Apr 5, 2024

SPECIAL EDITION: The Tangle team, explained.

The first Tangle Live event in Philadelphia
The first Tangle Live event in Philadelphia

Who are all the people behind the scenes at Tangle?

I’m Isaac Saul, and this is Tangle. You are reading a special Friday edition, which is normally only available for paying subscribers. Not a subscriber? Sign up here.

First, a correction.

In yesterday’s edition on the Florida Supreme Court’s abortion rulings, we mistakenly described a state law passed in 2022 as banning abortions before 15 weeks of pregnancy. As many readers quickly pointed out, the law banned abortions after 15 weeks. In the process of writing about various abortion laws throughout the edition we inadvertently flipped “before” and “after,” and the error slipped by our editors. 

This is our 104th correction in Tangle's 243-week history and our first correction since March 13th. We track corrections and place them at the top of the newsletter in an effort to maximize transparency with readers.

Today’s read: 10 minutes.

One of the most exhilarating things about building Tangle has been growing our team.

In the early days of this newsletter, it was lonely in the trenches all by myself. I missed the newsroom. I missed people to debate with, to check my work, to bounce ideas off of. I missed colleagues to complain to, to celebrate alongside, to weather the squalls with. I so badly wanted people in it with me. I was basically relying on a fish for company and only my dad for copy edits. 

But as Tangle’s subscriber base grew, I started to dream. Not of a 300-person newsroom but of a small, tight-knit, dynamic, creative, well paid team doing meaningful work. And then I started to build.

At our first-ever Tangle Live event last year, I got to do something special: I brought the full-time members of the Tangle team on stage and introduced them to the audience: Magdalena, Ari, Jon, and Will. 

That was the first time since this newsletter turned into a real business with an actual team (and not just me and a laptop) that I got to introduce the Tangle team to the Tangle audience. There were a couple hundred people in the room and it was a very special moment, but for a long time I’ve been wanting to do it on a much larger scale.

This week, I’m in Bali visiting a childhood friend and working in a time zone that is 12 hours ahead of the East Coast. To navigate that challenge, I’ve handed the reins of the newsletter production over to the team as a whole, and have fallen into the rank and file as one of the editors and contributing writers rather than the lead person dictating what happens to every sentence. As we were planning for my week away, editor Will Kaback suggested we run a Friday edition where the members of that team could introduce themselves. It felt like an appropriate week to publish such a piece, so I gave the idea my enthusiastic support.

I wrote this intro without getting to see what everyone wrote about themselves, so I am excited to read it along with all of you. Let me just say this: I am incredibly proud of the team we are building. This workplace is the most challenging, fun, honest, and direct I’ve ever been a part of — and I hope the thoughtfulness, humility, and honesty we have with each other comes through in our product.

Each of these team members has added their own unique set of life experiences, political views and skills to our product, and I couldn’t be more grateful to have them with me. I also want to note that they are not the only members of the team; we have a few part-time workers, too. Sean copy-edits for us on most mornings and has one of the sharpest eyes I’ve ever seen (if there is a typo in Tangle, he was probably off that day). My dad, Bailey, still edits each morning by reading the newsletter out loud and fixing places where the flow runs stale. Our current intern, Russell, has been an awesome addition to our social media and research staff. Zosha fills in editing the podcast and audio content. Then we have a laundry list of college ambassadors and other recent interns. And, finally, I want to give a special shoutout to Paul and Casey, two friends of mine who have transitioned from my personal financial advisors to Tangle accountants and money managers.  

So, without further ado, I wanted to give a chance for the core, full-time team to share a bit about what they do. And I’ll see you (back on regular programming) on Monday! 

Ari — Managing Editor

Ari at Lake Champlain
Ari at Lake Champlain

Everyone at Tangle does many different things. That’s the hard and fun part of being a member of a tight-knit five-person company. But we also each have our own primary functions, and I have three: I proof, and I draft, and I disagree.

My days are usually split into two parts: First, proofing. Our mornings are always sprints, laser-focused on making sure we have the best version of our newsletter possible ready to port into our publication platform by 11:40 a.m. ET, then reviewed to be as clean and correct as possible by noon. That means clicking every link, checking every name, and asking every other editor to do the same. But my first job is to keep Tangle sounding like Tangle. The summary should sound distinct from the “Have a nice day” section, which should be different from the “My take,” which should be slightly different from the reader question, and it should all sound like Isaac. That is to say, it should be honest, intelligent, and accurate; but it should never be pretentious or showy (okay, occasionally it can be showy). 

