It’s easy to get caught up in a regional battle. The South versus the Coast. The South vs. New York City.

I’m guilty of plenty of snarky tweets about parachute journalists dropping in and covering Southern stories, even if I personally know several native Alabamians who work for the biggest media companies in the world.

And that’s the thing. The lines are so blurry. New York is a city made up of people from around the world including a whole lot of Southern expats. And the South is increasingly full of people who are moving down from big cities on the coast. Especially during the pandemic.

The battle can be fun. And the memes are usually funny. But sometimes we overlook the role the Southerners have played in shaping the national conversation, just because they happen to come from New York companies.

This week on the Reckon Interview, we speak with Elizabeth Spiers, a person who helped establish how we read and write on the internet. Spiers was the founding editor of Gawker, a website that maybe didn’t introduce the snarky, blogger voice that took over media, but certainly took it mainstream. She helped define that voice and went on to work with New York Magazine, edit the New York Observer, and found and run several other media sites.

And Spiers grew up in Wetumpka, Ala. So how did a woman from small town Alabama become a key player in New York media? It’s part of a long tradition of Southern expats playing a role in shaping the national conversation.

We talk about her life in Alabama, the culture shock she experienced in North Carolina more than New York, and of course her time working for Jared Kushner. And then we also talk a little bit about the regional divide too. 

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Below is a full transcript of the episode. 

John Hammontree: We are talking today a little bit about your time in New York. But also I want to talk about your time in Alabama. I don’t know that people would necessarily assume that a woman from Wetumpka, Alabama, would go on to play such a pivotal role in what might be called New York-insider media. So let’s start by talking about you know, you grew up in Wetumpka in the 80s, early 90s. What was what was your life like there? What was Alabama like?

Elizabeth Spiers: I think Wetumpka wasn’t much different, although it’s the population has kind of exploded since the casino went up there. I think Wetumpka had maybe 4000 people when I was growing up, and my whole family still lives around there, my dad’s in Slapout, my mom’s in Wetumpka, my birth mom’s in Eclectic. So I go back when I can, although I haven’t been back since before the pandemic, for obvious reasons. I grew up in a small town, I went to Edgeweood Academy in Elmore, there were 32 people in my graduating class. So a lot of people sort of understand what that means. You know everybody from the time that you’re able to make friends to all the time you graduate. I graduated from Edgewood, and I went to college at Duke in North Carolina, and I had a lot of culture shock going from Wetumpka to Duke. I can’t say that I had as much going from Duke to New York. But I feel like I had a great childhood in Alabama. Wetumpka’s a tight knit community. I mean you really do know everybody and that’s something that is, I think, is a blessing to grow up with.

Hammontree: When you say you knew everybody, Gawker established a reputation for gossipy look at New York. You know, were you interested in that side of knowing everybody in Wetumpka or was that something that, you know, just kind of came with the territory?

Spiers: Well, the origin of Gawker is a little bit simpler than I think people think it was. And basically, I had a blog. And I was writing about politics and finance and just stuff I was interested in. And I met Nick Denton, who is a British entrepreneur who had already sold two companies. And we just got to be friends. You know, Nick was a decade older than I was, but we were just spending a lot of time together. And he had this idea for a kind of insidery New York blog, and he liked my writing voice and asked me if I would write it. But I wasn’t a New York insider and, really, neither was Nick, you know, so we were trying to make observations about the way New York worked but we’re doing it as outsiders. And there’s a long history of people in New York media who were outsiders doing that. You know, a guy I consider a mentor was Kurt Anderson, who co-founded Spy Magazine with Graydon Carter. Kurt was dude from Omaha and Graydon’s Canadian. There’s a long tradition of people who are outsiders in New York being the people who end up chronicling it. And I think partly, sometimes it’s easier for us to do it. We can see the contrast between, you know, the weirdness of New York and the way a lot of other areas in America operate. And I think that’s harder to see if you grew up in New York, you would just assume all that was perfectly normal.

Hammontree: But the voice that you kind of cultivated there, I guess was satirical. It was kind of built on the idea that New York is the center of the universe, but it also kind of became a voice that from Gawker to Gizmodo to Jezabel, you know, became kind of the coin of the realm on the internet. And a lot of us grew up reading those sites and emulating that voice. Obviously, you didn’t imagine anything like that would have happened when you were starting this blog, but and you left Gawker in what 2002?

Spiers: 2003, I think, yeah.

