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Sean Illing and Jamil Smith bring a new kind of interview show to your ears

Vox Conversations explores big ideas and hard questions with the most fascinating people.

On July 12, we’re launching a new podcast at Vox that tries to do the “interview show” a little differently. Hosted by Sean Illing and Jamil Smith — who promise not to refer to themselves in third person after this — Vox Conversations will explore big ideas and hard questions with the most fascinating people we can find.

We want Vox Conversations to be a home for honest discussions about everything from the relationship between democracy and fascism to psychedelics and mental health to the intersection of sports, politics, and culture. Whatever the topic, we’ll bring our whole selves to the conversation each and every week, pushing our guests to a place of real engagement, without pretense or bullshit. We both have strong points of view and you’ll hear that, but you’ll also hear attempts to probe, not preach, and to look for mutual understanding where we can find it.

We believe a good conversation is open, authentic, and makes room for surprises. To learn anything, you have to be alive to what’s being said, and you have to be willing to be changed by it. This is easy to do when talking to someone with whom you agree. It’s much harder to do when it’s someone you don’t agree with, or perhaps even mistrust.

If we do anything on this show, we hope it at least creates a space for this kind of dialogue. We will make mistakes; we will poke holes in liberal and conservative orthodoxies, and we hope to ultimately challenge the deepest assumptions we and our audience hold about the world. But the goal of the show will always be to dig into the ideas behind a given question, not to “win” a debate.

The first episode, on Monday, July 12, features Sean in conversation with The Atlantic writer Elizabeth Bruenig, discussing forgiveness and performative cruelty in the social media era. We talk about why it’s not just so damn hard to forgive, but also why our society lacks a coherent story to tell us how a person who’s made a public misstep can make amends.

You’ll hear our second episode, featuring Jamil and author Kiese Laymon on Thursday, July 15. The two discuss writing through racial and familial trauma, and with reference to Laymon’s recently re-released novel Long Division, talk over what it means to have a complex entity undergo revision — whether that be a literary work, or a still far-from-perfect United States.

In the coming weeks, you’ll hear conversations with Bill Maher on “political correctness,” Michael Pollan on drugs and the nature of consciousness, Larry Krasner on the work of progressive prosecuting attorneys in Philadelphia, and many, many others.

New Vox Conversations episodes will be released every Monday and Thursday. Follow us now on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, or wherever you listen to podcasts.