All 4,000 words that we draft, edit, and publish every weekday have to be the right ones, or the readers let us know. Even if they can’t say exactly why, people know bad writing when they hear it. No consecutive sentences beginning then ending with the same word, no consecutive paragraphs starting the same. Sentence fragments used sparingly. Paragraphs of varying lengths, phrasing with a certain rhythm — we’re writing news that sings to people. The wording should be non-invasive, allowing the only part of our writing that challenges you to be the ideas themselves and never an awkward turn of phrase. 

That’s my first job: Make sure the writing is world class.

Afternoons are always something different. I’m responsible for writing the Sunday newsletter every week, as well as co-hosting a podcast with Isaac and sometimes adapting our pieces for republication. Depending on the day, I may be doing all of those things, or none of them. On most afternoons, though, a surprising amount of my time is spent drafting things for Tangle or for Isaac. Usually that’s a portion of the newsletter, sometimes it’s a long email, other times — like this week — it’s a TED talk (keep your eyes peeled for an announcement about that shortly). Isaac will then read what I wrote and make sure it sounds like him and matches his worldview, but if I’m doing my job right he shouldn’t have to change a thing. 

And that’s my second job: Pick up the slack, whenever there’s slack. 

My third job is probably the most important, and it’s one I’m uniquely suited for. I’ve known Isaac for 15 years; we first met at the University of Pittsburgh, were then members of frisbee teams together, then members of a bridge club together, and then members of writing groups together. We’ve pushed each other intellectually and made plenty of fun memories, too. I worked for Tangle part-time for a year, helping however I could to make it successful enough for me to leave my career in software to work with Isaac full-time, before the business was profitable enough for me to make the jump last June. Isaac and I have seen each other at our best and at our sloppiest (see below), and we’ve built a lot of trust. That puts me in a good position to be able to tell him when I think he’s wrong or missing something. It also empowers him to push back or just ignore me if he feels compelled to dig in. Even when we agree — which, to be fair, is most of the time — I battle-test every argument.

Which is my third job: Look for weaknesses and make our processes stronger.

I’ve had a lot of jobs already in my life: Software engineer, soccer referee, library clerk, bartender, SAT tutor, mattress salesman, brewery tour guide, manager of a kids gymnasium, and more. But this one is, by a healthy margin, the most rewarding.

For Isaac’s 21st birthday, a mutual friend and I attended his party in character as his bodyguards. To some extent, protecting Isaac is my actual job today. 

From left: Ari, Isaac, and Julian.
From left: Ari, Isaac, and Julian.

Magdalena — Social Media Editor, Chief of Advertising and Growth Operations 

From left: Chadd, Feliks and Magdalena with newest edition Theia
From left: Chadd, Feliks and Magdalena with newest edition Theia

I’m here to tell you that blindly answering an Indeed ad in the middle of a pandemic that sounded too good to be true, all while you’re burnt out on your journalism career and rethinking everything, actually works.

I joined Tangle mid-2020, back when we were still on Substack. Tangle only had a few thousand readers and Isaac was running it as a one-man show. He was working 16 hours a day — about half at his “day job” editing while also churning out this newsletter in the early mornings with just Sean for copy edits and his dad to disagree with. 

From memory, the Indeed ad promised, in so many words, to be a part of a new media company that was reshaping the narrative of what political news had become (which was all clickbait and “hysterical nonsense,” as Isaac put it) into something grounded and measured, factual and concise — something that readers could trust.

I paused before applying. A remote job in journalism? Political journalism to boot? That sounded … somewhat… cool? Too good to be true.

Half a year prior, I had quit my Assistant Editor position at one of the local newspapers in Oregon because I was burnt out. The hours were long, the pay underwhelming, and though there were extremely divisive topics that I passionately cared about (and still do, such as the housing crisis and homelessness to name a few), there were also local obscurities demanding our attention that I didn’t care for. Though I believe change happens at the local level, the opportunity with Tangle to sink my teeth into national issues while living in a mountain town was one that I sensed was once in a lifetime. 

So I applied. And I submitted a portfolio. And Isaac wrote me a novel of an acceptance offer that was so unapologetically authentic in his excitement that I too believed in his dream and vision. I instantly knew this was going to be something special.