Hammontree: Has it been interesting and surreal to watch that take place?

Spiers: Yeah, I thought it was interesting and surreal when it was happening, but it’s still bizarre to me. The first time I kind of realized that Gawker was taking off was when other media outlets started to cover us. And I remember at the time, you know, I was writing Gawker 50 hours a week. Which was not the original intent. We thought it was gonna be a part-time, fun thing. And it just ended up taking up my entire life. And I also wasn’t really getting paid very much to do it. You know Nick had agreed to give me like kind of a stipend of like 1200 bucks a month which does not pay the rent in New York. So, I was freelancing on top of it. And it was really stressful. And I was worried that I was gonna go bankrupt during Gawker. So, the Times did a Style section piece on us. And it was coming out on like a Saturday or Sunday. And I remember Nick instant messaging me at the time saying, like, “did you go find the early copy of the Times so you can see the piece?” And I said, “No, because I’m on deadline for something else. And I’ll see it tomorrow.” And he was surprised by that because he was like, “well, I went and found it immediately.” And I was like, “well, I gotta be honest, I’m not sure I even want to look at it. Because if I end up back in my parents’ basement in a year because I can’t make ends meet, it’s just gonna be that much more humiliating that we were getting that kind of attention.” So that was weird. And then I remember, like, the first time my parents really realized what it was, I think it was like mentioned in a movie or something, because they don’t keep up with New York media, but they don’t keep up as much media categorically. So they kind of didn’t really understand what Gawker was. And when I got more traditional jobs, I worked at New York Magazine, I was a columnist at Fortune for a while, like, I bought them subscriptions. I’m not sure if they ever read them but Gawker is just so far, you know, I mean, there were people when we started it, you didn’t know what a blog was. So my parents were just like “when are you going to get a real job?”

Hammontree: Well, and I think that’s interesting, because like, you know, college journalists, all over the country, all over the world, I guess, probably read New York Magazine, Gawker, you know, some of the more New York focused media, more than your parents or more than a lot of our audience, some of those sensibilities might work their way into their writing styles. Even if you know, the preoccupation with a lot of New York-centric things don’t. The glaring example that disproves that point I guess, would be Donald Trump and Jared Kushner, who you worked with at the New York Observer. Tell our audience a little bit about what the New York Observer was and is. It kind of inspired what Gawker initially started as.

Spiers: Yeah, the New York Observer is a small regional newspaper. It’s what’s considered a general interest publication. So, it covers politics, business, real estate, all the big industries that are kind of headquartered in New York, and it had a big visual arts section. So we covered arts and culture, and it was printed on salmon newspaper, like the FT (Financial Times). So it had a distinct look and feel to it. But it’s probably most famous nationally for being where the Sex in the City column originated, to both the pride and horror of staffers there. I became the editor in, I think, 2011. Jared had recruited me because I had this digital background and he hoped that I would help, you know, make the place more digital. And I also had an entrepreneurial background. Part of my job was to spin up new publications for the Observer, which we did. Lifestyle supplements, like home magazines, that sort of thing. And I was there for 18 months, which doesn’t sound like a long time, but under Jared, that makes me the second longest running Observer editor. The editor for 17 years was Peter Kaplan, who was legendary. And he was kind of a fantastic personality who did seem to be in the right place at certain historical moments. So I had big footsteps to follow in after Peter because he sort of set the tone for the Observer. And the Observer had a very specific voice that, you know, I tried to imitate at Gawker. I think my influences for Gawker were Spy Magazine, The Observer and an English satirical publication called Private Eye that Nick really loved. And I was just always sort of imitating them. But that voice wasn’t very common online. We didn’t have a lot of competition online specifically, you know, the Observer wasn’t really putting their stuff online. This was when you were publishing on the fly, because there was breaking news, that was highly unusual, you know, the Times wasn’t even doing that at that point, but it was novel at the time.

Hammontree: Were you reading? I mean, I assume you weren’t reading the New York Observer in Wetumpka. But were you reading outlets like Spy Magazine?

Spiers: I remember being vaguely aware of some new stuff that was launching. Like I think I had a subscription to Swing Magazine, which was supposed to be a kind of cross between a political and culture magazine when I was in high school, but I didn’t think I was gonna go into journalism so and Duke didn’t even have a journalism school. When I went there, I took zero journalism courses. I didn’t work on the school newspaper. I kind of fell backwards into media and I wanted to work in foreign policy. So I think in as much as I was aware of New York media, it was just because I was a big reader.

