Tina Brown says women should ‘lean on’

NEW YORK, NY - JANUARY 06: Tina Brown attends the "Girls" season three premiere at Jazz at Lincoln Center on January 6, 2014 in New York City. (Photo by Michael Stewart/WireImage)
NEW YORK, NY – JANUARY 06: Tina Brown attends the “Girls” season three premiere at Jazz at Lincoln Center on January 6, 2014 in New York City. (Photo by Michael Stewart/WireImage)

Since leaving the Daily Beast last September, Tina Brown wasted zero time leaning right back in. In fact, the media mogul announced her departure and her next venture in the same breath. “Tina Brown Live Media,” which focuses on “live journalism,” will have its first warm-up in Washington before the company’s marquee New York event — the Women in the World summit in April. Monday’s Women in the World Breakfast will be co-hosted by Hillary Clinton’s bestie Melanne Verveer, executive director of the Institute for Women, Peace and Security at Georgetown University, and will spotlight NBC’s Andrea Mitchell interviewing Cathy Russell about her role as U.S. ambassador-at-large for women’s issues. Recently, we caught up with Brown about the state of feminism, journalism and other isms. An edited transcript follows:

Leaning in,” “reclining,” the “war on women” – what’s the state of the debate on women’s issues? What does “Women in the World” add?

What we’re doing is really more like “leaning on” – showcasing amazing women with amazing narratives, and learning how we can support them in changing laws, or how to join them in activism that is goal-oriented.

The women we showcase are doers, they’re not just sitting around talking about women’s issues.

Feminism in some ways has become quite dormant. We have Sheryl Sandberg and the her clarion call … but American women can get detached and forget just how hard women in other countries are fighting for the most basic rights: Can they drive? Can they marry who they love?

What is “live journalism?”

It’s as journalistically intense as anything I’ve done – we spend our time finding incredible stories. We do a great deal of culling to find the most compelling stories and presenting them with a lot of dramatic intensity. It’s like living the pages of a magazine.

You founded an events company based on bringing actual people into actual rooms, which seems to be the antithesis of the media’s digital obsession. Why is connecting in person still important?

I’ve always been a bit counterintuitive. And the more we are addicted to our screens, the more we want to get away from them. It’s so important to create relationships in the world of ideas – people miss the community and they miss shared experiences. Almost every media organization is doing something with live events now, and that’s because they feel they can break through that way. People want the taste of human experience.

Is coming up with a group for a live event like creating a guest list for a cocktail party?

I consider the mix of a summit the way I’d consider the mix of stories for Vanity Fair or the New Yorker. It’s going from the intellectual excitement of [columnist] Tom Friedman and [IMF Managing Director] Christine Lagarde to the emotional intensity of the more personal stories.

Dream guest?

[German Chancellor] Angela Merkel – I think she’s had such an amazing impact in Europe. And [Burmese democracy leader] Aung San Suu Kyi.

Next act?

Could I get through this act first? [laughs] My company is 8 weeks old. God help me if I start thinking  that far ahead.

Emily Heil is the co-author of the Reliable Source and previously helped pen the In the Loop column with Al Kamen.
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