We’ve been friends since graduate school, and I was happy to sit down with her to discuss which stories she has been most proud of, which stories she wishes to cover and the most important trends impacting journalism today.
What makes a compelling story?
A compelling story is one that touches people deeply, by coming at its subject honestly, clearly and without any pretension or artifice. It brings to life a person or an issue that previously felt foreign or distant. In the best-case scenario, it might spur people to action.
What story, in your career, are you most proud of?
I’m proud of the stories I wrote earlier in my career, but also take pride in the pieces I’ve worked on as an editor in the past decade. These include articles that I conceived or helped cultivate when working on an OpEd magazine for the International Herald Tribune and the New York Times Syndicate, called Global Agenda (now Turning Points). A piece by Rebecca Murga about what it’s really like for women in the military and a prescient article by Ed Husain about the Muslim Brotherhood come to mind.
How did you get your start?
Somehow I knew I wanted to be a journalist from a young age, with the grand hope of telling stories in a way that might help people understand each other and bring them closer. I was the editor of my high school newspaper and of the newsletter for the California state student council. I eventually made my way to Columbia Journalism School for a master's degree and got my start as a fact checker and then writer for a media magazine in New York.
What's your biggest pet peeve as a writer?
Marathon sentences— maybe because I tend to write them myself!
What story do you wish you would have been able to cover or do you hope to be able to cover?
I’d like to analyze how maternity leave policies in different countries translate into women’s career advancement (or not) and fulfillment— illustrated with real-life stories of women who’ve benefited or suffered.
Why is journalism rewarding to you?
I love sharing stories and working with writers to try to distill their reporting into powerful narratives.
When did you know you wanted to be a journalist?
I often had my head buried in a book as a child, and at first thought I might want to be a novelist. But at some point it occurred to me that there were plenty of interesting things going on in the real world, and I didn’t need my imagination to write what was right in front of me.
What interview experience stands out in your mind and why?
As a young reporter at a magazine that covered the media, I interviewed the Jerusalem bureau chief for a major newspaper. He made it very clear I had a loose grasp of the situation there, and I fumbled badly. From that point on I vowed to never pick up the phone unless I knew the facts cold.
How has social media changed the way you work?
It has exponentially increased the pressure on journalists to get articles out as soon as possible, and to promote them in a way that will make other people want to share them as well. It has also changed reporting -- many trends are first picked up on social media, and journalists tap into niche networks to make sure they’re not missing anything.
What’s your go-to news source?
The New York Times (of course), BBC, Guardian, New Yorker, Economist, Atlantic and NPR are the sources I trust the most, although I consult a much wider array of sources in my everyday work.
What’s the biggest challenge facing journalism today?
Maintaining the highest standards of reporting and storytelling while also responding to people’s desire to be informed quickly and updated constantly.