Hammontree: Working for Jared Kushner, and also covering the Trumps, whether it was with Gawker or, I guess the complicated relationship of covering or not covering the Trumps with the Observer, they’re kind of the quintessential, I guess, New York social climbers. Could you see then what aspects of their personalities may appeal to people in Wetumpka, Alabama?

Spiers: People who really love Trump who are in Wetumpka, have an idea of him that’s completely created by entertainment media. Like they watched The Apprentice, and they think it’s a documentary of sorts. So they have all these ideas about him that are that are just wild to me. And I say that, you know, most of my family are Trump voters. You know, I could go home and tell him, you know, this thing that you think, is absolutely not true. And I know this because I know Ivanka and Jared and the family, and it doesn’t matter. They will listen to what Fox News tells them about Jared Kushner before they’ll listen to what I tell them just because they assume that anybody who criticizes Trump is doing it from a place of pure partisanship. Even when it’s somebody like me who knows them and has had to cover them for years. So there are all these myths about Trump and people are just determined to believe them that you can’t dislodge. And that’s a problem. You know, it’s a problem for journalists, because it sort of indicates that when it comes to certain political issues, people don’t really care what the truth is. They want a narrative that they like. So, you know, if you tell people that Trump has been in tax trouble for years, he ran his own company into bankruptcy four times, in New York, he is regarded as a bumbling clown. He’s not taken seriously as a businessman at all. And for good reason. You know, he ruined his own credit. By the time he ran for president, there was one American bank that would lend to him, because he had such a bad track record. But you talk to people who don’t understand that. And they say, well, but he’s a successful businessman, have you seen The Apprentice? And he has a private plane. And they don’t realize that there’s a certain point at which you can have you can have that kind of debt and also still have illiquid assets. And so they don’t really put two and two together. There’s also just, you know, there’s a lot of class resentment and cultural resentment against what a lot of conservative voters view as coastal elite, or just elites generally, and some of it’s understandable. But some of it is just kind of knee jerk bubble stuff. I always think it’s funny when people suggest that people in New York live in a bubble because almost everybody I know who lives in New York has lived somewhere else. And almost no one that I grew up with has lived anywhere outside of Alabama. So I think there are there is a bubble effect, but it actually runs the other way. There aren’t that many people I know, who I grew up with who know anyone who’s progressive or who marched in a Black Lives Matter March. And here, I know people who are conservative. I mean, New York, overwhelmingly votes blue, but they’re not hidden. One of my neighbors had a big Trump sign up that he just took down two days ago. There are aspects of it that are frustrating. Both as a journalist, and to me personally. It’s weird to see some of my relatives complaining about the liberal media. And I’m the only liberal they know. And the only person who’s ever worked in media that they know. And they go, “Oh, but not you.” And I say well, who are you talking about? Like you have this sort of like cartoony idea of what the media is based on. Frankly, what shows that are sort of masquerading as news but are not news tell them. So they’re looking at Fox or Breitbart or Gateway Pundit or whatever. They’ll talk about the media, but they don’t include that. It’s like, well, that’s the media too. And more importantly, a lot of those outlets are really just commentary outlets, you know, they’re not doing reporting. And we have a media literacy problem in this country that is partly enabled by the fact that news organizations don’t really distinguish between news and commentary so people just kind of lump it in together. But you’re seeing consequences for that now like the fact that these networks are getting sued by Dominion, the voting system company, for suggesting that their technology was faulty. I mean, that’s a straightforward defamation case. And Fox is going to have to pay out some money for that. So there are some controls. I mean, you can’t get up on national television says something defamatory about somebody. But you can go pretty far in stretching the truth or just outright lying with no consequences.

Hammontree: Coming up after the break, we hear more from Elizabeth Spiers about the divide between New York and Alabama.

Let’s look at a time where Alabama kind of in the limelight. Let’s look at 2017, for example, the entire world was paying attention to the race between Roy Moore and Doug Jones. You know, what was that like for you as somebody who grew up in Alabama. You left in what early 90s I guess mid 90s.

Spiers: I matriculated to Duke in 95.

Hammontree: Longer now I guess then you lived in Alabama, but you are an Alabamian and Alabama native, it says so right there in your Twitter bio. And you come back home and visit family and things like that. So what is that process like in terms of… when I moved to Chicago, I remember having kind of the twin impulses of being an Alabama-apologist sometimes and saying, “you know, it’s not exactly what you think it is,” but also, you know, there’s a little bit of a need to maybe distance yourself from what’s happening there. So were you wrestling with any of that?

