The Oberlin Review
<< Front page News March 10, 2006

New Yorker Editor Returns to Oberlin
Alumna Talks Journalism
This Just In: spoke to aspiring journalists yesterday about her magazine editing breakthrough.

Second semester has arrived, Commencement Week is looming and the nail-biting has begun for seniors about to be released into the “real world.” Perhaps their anxieties were quelled by the story of , OC ’00, who landed herself a job at a publication of international renown only four years after graduating.

was accepted for the job of A-issue editor (deputy managing editor) for the New Yorker magazine. On Thursday, she returned to campus to discuss how she started working in magazine journalism and to offer advice to interested Oberlin students. For , time has passed very quickly. “Walking around today, I felt as if I just left,”she said.

said that her path to the New Yorker consisted of internships and luck. At Oberlin, interned for Sierra Club magazine for one Winter Term. The following summer, she interned at Civilization, a now defunct magazine for the Library of Congress. Despite on-campus involvement with writing, said she still felt uncertain about her career path upon graduation.

“When I graduated from Oberlin, I was still struggling a little bit because I was from California and I wanted to move back to California,” she said. “And I wanted to do this magazine thing, but I wasn’t sure if it was possible... I sort of sat around being horribly indecisive.”

decided to call a summer internship connection at Civilization to inquire for work. When the connection offered her an editorial assistant job, flew to New York to accept it, only to find that the paper had gone under in the short amount of time it had taken her to fly out.

Still, her contacts from Civilization helped her find fact-checking jobs at Marie Claire and Food & Wine, and then the job of editorial assistant at Lingua Franca.

“[It was] a great stroke of luck because these jobs are really difficult to get and a lot of it is luck... It’s just tough,” said.

When the magazine folded in 2001, found a job writing fact sheets for the Counsel on Foreign Relations, a foreign policy think tank.

“It was a very different world from shoestring Lingua Franca... I was doing these Q and A style fact sheets about terrorism... It was very weird stuff,” she said.

explained how these lower profile jobs strengthened her resume. By having gained hands-on experience, said, she became more appealing than applicants who simply listed themselves as “Rhodes scholars.” Knowing fact-checking skills in addition to having done freelance work gave her the edge that secured her the job.

“When the job of A-issue editor [at the New Yorker] came along, it worked out,” she said.

As A-issue editor, , among multiple other tasks, coordinates logistics of last-minute and developing articles arriving for editing and placement.

While her title is “editor,” does not actually edit what is written. Instead, said she considers such questions as, “How does this stuff fit together as an issue? Is this a good combination? Do we have too much fluffy stuff? Do we have too much serious stuff?”

She went on to describe a “normal day” on the job.

“Basically I live there,” said. “That’s sort of the trade-off as someone who’s pretty junior and pretty green and has an office at the New Yorker.”

In the morning, she creates the “dummy book,” or sample of how the issue will look, and formulates the day’s schedule. Throughout the day, consults with different departments about the issues and pulls together the odds and ends of such things as what articles fit, how big art will be and which fact-checkers and editors read the articles.

After finished relating her story, she answered students’ questions concerning journalism.

One student asked about the value of attending journalism school. said she did not know many colleagues who had attended journalism schools, but felt her history degree from Oberlin and her internship experience provided her with an equivilant advantage.

“Journalism school functions in a lot of the same ways as an internship does,” she said. “It provides you some time to develop skills [and] it is really valuable because it potentially provides you with contacts.”

“My hesitation [to attend journalism school] involves going into debt,” she said. “Most jobs in journalism, especially entry-level ones, don’t pay very well. [Alternatively,] doing an unpaid internship is difficult and costly for some people.”

In response to questions, also highlighted what traits are important in getting hired.

Having specialized knowledge can be helpful. The New Yorker looks for applicants who can speak different or unusual languages, said. She also recalled a friend working as an editorial assistant at a publishing house. Despite being new, the friend was able to edit a book about the Palestinian-Israeli conflict since he had detailed knowledge about Middle Eastern affairs.

also mentioned being knowledgeable about news and different magazines.

“If you want to work in magazine journalism or book publishing, you need to be able to talk about it in a passionate, informed way. You’d be surprised how many people get to the interview process and don’t think past those first questions. ‘Why do you read magazines? What magazines? Who do you admire? Are there any recent pieces you admire?’ [These questions] show who’s for real and who’s genuine about the whole thing.”

’s visit was sponsored by the department of rhetoric and composition, the English department and the Alumni Office.


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