Institute of Politics

Matthew Yglesias

Author, Columnist & Political Analyst

  • Winter-Spring 2023 Pritzker Fellow

  • Seminars


Matthew Yglesias is the founder and author of Slow Boring, a subscription newsletter on American public policy that consistently ranks on Substack's politics top ten list. He's also a columnist for Bloomberg Opinion, the co-host of Grid's podcast Bad Takes, and the author of several books including most recently One Billion Americans: The Case for Thinking Bigger.   

Before launching his newsletter, Yglesias was a co-founder of with Ezra Klein and Melissa Bell, serving as the #2 editor at the then-new publication and launching the popular podcast The Weeds. Before that, he wrote the Moneybox column for Slate and was a pioneering blogger both at his own eponymous site and also for The American Prospect, the Atlantic, and Think Progress. He's written over the years across a wide range of subjects with a primary focus on economic policy and political pragmatism. He lives in Washington, DC with his wife (Slow Boring's editor and business director) and their son.  


"Covering Controversial Policy Topics"

Journalists aspire to tell true, interesting, and important stories without fear or favor. This is a difficult task under any circumstances, not least because people naturally disagree about what is interesting and important and they certainly disagree about what is true. The difficulties are in many ways compounded when the issue is the subject of intense ongoing social controversy. Any observation you make is bound to be read as an intervention in the controversy and bound to attract criticism - often from multiple fronts. One traditional approach to such controversies was to essentially duck them; to, in the name of “objectivity,” simply let each side tell its story and try not to do anything more. This has some obvious downsides - there’s nothing genuinely objective about giving equal weight to truth and lies.

At the same time, there is consistent pressure to set aside the search for the truth in favor of simply backing up the good guys - providing ammunition to the forces of righteousness while denying it to the forces of evil.

In a world where journalism is overwhelmingly (and increasingly) produced by young, college-educated professionals living in big cities and where partisanship and ideology are polarized by age, educational attainment, and the urban/rural divide, this means in practice pressure to side with progressive activists. Among the policy journalist’s peers - social friends but also colleagues covering non-policy beats - these are the people fighting the good fight, and undermining them makes you suspect, a bad ally, and likely a bad person.

And yet abstract values and a commitment to justice can’t settle a factual question. Activist groups are not doing journalism and have few incentives to make rigorous factual claims. The audience itself, though it would never admit this, often has little real desire for anything other than to have its own prejudices flattered. But to actually help people or solve problems you need correct answers to policy questions, and acknowledgment of uncertainty when answers aren’t available.

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