Spiers I have to Bamasplain all the time. After Trump won, I was running a little agency. And we did a lot of branded content. We were spinning up media publications. And my business partner was a guy used to be a political pollster and then ran consumer research at Conde Nast for a while. And we could not stop talking about politics which actually what I went to school for. And decided that we didn’t want to do branded content anymore, we wanted to get involved politically. So I sort of shifted the agency into a political consultancy and we do messaging and polling. So during the 2017 election, we were a vendor to a Super PAC, that was a Democratic super PAC. So we were keeping an eye on what was happening during that race, because we were sort of working alongside them as, you know, a separate organization that can’t coordinate with the campaign in that scenario. But you do think about how to message things that will, you know, make people think about what’s happening in the election. So we also did a poll in Alabama around that time and I was particularly interested in how people were reacting to, you know, the charges that Roy Moore had, or allegations that he had sexually assaulted a minor, and also how the extent to which white evangelicals were kind of aligning with Moore from a place of, you know, his very specific brand of conservatism. And, you know, the findings were not that surprising to me. One of the things about the people who supported Moore, and you know, may have even believed that allegations was just that there’s a little bit of, you know, “well, people around here get married young. Like if I got married at 17. Does that mean that my husband’s a pedophile?” There was a lot of people viewing it as a class issue. And they would sort of stick their heads in the sand about the 14-year-old. So you’d see all these kind of justifications for it. You know, the evangelical messaging mattered around all the issues that you would think it does. Like single issue abortion voters care about it. And there’s no equivalent for Democrats of single-issue abortion voters. There are very few things that people would even occasionally single-issue anything. But abortion and guns are huge for the right. We just don’t have the same thing on the left. The polling kind of told me stuff that I intuited but I needed to be able to show to people who were not Alabamians so that I had some quantitative basis for saying, “you know, this is what it’s like.” And sometimes people would have wacky ideas, like, we have weird blue laws in Alabama where you can’t buy liquor in certain places. And I had to explain to at least one political operative that you didn’t want to make that an issue because even in dry counties, you have wet cities, and the only difference is just maybe you have to drive 20 minutes more to get your booze. Like people just didn’t care. There’s also this perception about what particularly conservative voters in Alabama care about. And there’s also an unfortunate thing that people who haven’t spent a lot of time in the Deep South, think of it through the lens of, and I hate to say it, kind of white supremacy. Like they only think about white people, particularly with Alabama, and that’s crazy. You know, we have one of the largest ratios of African American citizens and the fact that you say, “Alabama,” and people automatically think of a kind of rednecky white person is depressing. And it sort of makes it difficult to work in politics in Alabama, because the Democrats are just perpetually under resourced. Because people think that it’s a Red State and is just always going to be Red State. And that’s frustrating. You know, I spent 2018 cycle working on some state leg races with Anthony Daniels, who’s the House Minority Leader. And that was fun because we get to pick amazing candidates who know it’s an uphill battle and then they’re not going to have a lot of resources. And so they are super resourceful. They’re determined. And at the same time, you know, I’m working on races in New York, where the candidates are different in terms of where they sit ideologically, they might be further left, we’ve even had DSA candidates here. But they do have resources and they operate differently. So I every time I work on a race, especially down ballot races, in Red States, I’m just impressed with the tenacity of the candidates given what they face.

Hammontree: Outside of the city of New York, if you get into more rural New York, is there more commonalities between that New York population and Wetumpka?

Spiers: Oh, yeah, well, I mean, Staten Island is like rural white, evangelical, Alabama. I mean, just voter wise. It’s heavily red. And when I say “conservative,” I mean I used to live in Bay Ridge, which is just across the bridge from Staten Island.Bay Ridge was very purple and there was a conservative constituency there. It used to be kind of an old cop and fireman neighborhood. And there was a building down the street from us where somebody had a Confederate Flag hanging out the window. And it’s not the kind of thing that you think you see in New York City but there are pockets of it. Certainly, you go further upstate. New York’s a big state. I have this thing where every time there’s a blizzard in Buffalo, my mom will call and be like y’all, okay? And I have to explain that Buffalo is like a nine-hour drive from here. Now I live in a neighborhood. It’s all still in Brooklyn. But at one point, it was the most diverse neighborhood in the country. It’s called Kensington and it’s right at the intersection of several ethnic neighborhoods. And it’s being gentrified by probably people like me. And it skews super Blue. And there’s definitely a piece of it where people do have Black Lives Matter signs in their windows. There aren’t that many conservatives around here. But again, you go two miles south and it’s a different story. You know, New York is a dense city, but it’s actually not that big. So, yeah, I’ve worked on races that were in Bay Ridge, or that were, you know, where you really were trying to figure out where the where the Democrats and where the lifelong Republicans were, and it wasn’t clear. I think New York is more ideologically diverse than parts of Alabama that I’ve lived in.

