Inspired by both Susan Hires A Boss and Havi Brooks’ Very Personal Ads, I’ve decided to write up the criteria I select when choosing an editor to work with me. There are application instructions at the end!
All About the Job
Being my editor will be one of the most rewarding opportunities you’ll ever have. After all, not every editor gets to work with a writer who is obsessed with getting to the truth. A writer who’s passionate about covering challenging topics with nuance and complexity—and making them accessible enough for your readers to understand. A writer who’s obsessed with improving her craft and expanding her understanding, and okay with starting back at square one if something isn’t quite right. A writer who’s not afraid to ask hard questions and push back against obvious lies, but is also committed to being incredibly fair.
Being my editor may also be the toughest job you’ve ever had. I’ll need you to be my sparring partner while I bounce ideas off of you. I’ll need your patience while I strive for accuracy over speed, verify details with experts, or wait for those damned FOIA requests to go through. I’ll need your trust to let me look into things that might not make sense to you at first. I’ll need you to have my back when I ruffle feathers.
To apply for this job, you must meet the following requirements:
- Have a solid understanding of technology (or whatever I’m covering for you) and be a stellar editor
- Be responsive to pitches, even if that’s just a one-sentence email to tell me when you will respond. If you can’t get through your slush pile, this is not the job for you.
- Be generally accessible during business hours through text/Slack/some other means. I may need quick responses when I have pertinent questions or want to correct an error.
- Care more about writers seeking the truth and reporting it than you are about not upsetting government officials or corporate heads (or even readers). No walking back accurate claims for the sake of diplomacy, expecting me to ask softball questions, or rewriting accurate headlines at the behest of politicians or PR flacks.
- Treat writers fairly. That means paying on time every time. It means no scope creep. It means you won’t assign posts and then change your mind and then pretend they were never assigned.
- Be based wherever you are, as long as you’re cool with me being in Arizona (or wherever you live if you hire me full-time).
- Have experience editing without arbitrary word counts.
- See journalism as about creating systemic social change, not just about racking up pageviews.
- Prefer specialized posts that others might call “insider baseball.” Working to make posts accessible to a general audience is fine. Pretending a story is broader than it is, on the other hand, is not.
- Show me edits before posts go live, and be okay with me nitpicking grammatical and factual errors (real or perceived). We can discuss them.
- A sense of humor. You should be able to laugh at yourself. Or at least laugh at me. In a nice way.
- Share an interest with me. I have so many: botany, folk music, classic lit, riot grrrl zines, improv comedy, combat sports, Olylifting, Bougereau, lactofermentation, chocolate, cycling, Fables comics, Agents of S.H.I.E.LD, Mr. Robot… the list goes on and on. We’ll want to discuss things other than work now and again.
- Legitimately like working with freelancers. You’ll want to get coffee/lunch/drinks when we’re in the same town, send me a holiday card (or be excited about getting mine), verify GPG keys, and follow me back on Twitter, or at least put me on a writer list. Bonus points for tweeting my posts with my handle and trading dumb jokes semi-publicly.
Qualifications for the website or publication:
- Your site/company’s culture should be friendly and supportive. Edgy is great, but no assholes allowed. (That includes your star writers essentially bullying people they dislike on social media, even if you think it’s cute.)
- Have a solid track record of respecting sources, including their anonymity if they are at risk, and only covering controversial and possibly damaging stories if the public has a need to know. Bonus points for using SecureDrop or OnionShare.
- Have a solid track record of respecting marginalized groups in both your practices and coverage.
- Have a company culture that doesn’t expect employees or freelancers to be on call 24/7.
- Use good tools rather than roll-your-own-CMS which breaks and you need to keep replacing. Slack/Google chat and Trello/Basecamp are a good start.
- Care about the security of your readers. Please have SSL. No ad blocker blockers. No blocking Tor. (Cloudflare is okay.)
- Have a solid track record of treating writers well: paying on time, paying full fees if posts were killed for reasons outside of the writer’s control, etc. (Yes, freelancers do talk about you to each other, so if you don’t do this, I probably already know.)
- Oh yeah. Pay a decent rate. Nobody wants to spend weeks on a 2000-word feature for ten cents a word.
- Care about writers’ long-term professional development and continuing education, even if that just means forwarding an email about a great Khan Academy course we’d like.
- Offer some form of guidance or mentorship. We know freelancers come and go, but I’m looking for an ongoing relationship.
- Be excited about new, cutting edge issues that nobody’s really covered yet.
I live in Phoenix on occupied Tohono O’odham land with my amazing husband and our wonderpup. (She’s big on Instagram.) I’m originally from Israel and have lived all over the US, and spent a year studying abroad in Oxford. I went to Shimer College, a Great Books school with original source readings and small (10-12 student) seminar-style classes. The school’s informal motto was “Sex, drugs, and Socrates; we kick ass on GREs.” (I scored in the 93rd percentile in analytical writing and 95th percentile in verbal reasoning.)
I started self-publishing when I was 12 years old with my very own zine. I was a big Sassy reader and was influenced by the riot grrrl movement. When I turned 17, I started writing for Blue Jean magazine. I think I had a poem published in Highlights for Children once, too. I skipped my high school graduation to cook food for the homeless with Food Not Bombs, which I thought was more important.
I’ve visited treesit villages, volunteered as a street medic, and lived in a tent in the desert while learning about permaculture. I was a Tracker School student and a docent at the Botanical Gardens, and have dabbled with herbal medicine for eons. Once I got fired from a vegetarian café in England because I got the job before I really knew how to count the currency. I spent my spare time volunteering at Corporate Watch UK instead. Before freelancing full-time, I taught middle school English. Before that, I spent four years working at the front desk of a public access TV station, where I got to briefly meet Jeremy Scahill. He was nice.
I got obsessed with online privacy and security because of anonymous death threats. I was vehemently opposed to encryption. It took me about a week to change sides.
I’ve written extensively about health and fitness and mixed martial arts. And I do some behind-the-scenes work as a managing editor. I’ve turned down thousands of dollars writing about social media marketing because I got bored and thought our headlines were misleading, and walked away from many lucrative opportunities because they were unethical or didn’t have adequate source protection.
I love Brazilian jiu-jitsu, lifting heavy things, and hanging out at the bookstore or farmer’s market. Things I want to like but don’t include Evernote, Reddit, the whole zombie thing, distance running, and waking up early.
Sites and publications I dig that I don’t already write for include ProPublica, the Intercept (of course!), Ars Technica, Medium, Atlas Obscura, The New Yorker, Fusion, Good, and probably a few I’m forgetting. I used to be obsessed with Fast Company and Inc. and Entrepreneur but have mostly outgrown that. Sites I love not include the ones that will publish hit pieces about Anita Sarkeesian, or quote government officials anonymously. And Pando.
Where to find out more about me
Apply to be my editor
Don’t worry. It’s easy. After reading through this site and looking through my portfolio or some of my writing, please send me an email telling me a bit about you and why you think we’d work well together. I will respond within a week to let you know whether I’m interested in scheduling a call to see if we’re a good fit…and then we’ll take it from there.