If theSkimm, Fox, and NBC had a baby, it might look something like The Flip Side. The new outlet’s goal is to create a “one-stop shop” for bipartisan political analysis. Its daily email newsletters send news summaries to hundreds of subscribers’ inboxes, providing both liberal and conservative perspectives on an array of headlines. In a period of intense political polarization, The Flip Side strives to promote conversation among people of all different ideologies.
The Flip Side is the brainchild of Annafi Wahed, a 2012 graduate of Bryn Mawr College. But politics were not always Wahed’s focus. She is a Chartered Financial Analyst (CFA) who continues to work as a senior analyst during the day. It was the 2016 election season – and its controversies – that compelled Wahed to begin The Flip Side.
“I heard about how the Trump campaign was barring entire media outlets from campaign rallies, and that was such a red flag to me,” Wahed said.
Wahed’s sense of urgency had deep roots. At age eight, she immigrated to the United States from Bangladesh, a country that has become the subject of intense debate over freedom of the press in the past few years. Freedom House, a U.S.-based nonprofit organization, ranked Bangladesh’s press freedom status as “not free” in 2016 amid reports that journalists were victims of murder by Islamist extremists in the country. Freedom House cites state censorship and pressure from the military on newspapers as further reasons for the status change (from “free.”)
Afraid of a slippery slope “similar to that of Bangladesh’s,” Wahed committed herself to starting a project that could promote a free press and bipartisan journalism.
“I did not want to wake up on November 9th only to realize that I did nothing to stop what I saw as a potential end-state of free press,” Wahed said.
Moreover, Wahed, a Democrat, became aware of her genuine curiosity as to what conservatives were thinking and consuming. As a New Yorker and a liberal arts college graduate, she felt that she was living in a bubble.
“Not only did I not have many shared experiences with the conservative voter, but we were also consuming different facts. I didn’t know what Fox News was saying. I couldn’t find a common ground on which to start a conversation,” Wahed said.
Enter: The Flip Side. In February 2017, Wahed sent out her first of many daily newsletters that presented an issue “from the left” and “from the right.” Since its inception, The Flip Side has covered topics ranging from the Comey hearing to Trump’s meeting with Putin. The summaries are curated by an editorial team from a range of political backgrounds: conservatives, liberals and those in between work together to ensure fair representation of both perspectives. Where The Flip Side’s left side relies on sources like NBC, The New York Times and Vox, its right side typically references Breitbart, Fox and National Review. Each newsletter takes five minutes or less to read, a length carefully thought-out by Wahed.
“We want the average person to take five minutes of their day and see the nuanced sides of both arguments,” Wahed said. “People suffer from confirmation bias – they don’t like reading things they disagree with. So we try to be very concise, to present the other perspective in just a few paragraphs.”
The issue of confirmation bias raises the question: if people are so entrenched in their views, if people only seek out news consistent with their beliefs, can a product like The Flip Side have lasting influence or change perspectives?
“I have to think yes,” Wahed said. “I have to think that if we as a nation realize that people on both sides of the aisle have valid arguments, then we can get back to discussing politics in a way that’s productive. It’s not about changing people’s minds; it’s about creating awareness of each side’s valid argument.”
Wahed says it is easy to change the way we understand the other side by beginning on small scales. When The Flip Side took off for the Fourth of July, Wahed left readers the following message:
Happy 4th of July weekend everyone! Assuming there isn’t a political revolution in the next five days, The Flip Side will be back in full swing Wednesday. In the meantime, tell your crazy uncle about us!
In an age when people “unfriend” their political adversaries on Facebook, Wahed encourages the opposite.
“Find that person from the other side of the aisle, that person whose posts make you cringe, and tell them to subscribe. Instead of rolling your eyes and dismissing them, ask them to have a more nuanced conversation.”
You can subscribe to The Flip Side at theflipside.io.