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Weekly Lunches: A Discussion on Cultivating a Career, according to leadership at the New York Times

Pictured (from left to right): Kate Franke, Catie Pusateri, Jacqueline Knox, Nina Raemont, Tony Hao, Bellamy Richardson, Jilleen Barrett and Bella Czajkowski

by Jilleen Barrett

“If everything you do gets praise, you’re doing something wrong.”

This was the message Jake Silverstein, editor-in-chief of the New York Times Magazine, tried to get across to the 2022 ASME interns. As we ate Sichuan food on a couch overlooking the slightly less flashy part of Times Square, Silverstein — along with editorial director/creator of the flash mob Bill Wasik and managing editor Jeannie Choi — talked to us about virality, social media discourse and what to keep in mind when entering the magazine industry.

Silverstein and Wasik discussed how some magazine articles, especially in the age of social media, can be controversial. In fact, it’s so common for readers to have differing opinions, and maybe even start heated arguments in comment sections, that editors today can predict which pieces will spark more of these conversations. This is why social media expertise and a knack for fact checking and copy editing can be extremely valuable qualities for young journalists — if an article is going to make people feel anything, it has to be accurate, especially in the case that the journalist has to defend themself.

However, doing everything right isn’t always the best thing for a reporter either. Wasik said being a journalist is like being a farmer: planting seeds in different areas and making sure they all get watered. If you cultivate a lot of skills, and you make mistakes during that process, you’re more likely to grow into your role as a journalist.

Finding your niche is beneficial as well. While knowing a little bit about everything is great, it can be incredibly useful to a journalist to build their resume up with skills that can benefit the magazine they work for. Silverstein and Wasik said that having knowledge about specific areas of interest is great too, because it could be useful to editors interested in publishing a piece on that topic.

One of the most important things to remember, they reminded us, is that it is totally fine to go into the industry with no idea what you want to do — as long as you know you love magazines.

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