President Obama: Notes for Exit Interview
Over the last decade, former president Barack Obama had 10 Rolling Stone cover stories. But his last, published November 29th, 2016, was undoubtedly the most crucial. The original notes from that conversation with Jann Wenner are pictured above.
In the introduction, Wenner patly explained he expected Obama to cancel the interview. It was the morning after Donald Trump's unexpected win. As the crossed-out questions show ("What did you think watching the results come in? Happy? Were you ever worried that Trump might actually win?) Wenner – like the rest of the world – was anticipating a very different morning.
But Obama kept Wenner's appointment. What proceeded would become a vital, unvarnished guidepost for how Democrats must proceed under an incoming Trump administration and Republican-dominated government.
"You really have to scrap everything and come up with new questions," Wenner said of his approach to interviewing Obama over the years. "The hardest thing is anticipating what you're going to ask next because he can change topics so quickly. Also, you always have to know what your last question is going to be."
Below is an excerpt from the interview in which Obama anticipates the "fake news" controversy and issues facing media outlets including Rolling Stone. Read the entire interview here.
The challenge is, the technology is moving so fast that it's less an issue of traditional media losing money. The New York Times is still making money. NPR is doing well. Yeah, it's a nonprofit, but it has a growing audience. The problem is segmentation. We were talking about the issue of a divided country. Good journalism continues to this day. There's great work done in Rolling Stone. The challenge is people are getting a hundred different visions of the world from a hundred different outlets or a thousand different outlets, and that is ramping up divisions. It's making people exaggerate or say what's most controversial or peddling in the most vicious of insults or lies, because that attracts eyeballs. And if we are gonna solve that, it's not going to be simply an issue of subsidizing or propping up traditional media; it's going to be figuring out how do we organize in a virtual world the same way we organize in the physical world. We have to come up with new models.