In talking with Isaac over those first few months, I remember how different his viewpoint was from what I had experienced from publishers in the media space. He was adamant that he wanted to reframe how journalists, his employees, would be treated — not as disposable but as valuable. He promised that anyone at Tangle could submit edits on a piece, push back on a stance, participate in discourse and be heard; that it wasn’t going to be rigidly hierarchical; and that though he “couldn’t pay well yet,” his dream was to have everyone working for him get a slice of the proverbial pie. He wanted to make it so that when Tangle wins, we all win.

I come from a journalism background, but I’ve pivoted and evolved in my role here. I run our social channels, parsing down each edition into bite-sized bits that can be easily consumed. It sounds fun and easy, right? But it can honestly be quite challenging. To distill the nuance of a Tangle edition into an Instagram post is, sometimes, impossible (but we try); and keeping followers from unfollowing when they see something they disagree with can be somehow more impossible. I joke that our accounts most likely would be 10 times as big if it weren’t for the unfollow button.

When we decided to diversify our income stream in the face of mass industry layoffs by including advertisements, I threw myself into the role with zero sales experience. But that’s the beauty of a small but nimble team — the ability to try new things with the support of your boss. Having a firm and passionate belief in what we’re “selling” means that managing our ad space is as rewarding as it is challenging; although the general ups and downs of the industry, coupled with being discerning about who advertises with us, makes me greatly value our paid readership. Readers like you are still where the bulk of our revenue comes from.

I also work with the team to decide on our newsletter editions, direct our growth strategies, and collaborate on other projects. Recently, I made my personal debut in podcasting by interviewing voters for our Undecided podcast (which I love and will do more of). A few of us are also working through a website redesign, which has meant refreshing our graphics and planning big-picture branding initiatives. All the while I’m begrudgingly trying to figure out if Tangle should pivot into TikToks (should we?!).

In my personal life, I’m the mother of two beautiful kids, a toddler and a 2-month-old and life is busy! If I had to give a con to Tangle it would be that due to the nature of the news business, and because I genuinely love the work that we do, it can be hard to draw a boundary and disconnect from my phone and be fully present. But I’m working on it.

You’ll notice a common thread throughout our bios: We wear many hats here at Tangle. That’s due in part to a team love of headwear (check the photos). But it’s also due, in part, to Isaac’s trust in his team — trust to get things done, to figure things out, to be discerning while open-minded. To grind, while staying humble at the same time. And you’ll also notice a lot of mutual admiration, trust, and respect — and how could it get even better than that?

Will — Editor and Communications Lead

Will (left) and his dad, Steve
Will (left) and his dad, Steve

My Tangle story is a result of fortunate timing. I started reading in May 2020 on the recommendation of a friend, who enthusiastically sold me on the premise of grappling with arguments I might otherwise ignore or dismiss. I was hooked within a week of reading, and quickly came to rely on Isaac’s thorough reporting and keen analysis in the run-up to and aftermath of the 2020 election. 

Following that election, during which I worked as a field organizer on the congressional campaign of a “Blue Dog” Democrat in upstate New York, I moved to Brooklyn and started my first real job out of college at a public relations agency. On one Saturday afternoon, about a month after I moved in, I was walking around the block when I saw (and heard) someone strangely familiar. From a distance, the face was vaguely recognizable and the voice sounded oddly distinct. Who was that? As I got closer, it was unmistakable: It was Isaac, and we were next-door neighbors. 

I introduced myself, we chatted only briefly (these were still Covid times), and we would grab the occasional drink over the next year and exchange texts about the Nets (me, goading; Isaac, bemoaning). When Isaac and Phoebe moved to Philadelphia, I thought, Well, that was a pretty cool coincidence, and I figured I would just continue as a regular Tangle reader from that point on.

When I began to explore new career opportunities early last year, I couldn’t shake Tangle from my mind. Here was an organization with values that mirrored my own, appeared to be rapidly growing, and was led by someone I admired. On a bit of a whim, I sent Isaac a note to inquire about any openings, paid or otherwise. A little while later he offered me the chance to come on as an intern, and I enthusiastically accepted.

That was almost exactly a year ago, and looking back I’m again struck by the serendipity of it all. I was fortunate to join Tangle at a time when it had a number of nascent projects underway — the launch of a YouTube channel, a college ambassador program, its first live event, and more — which created the opportunity to join the team full-time a few months after I started. Now, I can’t imagine working anywhere else.

