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Why Reggie Fils-Aimé wants to be friends with Kara Swisher
The former Nintendo exec has been interviewed thousands of times — but never by his favorite interviewer.
Here’s the second segment from Friday’s episode with Reggie Fils-Aimé, the former president and COO of Nintendo of America. Reggie’s new memoir is Disrupting the Game: From the Bronx to the Top of Nintendo.
What’s your favorite Kara Swisher interview? Send us an email: email@example.com
ERIC: Reggie, let's move on to your next follow. I asked you for someone you don't know, but want to be friends with. And you said friend of the show, Kara Swisher. She's on Twitter and Instagram @karaswisher, is the host of the New York Times' podcast, Sway, and she co-hosts the New York Magazine podcast, Pivot, with Scott Galloway.
I'm very biased here. I've known Kara for more than a decade; I think she's great. But why do you want to be friends with her?
REGGIE: Throughout her time with the Wall Street Journal, all of the various outlets that she's been involved in, I have always been interviewed by her partner, whoever it was at that point in time that she was doing work with. Never interviewed by Kara, and always wanted to, because I find her incredibly smart.
I find her knowledgeable and influential on so many different topics. I listen to her current podcasts. I am a huge fan of the work she does, and yet I'm so disappointed that at least to date, I've never been interviewed by her. That's why I'd love to somehow make that connection and would love to spend time with her. I think she's just so incredibly smart.
ERIC: Well, after this episode comes out, I'll be tweeting about it. We will see if we can get on her radar. But talk a bit more about what you specifically like about her style when you listen to her interviews, and listen to her podcasts. What is it that for you as a consumer of business podcasts and of things like this, what is it that you think sets her apart from other journalists, other interviewers?
REGGIE: I find she asks very thoughtful questions that allow her guest to articulate a point of view and to be able to state that point of view clearly and directly. She doesn't interrupt. She lets the guest get the point out.
But now, if she disagrees or if she has an alternative point of view, she'll challenge and she'll push, but always with respect, always from a basis of knowledge. And as someone who's been interviewed hundreds, thousands of times, that's all you can ask for from an interaction: Someone who's going to be thoughtful in their questioning, is going to allow you to state a point of view, and then if there's an engagement that happens afterwards, that it's done with full respect.
So that's what I love, in listening to her various podcasts. She encourages a wide range of different individuals to come on her show. She's had people that she flat-out disagrees with their point of view and their perspective, but she welcomes them onto the various platforms and gives them an opportunity to articulate a point of view.
Often, given how effective she is as an interviewer, she will let them somewhat hang themselves with the comments that they're making, but she welcomes alternative points of view and is able to navigate those interactions so effectively.
ERIC: I learned a ton from her over the years, working with her on Recode Decode, her former podcast. And one of the more important things was about approaching interviews with the right level of skepticism. As you were saying earlier, you don't want to be argumentative, just for the sake of being argumentative.
But even when she'd be interviewing someone who she might have been on kind of casual, friendly-ish terms with, someone who she liked stuff they did, she would still go in with professionalism and with a journalistic skepticism, a slight remove, just because that's part of the job. It's not to be the person's friend.
That's something that I think a lot of interviewers … it's easier to be nice and just be someone's friend, but challenging them is an important part of the job.
REGGIE: Absolutely, and this is something, again, as an executive, as a spokesperson for so many of the different brands that I've worked on, it's something that you learn right away.
That even if you know the interviewer, even if you've had interactions with them many times, in that instance, they're not your friend. They are doing their professional job and you need to do your professional job in terms of communicating a thoughtful, clear point of view.
ERIC: Do you find that when you were being interviewed by video game journalists … I assume you were being asked the same questions a lot, but do you remember specific instances where it was extremely refreshing? I know you haven't been interviewed by Kara, but are there times when it was like, wow, this person came at it from a different way?
REGGIE: The first part of your question, yes, I would typically get the same questions. Interviewers would probe the same areas. But I'll share that as the person responding, it was most disconcerting when an interviewer would go in and out of different topics, asking me questions that aren't necessarily connected.
I found that to be a very effective interview approach because it really made me think. It took me out of that clear spokesperson role and really made me think and provide thoughtful answers. I'll name two people who did this quite effectively: N'Gai Croal, who worked for a variety of different tech publications and also worked for Time Magazine, was very effective at doing this, asking me a variety of different questions, but they weren't linearly connected.
And then there's a gentleman by the name of Stephen Totilo, who works for Axios now. And I consider both of these people friends, but again, his typical approach would be dipping in and out of various topics, which constantly made me think and constantly made me be more thoughtful in my responses, which I really valued. I think the end product was that much better.
ERIC: So, let's say Kara calls you up tomorrow and says, "Reggie, I just heard you on my favorite podcast, Follow Friday. You seem cool. Let's be friends."
So you've said you want to be interviewed by her, but what else? Do you want to go somewhere with her? Do you just want to sit and chat?
REGGIE: Look, I'd love to be on one of her podcast shows. I'd love to sit and have a cup of coffee, especially as our world is opening up. She tends to be in the same general places that I tend to be. She's in New York, Miami and San Francisco, and these are areas I'm finding myself in more and more versus my home city of Seattle, Washington.
When I say someone I'd like to know better, someone I'd like to have as a real-world friend, just being able to sit down and have a cup of coffee, pick her brain, what's going on in the broad spaces around tech, what's going on at the intersection of tech and politics, what's going on as the world deals with some pretty tough issues and just hear a smart perspective.
ERIC: Absolutely. Well, that was Kara Swisher, who is on Twitter and Instagram @karaswisher.
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