Hammontree: When you first moved up to New York, you weren’t working in media at the time, did you feel any sort of internal or external pressure to stop saying y’all or to neutralize your accent?

Spiers: I did when I went to college. And I don’t have much of an accent now but that was never intentional. It was more like a subconscious adaptive thing. And if I have more than two martinis, the accent comes back a little bit. Or if I’m around my family, it comes back. I go home to Alabama and it gets deeper. But Duke was the only school I applied to and I had not been there. Like I knew it was a good school. And my parents and I had this deal where I couldn’t apply anywhere that wasn’t in South, and I just kind of looked around and said I think I want to go to Duke. But I thought of it as like really a southern school. And then I got there and there are eight Alabamians in my graduating class and like 240 from New York City. I had some I think cultural pressure to shed some of my redneckiness, when I went to college. And I do remember, I had a pretty deep accent at that point, and there was a kind of dude who went to boarding school in the Northeast and was a lacrosse player who, at some point, loverheard me on the bus talking to somebody and he looked at me and he goes, “where are you from?” You know, as if I had some alien accent. But it was rare. Even the Alabamians that were at Duke tended to be from Birmingham or Huntsville. They were not rural Alabamians and that was true of a lot of the students that were from the South. They tended to be from suburban enclaves. I was in an organization at Duke called Dukes and Duchesses where you would give tours to VIPs that would come in. And I always thought I was the Redneck token person. Where it’s like, “Look at Spires. We pulled her out of Middle of Nowhere, Alabama.” And I just didn’t have the background that a lot of…Duke was a rich kid school. And I didn’t understand that either. Only 17% of the student body at the time was on any kind of financial aid. And my dad was a local lineman for Southern Company, so I was on a lot of financial aid. I feel got a preview of New York while I was at Duke. And it wasn’t too much of a transition to go from Duke to New York but quite a lot to go from Wetumpka to Duke.

Hammontree: In your Twitter bio, you refer to yourself as an Alabama native and a Brooklynite. How do you reconcile those two aspects of your identity, your personality?

Spiers: They’re both heavily parts of my personality now. I consider them both parts of my identity, because both of them have shaped who I am. I think when I moved to New York, I didn’t think I was going to stay. I thought I’d stay here for a couple years and then go somewhere else. I’m a little bit of a novelty seeker and nomadic but, yeah, I ended up staying here for 20 years, mostly for work, but also because I liked it. You know, the way I think about identity is increasingly complex too. Growing up, I was conservative, white, evangelical, and, squarely, my political ideas were exactly where those are now for people who are conservative white evangelicals. And, you know, over time, I moved more to the left, although not in the way that I think some of my relatives imagine, that I went to college and got indoctrinated by leftists. By the time I graduated college, I was more liberal, but still a conservative. I would have self-ID’d as, maybe a socially liberal libertarian. And also, I have other reasons that identity is meaningful to me. I was adopted and I met my biological mother couple years ago and I had three siblings I didn’t know about. And my bio mom is half-Mexican and indigenous, so my great grandfather was an immigrant. So, there are a lot of pieces of my identity that just don’t fit squarely in one bucket. I love New York City. It is my home now. I might leave at some point. But I also think of Alabama as home. What means home to me in the context that we’re talking about. And there are things that I miss about Alabama. Itt’s hard to be away from family when I have a five-year-old. But also, my husband and I both work in industries where, historically, we kind of needed to be here. And I love big cities, I get bored really easily. I don’t want to live in a rural area again. Like I want to vacation in a rural area to take a break from New York occasionally. But a lot of things that drive other people insane about New York, I really enjoy.

Hammontree: You’ve had your finger to the pulse of how media has changed for the last 20 years, as much as anybody you know. You’ve launched plenty of microsites yourself. Do you see it getting better? Do you see it getting worse? You’ve launched to Substack recently, I think. There’s a lot of conversation about whether or not it’s going to make things better or worse at the moment.

