I just want to be honest. And I think that there’s no wrong answer to that. If you can just be honest,
V Spehar 47:52
Susan, you have had such a long and impressive and exciting career. And I’ve been watching you literally since I was a kid. But I have to tell you.
SuChin Pak 47:58
Outside my office.
V Spehar 48:00
I haven’t on the 29th floor with Kurt Loder smoking cigarettes, and I’ve been down there like waiting for Britney Spears. Yeah, you know, we all have our priorities and but there is a part of your career that I especially love. And I think folks might be surprised by this, but I’m hoping that you’ll indulge me. Yeah, that is you hosted the Sister Wives like reunion.
SuChin Pak 48:24
I feel like I did that more than once. I don’t remember a couple times. And then there was like some spin offs that I did.
V Spehar 48:32
I’m going to tell you about your own career right now. You didn’t seek any sister wives did the actual Sister Wives a couple of times. You were the voice of cribs notoriously. I don’t know a lot of folks know that, and still the voice of crabs. Tell us a little bit about some of those projects that are a little bit lighter when it comes to like journalism. First of all, I never do that job because Mike Do you hear how high the octave of my voice is up right now? I would be falsetto through the roof trying to ask those questions to the to those folks who I honestly, I have so much respect for polyamory and for the ways that people love each other. It’s not about that. It’s about the dynamics of the people within this situation. And I just am fascinated by like the how you prepare for that.
SuChin Pak 49:19
I mean, you’re just like, I can’t believe this is homework. Like I have to watch another season of Sister Wives. I mean, yeah, you prepare for by being coming a super fan of the show, right? Because you got to know all the ins and outs and the drama and you know, when you’re sitting in that chair, you can’t just get handed a list of questions because the questions that that are on the piece of paper are not what really people want to hear. They want to hear the follow up. You know if someone’s gonna say something to be like, wait a minute, hold on. Are you set you know, because last, you know, season you said x and so you kind of really have to it’s it. It’s have a commitment to you know, do those kinds of shows because you really have to, like, know the ins and outs because that’s where the meat is. I mean, I love doing it. You know, I love. I am just a natural, and I am sure you are like, if you’re sitting next to me at a dinner, it’s either the worst night of your life are the best night because I won’t let go. There’s something weird, you know, like, it could be anything it could be, you know, my dad used to own a gold mine and you know, or whatever it is. And then you’re like, wait, what? Are you talking about your, you know, Korean immigrant from LA, what were you doing in Virginia at the time or whatever it is so, right. So to me, like human dynamics, intimate dynamics, like wow, like that is that’s a you know, that’s a big sandwich their sister wives. So that was really fun to do. And then in cribs is it’s interest because cribs came back during this time that we were locked in our houses, which makes sense. I think we wanted comfort food. I think we want to nostalgia, which is big. I think we wanted to you know, the you have the ad tour and then you have the cribs tour. You know, those are those are not the same tours. So I was the voice of cribs the first time around so I thought was very cute that they came it’s and by the way, it’s the same team, not the same like producers on the ground, but like the same executives. So it was the same executives that that were when we were doing it. So that’s funny because we’re all looking at each other like really? 20 years later?
V Spehar 51:32
when you go into someone’s home be it as the reunion host for Sister Wives or you’re going into someone’s actual bedroom on cribs. Are there any like guardrails you put up for yourself to not like how do you not be a creep is my question in case I ever get this job, right? Because my questions would be like, show me what’s in your drawers. I need to know everything about this pantry whenever you’re spiraling out of order.
SuChin Pak 51:54
You have to be a creep. You gotta go full creep. It’s the only way you can go have cream, you know, the audience away is like, how are you not asking this question? How are you not in that drawer, you know, and what they edit and cut out? You know, it’ll be there but you have to be. That’s, I love it. I love being full creep.
V Spehar 52:16
If you see something ugly in someone’s house, right? Do you like say something? Like they’re showing you like this painting? That’s probably like a million dollars that they’re excited about? Because they’re, you know, a celebrity or whatever? And you’re like that is the ugliest painting I’ve ever seen? Or do you just have to like, hold it together and be like, That’s fascinating. I mean, you found it that way.
SuChin Pak 52:33
Yeah, it’s fascinating. I didn’t say it was the most beautiful painting I’ve ever seen. But it’s fascinating. It’s a very interesting choice.
V Spehar 52:40
I’m like estate sale person. I just think it’s so difficult to imagine not walking through someone else’s life. And then picturing like how you would do it differently. And in trying to like provide content for the masses that isn’t as voyeuristic or creepy. But you’re saying you just have to be a creep.