The absolute best part of working at Tangle (to me) is the variety of hats we get to wear on any given day. There are consistent responsibilities, of course; for me, those are editing, conducting research for the daily editions, writing the first draft of some sections in the newsletter, and creating content for our social channels. But outside of those duties, I might be helping Isaac prep for an interview with a politician or subject matter expert, pitching Tangle’s work to other audiences, booking Isaac for media appearances, writing scripts for non-newsletter content, collaborating with our awesome college interns to spread the word about Tangle on their campuses, or generally exploring new ways to get our work in front of more people.

The days are full, the hours unusual, and there aren’t many breaks. But it’s thrilling, rewarding and wonderfully challenging, and I get to do it alongside coworkers (friends) whose skill and intellect are inspiring. I was grateful for Tangle as a reader, and I’m even more grateful for it now — every day I’m reminded of how special this community is and feel ever motivated by what we are trying to achieve. 

Jon — Executive Producer/Video and Podcast Editor

Jon with his daughter, Liliyah
Jon with his daughter, Liliyah

I’ve been a musician for most of my life. Since I was a kid, I always wanted to be part of a small (but mighty) collective of rebellious artists willing to take big risks, help each other grow, and give back to the community. I’ve been lucky enough to find that two times. One is with my immensely gifted wife, Summer. The other is with the supremely talented staff of Tangle.

Like many of you, I’ve been a reader and fan of Tangle since 2020. That year, my wife’s best friend asked if we would take a look at her cousin’s upstart politics newsletter. I was fairly skeptical that I would like it, especially in such a polarizing time. But I appreciated the truly balanced approach. Even when I didn’t agree with Isaac’s take, I would often come away with more empathy for other people’s opinions.

Fast forward to 2023. Isaac placed an ad in the newsletter for a part-time video and podcast editor for a new YouTube channel he wanted to start and to take over for Tangle’s departing podcast editor, the amazing Zosha Warpeha. At the time, I was looking to transition into something new after working as a professional musician for many years. I wanted to work for a startup, something I could help build from the ground floor. Something that gave back to the community. Something I could be proud to tell my infant daughter about that (hopefully) would make a difference in her future. 

Now, as a full-time executive producer, I create and develop new content for Tangle Media, our expanding multimedia branch, including our latest podcast series, The Undecideds. I still edit and engineer our daily podcast, craft scripts, write and produce music, edit videos for YouTube, create motion graphics, grow our audiences across multiple platforms, and more. 

Have you ever worn multiple hats at the same time? I’m talking about five or six hats of various styles, even ones you aren’t completely familiar with. Not only do we all do that at Tangle, we’re the weirdos who enjoy it. I see Isaac, Magdalena, Ari, and Will wearing an impressive combination of hats on any given day, and it energizes me. 

I want to conclude by sharing a bit  about my deep admiration for my coworkers. First up is Ari. He’s the brain. He is brilliant and witty and brimming with creativity. Listening to him and Isaac on the Sunday podcast has been such a joy. He also loves the song Faded by Soul Decision and that makes him an ace in my book. 

Next is Magdalena. She’s the heart. She is intuitive and thoughtful. She was Isaac’s first hire and really set the bar impossibly high for the rest of us. I am always in awe of her aesthetic graphic design work and her ability to connect with anyone. 

Will is the lungs. He breathes life into all of us by doing anything and everything to help the team. He’s like the sixth man every NBA team is hoping for, doing many different things all expertly and with style. If you watch Ted Lasso, sing Roy Kent’s theme song but sub in Will Kaback and you’ll get what I mean. 

Lastly, our captain, Isaac. He is undoubtedly the soul. One of the many qualities I admire about Isaac is his commitment to empathy. He wants everyone to feel seen and heard. He seeks first to understand, not be understood. Combine that with a “strong pen” (what songwriters and topliners call having a gift for writing) and an unrelenting work ethic, and you have an inspiration who anyone would be lucky to call a boss and friend. 

Thank you. 

To all our readers and subscribers who made creating this company possible. As grateful as we are for the opportunity to work together on this project, the truth is none of it is possible without the support from all of you — that is the only way this business model works. As always, if you want to support us and help us continue to grow this team, the best things to do are to become a paying member or simply spread the word about Tangle (you can forward this email to a few friends and tell them to subscribe).

We’ll be back to our regular programming on Monday.

Have a great weekend.

— The Tangle team

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Isaac Saul
I'm a politics reporter who grew up in Bucks County, PA — one of the most politically divided counties in America. I'm trying to fix the way we consume political news.