By Gabby Goodwin, Ruby Van Dyk, Alex Pinsk || Managing Editor, Assistant Managing Editor, Editor- in- Chief
Last Tuesday evening, February 25th, Asawin Suebsaeng ‘11 and Lachlan Markay, reporters for The Daily Beast, offered a reading of their book, Sinking in the Swamp: How Trump’s Minions and Misfits Poisoned Washington, at the Writer’s House. Suebsaeng, who graduated from F&M in 2011, was an English major and Editor-in-Chief of The College Reporter. Suebsaeng and Markay now currently work as investigative White House reporters for the The Daily Beast. The two of them have covered the activities of the Trump administration, earning angry denunciations from our current president’s followers, as they have uncovered stories such as Giuliani’s plan to foreclose the Russia investigation and Omarosa’s secret tapes.
At the reading, Markay read parts from the first chapter of their book, titled “Another Shitstorm in Fucktown,” while Suebsaeng read parts from the chapter “He Can’t Handle Jail.” After these readings, the floor opened for questions and students, professors, and faculty were eager to learn more about what Suebsaeng described as the “darkly humorous” tone of the book. Suebsaeng and Markay, in their book, offer an uncompromising account of the serious, yet humorous lives they live interviewing White House officials in Washington D.C. In their reading, hearing accounts of experiences with officials such as James Comey and Cliff Sims was entertaining and, frankly, any political media junkie’s dream. After having listened to the two chapters they read, students and faculty alike seemed eager to read the book and follow their adventures as political reporters in Washington D.C. in 2020.
The pair also gave a craft talk earlier that day to students and other members of the F&M community, during which they both discussed their journalism careers and took questions from the audience. Suebsaeng and Markay discussed their unique relationship as investigative reporters with opposing political views. Suebsaeng leans left on many political issues whereas Markay takes a more conservative stance. They commented that their professional bond was established during the 2016 election and now spend their time covering the Trump white house. When asked about how they navigate the Trump Presidential landscape and avoid partisanship Suebsaeng and Markay discussed the importance of prioritizing objectivity and giving perspective, while not voicing their own political leanings. Suebsaeng said “You are not playing for anybody’s team”, pointing out that the Daily Beast’s tagline is “Non-partisan but not neutral.”
As investigative journalists, Suebsaeng and Markay discussed their experiences dealing with sources and highly sensitive information. When discussing how to communicate and form relationships with sources, Markay highlighted the fact that “journalist[s] [are] only as good as [their] sources” and in order to develop trust it is important to “go about it piecemeal.” They also added that part of what comes with being a journalist is accepting the fact that people won’t always like you. It is vital to have a “thick skin” when interacting with sources and looking for information.
When asked about the role of journalism in this current political climate, the two argued that “There has not been a greater premium on investigative reporting since watergate.” According to Suebsaeng and Markay, aspiring journalists should not steer away from a career in journalism even though the field is rapidly shifting from its traditional landscape.
At the end of the talk, Asaswin Suebsaeng encouraged students at F&M who are interested in journalism as a potential career to reach out to him. Having been an F&M student himself, he highlighted his willingness to act as a resource. It was clear that Suebsaeng, like many F&M alumni, was eager to give back to the student body.
Senior Gabby Goodwin is The Managing Editor, her email is firstname.lastname@example.org
Junior Ruby Van Dyk and the Assistant Managing Editor, her email is email@example.com
Senior Alex Pinsk is the Editor-in-Chief, her email is firstname.lastname@example.org