Spiers: I think the biggest problem with media right now is just the sort of silo effect that some of these things have on media distribution. You can sort of live in a media bubble where all your news comes from Facebook, and it’s algorithmically generated to appeal to you which may mean that it’s not always true. And the number of outlets that you look at are increasingly smaller. And I think that that’s not really conducive to people really understanding the truth or, as citizens, everybody having a shared reality. It really undermines the social contract when everybody thinks that totally different things are happening because of their media diets. The internet business models have also not been great for local news. Although I would wager, local news is sometimes hit-or-miss depending on where you are anyway. But when you look at where people are getting their information, you know, it’s significant that Sinclair owns a ton of broadcast stations and that they force anchors to read politically charged messages. And that there’s no equivalent of that on the left, either. But also, it’s made it more difficult to sustain local newspapers, which is unfortunate. And that’s also just an issue of people not really understanding how to adapt to new business models. And there are no easy answers. The companies that I think are doing a good job usually have several lines of business, some of which you don’t see. The Economist has a big events business on the back end, although I’m sure the pandemic probably took a big whack out of that. And there are certain publications that can work off of a subscription model or others that can’t. I think it’s a problem if everything becomes subscription because, you know, part of the public interest element of journalism is that you inform the public and you don’t want to be in a position where the public can’t have that information unless they pay for it because that locks out a lot of people from just being informed But I think things like Substack are just a totally different ball of wax. Substack is this newsletter platform where you can write a newsletter and if people choose to subscribe to your newsletter for an amount of money, they can get a large portion of that and then Substack takes a percentage. So there are some big newspaper columnists, magazine columnists who have moved over to Substack and they’re raking in giant piles of money. I think Matthew Yglesias is making like 800 grand a year. But the thing about that is you have to already have that audience and he kind of did, he built it up at Vox. Glenn Greenwald probably has a similar number of people, you know, Matt Taibbi. And that’s a hard model. It’s difficult to build an audience that you can port away from one outlet to another. You really have to build up a kind of personal brand. And it rarely works for people who aren’t opinion columnists. So I don’t see stuff like that really cannibalizing media. What I’m more concerned about is that there are fewer incentives for really hard in-depth reporting which is expensive and time consuming. There are fewer people willing to fund it, and I just worry that people don’t really understand the function of journalism. And the last administration did not help that case by creating a narrative that journalists are all out to pursue some partisan agenda. And particularly, that they are enemies of the people. That is just morally despicable to me because it’s fundamentally anti-democratic. And there’s just a really disturbing kind of thing that I feel like has been happening on the right, and in the Republican Party, where people are embracing these anti-majoritarian, anti-democratic ideas. And I don’t think some of them really understand the alternative to that is an increasingly authoritarian society. I feel like democracy should not be a partisan issue. We should all be in favor of democracy. So really trying to destroy trust in journalism, undermines that. So that’s another problem we have, we have to sort of restore the brand of journalism. But I also think when people talk about lower trust in media, that’s not necessarily a function of journalists doing their job worse. That’s a function of there being more media, people consuming more of it, people understanding more about what’s happening and not liking some of it. I don’t think that there’s really inflection point where media got worse or something and trust went down. Trust in the media also went down after Watergate, after the most famous of all time journalistic story. And it was because people didn’t trust institutions as much. And I think that’s happening now. People don’t trust anything that they perceive as an institution that they can’t access. And we also do have a problem. Large media companies are all very New York-centric, I think that reinforces that perception.

Hammontree: To wrap up, what’s something that the average Alabamian gets wrong about New York? And what’s something that the average New Yorker gets wrong about Alabama?

Spiers: Well, when they think about New York, they really do think that, somehow, like New York is a self-contained place where we all live in a bubble. And for the reasons that I explained, that’s highly unlikely. It’s also a city full of immigrants who have had vastly different experiences than most Americans. So I’d say New Yorkers are not the people who live in a bubble. They’re the least bubbly place. And Alabamians, I mean, one of the biggest issues is that the way that Alabama is portrayed in not just journalism, but in entertainment media is not great. There’s a sort of sense that, you know, everybody’s backward and uneducated and if you have a Southern accent, it really is a class marker. And that’s a function of people not really understanding that Alabama, population-wise is diverse. And also, that there’s varying culture. You know, the middle of Birmingham is not the middle of Elmore County, you know, and that’s something that I think people learn is different when they come and spend time in the Deep South.

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