SuChin Pak 52:55
Yeah, I think we’re all creepy. And I think we’re all voyeuristic. And I think that that’s why we love these shows, you know, because it scratches a part of us that are that we’re just so innately curious about how other people do exactly the same thing that we’re doing, you know, and whether it’s marriage, or whether it’s home decoration, whether it’s the stuff in your cart, you know, like, yeah, that that tells us a lot about in some ways that tells us way more about a person than what they’re saying. Because I think we can all go through media coaching, and we can all go through sound bites, but you can’t hide, you know what you got in your vanity drawer and you can’t hide, you know, what your spouse is saying about you. So in some ways, I think those things are even more honest, than what we’re saying.
V Spehar 53:43
It has to be fascinating to be sitting with the sister wives and calling them out on the ways that they talk. I mean, it’s all on TV. I’m, I’m honestly like, I think I’m so addicted to the show, because they’re so seemingly honest about their experience. And they don’t seem to have a ton of media training. So they’re just like, No, Mary’s terrible. And she yells at my kids and that’s why I don’t want to live next door to her and then they’re like sitting in front of you. And you’re like rehashing their drama for them.
SuChin Pak 54:06
No, I mean, it’s a dream job. And what’s interesting is that you get to see them off camera.
V Spehar 54:12
Oh, how are they off camera?
SuChin Pak 54:15
I mean, it’s the little things you know what I mean? Like it’s like certain people are more and less animated off camera and so it’s just really interesting. I think Mary off camera is way more composed and way more astute and way more kind of aware of the dynamics and yeah, and how she fits in. I think Cody is off camera not as chipper and like it yeah, everybody loves going on get you know, it’s very sort of, yeah, like, I wouldn’t say calculating is too far but like, very in control of like exactly what’s happening. And so, you kind of see that like, I think that there is a lot of truth, I don’t think you can have a camera on you for more than three minutes. And you not see a version of the truth. Like, I just don’t think we’re able to hide like that. And so I think that that is true. But I think that there are sides that we don’t see or that aren’t as visible when you’re looking through a lens. But when you’re sitting in the room with someone, the energy is totally different. The body language is totally different, how other people react to what they’re saying is very different than what you see on camera. And so that to me, I was just like, front row, you know, like, Yes, what’s going on in the lunchroom, like I don’t want to eat in my dressing room. I want to go to the cafeteria what’s happening?
V Spehar 55:41
And see what’s happening with them, I know and now Christine Brown is engaged. This is breaking news. She’s got a new man, she left Cody and now she’s got a new man. They’ve been dating for a couple of months. They’re getting married. We’re all excited for Christine Brown. But hopefully, hopefully you get questions with her at the next reunion special.
SuChin Pak 55:59
I think I need to call you, I’ve retired that.
V Spehar 56:04
We’ll do prep together and then I’ll go in and heavy creep on. Oh my gosh, SuChin, tell folks where they can find you right now and what’s coming up next for you.
SuChin Pak 56:14
Okay, so I’m at @SuChinPak on Instagram. And then at @AddToCartPod on Instagram for a podcast and our podcast is called Add to Cart. It’s a show about the things we buy and buy into what it says about who we are as weird people is aunties and creepers. But that’s it. I mean, there’s always stuff we have a live show for our show coming up in May. That’s the first time I don’t know could be the last time let’s see how this goes.
V Spehar 56:48
I think you’re gonna have so much fun. The audience loves to see you and it’s just fun. I
SuChin Pak 56:58
You’re gonna give me the Sister Wives treatment.
V Spehar 57:02
Yeah, so like get you all hooked up. You’ll be ready. feeling your best. SuChin thanks so much for spending the time with us today.
SuChin Pak 57:08
V Spehar 57:12
Okay, I know what I’m going to be doing this weekend and that is diving into some OG MTV gold and catching up on Add to Cart. That’s what, and you better be doing the same. But after you do all of that. Be sure to tune into next Friday’s episode where we will explore the stories you care most about. Leave us a five star rating on whatever platform you’re listening on. And follow me at @underthedesknews on TikTok, Instagram and YouTube. And guess what friends? There is even more V Interesting with Lemonada Premium subscribers get exclusive access to bonus content, like spiritual coach Kevin Garcia on what the future of spirituality might be and why it should look like a crowded table. Subscribe now in Apple podcasts.
V INTERESTING is a Lemonada Media Original. Our producers are Rachel Neel, Xorje Olivares, Martín Macías, Jr. And Dani Matias. Executive Producers are Stephanie Wittels Wachs and Jessica Cordova Kramer. Mixing and Scoring is by Brian Castillo, Johnny Evans and Ivan Kuraev. music is by Seth Applebaum. Please help others find the show by rating and reviewing wherever you listen and follow us across all social platforms at @VitusSpehar and @UnderTheDeskNews, also, @LemonadaMedia. If you want more be interesting, subscribe to Lemonada premium only on Apple podcasts.