'FiveThirtyEight's Allison McCann on Soccer, Death By Drone | MEDIA DIET
She's got no time for most podcasts but knows at least one dope Instagram workout account.
It’s the busy season for visual journalist Allison McCann. FiveThirtyEight, the brainchild of predictive data wiz Nate Silver, not only specializes in sports, but politics, too. Silver has famously forecasted a few major elections to startlingly close degrees and FiveThirtyEight’s models are about to go into full swing again. So, each morning, McCann will see what’s “changed in the polls and what not.” Often, she visits The Upshot — The New York Times’ answer to FiveThirtyEight, which they used to own — and The New York Times’ Now app. “It’s not politics-related, but little snapshots of what’s going on.” What else is going on, Allison?
“I am an avid women’s soccer fan. I used to play,” McCann tells me from the FiveThirtyEight offices. “Their season ended, but over the summer I was in Canada for a bit for the World Cup. So, anytime there’s soccer — especially women’s soccer — going on, I’m definitely following that.” She keeps tabs on the sport via sites like The Equalizer, even though it’s “slow times” before the Olympic qualifiers start up in December and January. “I get Howler Magazine, which I sometimes contribute to,” she adds. “It’s an awesome soccer quarterly.”
McCann has been working on various NBA projects as the season tips off, which suits her just fine. She finds baseball “super boring” and reports, “I hate football.”
So, what’s up after work? “I try to work out. That’s sort of my unwinding, which maybe sounds weird. It’s another media obsession. I’m really into following people who do weird work out things on Instagram and what not.” Then, she points me to the Squat Guide, which “has good butt exercises” and has the added bonus of being hilarious.
McCann’s other Instagram habits include — but are not limited to — checking Ikea Hackers for home decorating ideas. She just made a bench out of a bookshelf by “just turning it on its side.”
“I’m a super lame music consumer,” McCann says of her workout tunes. She listens mostly to Top 40 material when getting ripped, saying,”I just want pop streaming the whole time. So I’ll go to Spotify’s browse and hit the charts like the Global Top 50.” She had a lot of love for Carly Rae Jepson’s recent album and is all about the new Bieber cuts.
So, how about TV? “I just finished Mr. Robot and I really liked it,” McCann says. “I do some programming type-stuff at my job. I don’t do the stuff like he does in Mr. Robot — bringing down government databases — but the programming on the show was actually pretty legit, not like other TV shows. I feel like with other shows and people doing computer stuff, they’re just hitting the keyboard aimlessly.”
McCann recently checked out Netflix’s Winter on Fire. “It’s a documentary about the Ukraine uprising a year or two ago,” she says. “I feel like I barely knew what was going on during that time, but it was really insane. These people basically squatted in this main square in the capitol for like three months — in the Ukrainian winter when it was negative 100 degrees — and ousted the president.”
As for print, McCann hooks up The New York Times on the weekend “because I’m obsessed with the real estate section, which is nobody’s favorite section, but it’s mine.” Her boyfriend gets The New Yorker. “I read that insane story of the college couple who killed someone’s parents that was in last week’s issue. It’s really crazy and really good,” she says. “I kind of have a weird thing for reading about teenagers who murder their parents. Like the one in Florida, with the kid who murdered his parents because they didn’t want him to have a party and then he just left their dead bodies — locked them in their rooms — and then had a party at their house. I feel like there’s always one a year: a sensational story about teenagers who have killed their parents. I’ve read all of those. Which I feel makes me sound like a sociopath.”
“I just finished Fates and Furies, which was this really crazy novel about married life and its drama,” McCann says. “I think it got slammed in The New Yorker for being trashy — or trying to be high-brow trashy — but I really liked it.” She goes on, “I just started Objective Troy, which is non-fiction. It’s the story of Anwar al-Awlaki, the first U.S. citizen we killed via drone under Obama. Just some light reading. I alternate between trashy novels and then heavy drone morality.”
McCann is also starting Citizen by Claudia Rankine, mostly because she loves Serena Williams. “I actually snapped a photo with her on Monday: I was at this event and she was there. I ran into her in the elevator and was like, ‘Oh my God, I’m obsessed with you!’ and took a photo.”
When I ask McCann if she’s into any podcasts, she responds thusly: “I can’t get down with the hour of two dudes chatting that we’ve really gotten into. I just want someone to make a nice, focused 20- to 30-minute podcast and then I’ll listen to that. I tried Marc Maron and all these things, and I’m just like, ‘I can’t listen to you shoot the shit for an hour-and-a-half with your friends.’ I’m kind of jealous of these dudes who made a career out of ‘I’m just going to record me and my buddies talking about some shit.’ People love it! So I feel like, ‘Oh, am I weird? Because this is torture.’”
I hereby nominated Allison McCann for her own podcast. Just keep it to 20 or 30 minutes.