The creator and editor-in-chief of Jezebel. com, Anna Holmes, spoke at Newhouse about the gossip blog and her time working for women’s magazines. Jezebel.com is one of Gawker Media’s most successful blogs that Holmes describes as the antidote to the “five big lies” of women’s magazines.
Q: You worked at popular magazines such as InStyle, Entertainment Weekly, and Glamour. Why did you leave these to go full time online?
Because everyone told me that online was the future, I figured that I needed to teach myself that skill set in order to remain employable. Everyone says that print is a dying industry and I don’t think that they’re wrong. It was partly to refresh my resume and partly because I needed to be challenged. It was both personal and professional reasons.
Q: Why did you not like working at women’s magazines?
I didn’t like giving advice about serious issues that we were generalizing about in the magazine. I felt that I was helping promote an obsession with certain things that were distractions from other issues. For example, a lot of times a woman will ask, “Does he like me? Does he like me?” but they never ask themselves “Do I like him?” I think that is kind of the wrong focus. Young women especially should put themselves first and foremost because as they get older, get married, and have kids, women will put themselves second. So when they’re younger and they are not tied down, they should put their own needs and desires first. It’s all on what other people think and it should be more about what women think.
Q: Is there anything that led you to feel like this?
I think that the women I admire tend to be over the age of 30 because that’s when women really come into themselves and they are self-possessed, confident, and I don’t think a lot of media geared towards women encourages self-possession or confidence. It encourages everyone to be the same. There isn’t one thing that leads me to feel this way; it’s the accumulation of being a female in America. And I don’t think I’m alone in feeling like this.
Q: How did you first become involved with magazines?
I always read them as a kid. I got teen magazines when I was younger. My mother was a big reader so I was always interested in reading, whether it was magazines or books. I think I decided to get into magazines when I was younger because of some of the amazing and long nonfiction stories that you find in magazines like The New Yorker. I was actually an intern at The New Yorker but I never worked there. I think that my interest was peaked by how powerful the nonfiction work could be, as evidenced in magazines.
Q: Since you read Teen Vogue and other magazines, were you disappointed working for them?
I think that when I was older and started working for women’s magazines, I was often times disappointed because the reality of the workplace was very different than the product we put out. I really liked most of the people that I worked with but I didn’t think that always translated into the product that we put out. We were putting out a commercial product that had to be somewhat safe. They were adhering to a formula that was tried and true and therefore did not have a lot of personality. I bet there are a lot of people working for women’s magazines now that don’t necessarily believe in the product they’re putting out, but I think that’s true for any industry.
Q: Describe your typical day on the job.
I get up at 6:30, go to the computer, start watching the morning cable news, start reading all the items in my RSS feed—there’s usually about 1800 when I wake up. I start sending emails to the staff, looking for pictures, checking emails. This goes on for a few hours before the first post goes up on the site. The rest of the day is basically me sending staff stuff to do, talking to them over IM, checking emails, dealing with technical issues and editing stories, keeping up with what’s going on, drinking coffee; and it’s basically a day-long adrenaline rush until I collapse at 7 pm.
Q: Do you ever wish you had more time for yourself?
Oh yes! But I also love my job too. It’s not black and white. It kills me, [but] at the same time, I love it. I wish I could have a three-day weekend. That’s one reason why I hired an executive editor. Not exactly for myself, but to think about bigger things for the site that I don’t have time for during the day.
Q: What do you see as the future for Jezebel.com and blogs in general?
I think that Jezebel.com will only get bigger. I think that the future is only bright. I think in order for it to grow, we have to get bigger within ourselves by adding more staff and people who have expertise in certain topics and to try to reach more readers that way. I hope that in a year or a year and a half, it will be twice the size it is now.