Why is this interesting? - The Monday Media Diet with Aisha Speirs

On Robert Caro, Hanoi, and streaming Naples radio

Currently based in Hong Kong, Aisha Speirs (AS) is a longstanding friend of WITI. We met in somewhat hilarious circumstances (outlined below). She has been a writer, editor, and strategist for some of the most interesting brands in the world. When this is all over, I look forward to drinking an ice-cold G&T with her and her husband (also a dear friend) at the Metropole’s Bamboo bar. -Colin (CJN)

Tell us about yourself.

I’m an editor at T Brand, the New York Times’s in-house creative content/brand-marketing studio. I’m based in Hong Kong now and look after APAC from here. I’m originally from London and I lived in New York for several years (where I met CJN after he rescued me from Bill Murray at a bar one night). I started off as a junior editor at Surface, spent a good few years at Monocle, where I was bureau chief in both NY and Hong Kong, and also ventured to the brand side for a little while as the creative director for Potato Head, a hospitality/lifestyle company HQ’d on Bali.

Describe your media diet. 

I’m in the middle of trying to blend into my generation and consume more online. This is the first time I’ve worked somewhere primarily digital. At heart, I still feel more comfortable with print, so it’s a pretty trad diet.

Daily — in print, I read the FT, online it’s the NYT and Guardian — I love the “Today’s Paper” option that the NYT has, as I prefer to read stories in the way I would come across them in print. I will log into Twitter if something’s popping off (e.g. to find out where the tear gas is in HK) but the vast majority of my news comes directly from publishers, rather than social. I listen to the BBC Global News Podcast every morning, as it’s timed well for me to get the latest by Asia morning time. And most days, I’ll also listen to the Daily. BBC Radio 6 keeps me going through the day.

My ability to get past The Talk of The Town in the New Yorker each week has drastically declined since having a child. Thankfully, The Economist is still digestible enough alongside a toddler. And heartbreakingly, I’ve sort of lost my love for monthly mags — maybe because it’s hard to find a great newsstand with independent titles in HK. But The Garden Edit and Luncheon are two titles I’ve really enjoyed recently.

What’s the last great book you read?

Aside from whatever kid crack Julia Donaldson has put out, Robert Caro’s Working was a great recent reminder of how hardcore it is to be a real writer/reporter — something I don’t consider myself to be.

What are you reading now?

I seized the lockdown opportunity to read something both too visually jarring and too heavy (literally) to take on public transport, so I’m making my way through William L. Shirer’s The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich — it’s not chill. I’m also committed to finishing my brilliant friend Katrina Forrester’s In the Shadow of Justice, which seems to grow in pertinence as these weird weeks go by.

What’s your reading strategy when you pick up a print copy of your favorite publication?

Newspaper/weekly news mags — go to the sections/headlines that I know I want to read, drop the rest.

Glossy monthly/new title — flip through front-to-back before choosing what to invest in. I find the ad adjacencies as interesting as the content, especially in this climate.

Who should everyone be reading that they’re not?

I can name a lot of people we shouldn’t be reading. I hope everyone does read him — but in case not — in times of crisis, I turn to Hitchens. Sentence structure, intelligence, POV, humility, wit, charm, arrogance, and sadness — it’s all there. What a mind.

What is the best non-famous app you love on your phone? 

Coffitivity – it’s great for writing. It’s like white noise with personality or background noise without the arseholes.

Plane or train?

I know I should say train, but right now, plane plane plane. I grew up in the industry, so I’ve gone from seeing planes and airports as second homes to being grounded. I miss the romance, I miss the escape and I miss my family — who are far too far away to be reached by train.

What is one place everyone should visit? 

This is an impossible question, there is so much beauty to see. Go back to somewhere you love, as soon as it’s possible to do so because the little hotels and restaurants that you remember will need your money. For me, that may be the Mezzatorre on Ischia, the Metropole in Hanoi, or Jackson Boxer’s perfect Orasay restaurant in Notting Hill.

Tell us the story of a rabbit hole you fell deep into. 

Random cheesy/amazing radio stations in Naples? It started from a deep Lucio Battisti dive a few months ago, when I realized that we weren’t going to make it back to Ischia this summer as planned. I’m trying to make our home feel like an island in the Gulf of Naples — so nearly every night, we have (my husband’s perfect) negronis accompanied by stations called things like Radio Amore and Radio Mille Note. Traveling via internet radio is an amazing thing.

Thanks for reading,

Noah (NRB) & Colin (CJN) & Aisha (AS)

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