ann friedman

Ann Friedman

Words and charts at NYMag.com, LA mag, ELLE, & more

THIS CHAT HAPPENED ON September 28, 2015

Discussion

ann friedman
ann friedman@annfriedman
Hi, I'm Ann Friedman. I'm a journalist. I write about gender, tech, politics, and social issues in my weekly column for New York magazine. You can find my work in lots of other publications, too. I co-host the podcast Call Your Girlfriend with my friend Aminatou Sow. I also send out a weekly email newsletter and make hand-drawn pie charts. I've been a freelancer for three years, but it feels like much longer than that. In my previous life, I was a magazine editor. I really like living in Los Angeles. I sort of wish I could ask *you* anything. Maybe I'll just respond to all of your questions with more questions. Seriously, though, ask away.
Melissa Joy Kong
Melissa Joy Kong@melissajoykong · Content, Product Hunt
Hi Ann! What's one story you didn't anticipate telling, but are really glad you did in hindsight?
Ben Tossell
Ben Tossell@bentossell · Makerpad.co
@annfriedman What's something you've changed your mind about in the past 6 months?
Lindsay Ellis
Lindsay Ellis@lindsayaellis · Journalist
How much time do you put into podcasting/your newsletter every week? As a journalist envious of your multi-platform approach, I'd like to hear what that kind of work takes.
ann friedman
ann friedman@annfriedman
@lindsayaellis Podcast requires a few hours a week-- one hour on the phone with Amina (a pleasure!), plus some admin time. We're lucky enough to collaborate with a fantastic editor/producer (the incomparable Gina Delvac) who puts in a lot of time to make us sound great. Newsletter takes no more than 2 hours on Friday morning-- usually more like 1. I don't go find all those links in real time, I just comb through my Instapaper archive. Both of these things are pretty easy right now because they make me no money. $0.00 per newsletter and per podcast episode. If and when sponsorships are introduced and money changes hands, I'm sure it'll take more time.
Lindsay Ellis
Lindsay Ellis@lindsayaellis · Journalist
@annfriedman Thanks much! Excited to keep reading and listening to your work.
Erik Torenberg
Erik Torenberg@eriktorenberg · Former Product Hunt
Ann! Welcome :) What's the most common relationship advice you find yourself giving? Sex advice? Family advice? Open relationship advice? This is all for a friend...
ann friedman
ann friedman@annfriedman
@eriktorenberg Friend advice! People write in to Call Your Girlfriend asking for friendship advice all the time. All relationship advice is so tough, though, if you don't know the particulars of a situation and all the personalities involved. When I want advice on my relationships, I always ask someone who knows me.
Chelsea Reil
Chelsea Reil@bereil · Researcher
@annfriedman CYG is my absolute fave podcast. I was so sick of the straight white dudes that host EVERYTHING and then I came across you ladies and I'm so happy about it. Have there been topics that you've avoided on the show or things that you guys really want to talk about but haven't yet? How to you and Aminatou work through any disagreements you have about the show? I've been missing you guys during your break, but I can't wait to listen to what you are working on! Thank you so much for giving me a feminist space in podcasts!
ann friedman
ann friedman@annfriedman
@bereil We are ALSO sick of straight white dudes hosting everything, and that was a major motivator for us to create a podcast. I do think we avoid some topics because we decide they've been covered to death already, or because we're just not that interested, or because one of us is feeling particularly raw about it and doesn't want to have a public conversation that touches on the subject. Amina and Gina (our producer) and I have a pretty great collaborative three-way relationship, and I can't think of a time when we have *seriously* disagreed about something regarding the show. Sometimes our decision-making process is slow, but it's never really contentious. Thanks for listening! We are excited to come back soon, totally refreshed.
era b.
era b.@_era · Web content developer
@annfriedman There's so much (good content) to read online. What's the most efficient way to get all the necessary news yet read things for one's own pleasure as well?
ann friedman
ann friedman@annfriedman
@_era What is "necessary news"!? I don't even know how I decide that for myself. I just try to take the temperature of my social world (mostly via Twitter, though sometimes Facebook, too) a few times a day, and check in with the big news sites (mostly the NYT) at least once or twice a day. When I'm in scrolling/browsing mode, I usually just bookmark-- I don't stop to read unless it's something breaking-- and create a big backlog of articles in Instapaper. Then when I've got a lull, over lunch or near the end of my day, I pause and read a bunch of articles at once. As for pleasure reading, whether it's fiction or nonfiction, I like reading paper books.
What's something you would do with your career and/or life if you weren't afraid to fail?
ann friedman
ann friedman@annfriedman
@amandaszim Write a book! This is partly fear of failure and part inability to commit. (A winning combo.) I'll think I've found a subject I can really go the distance with, then a few weeks later I've found a reason why I'm not into it as a book idea anymore. If I was sure I could do a great job with any topic, and that I wouldn't starve to death or lose all inspiration during the super-long book-writing process, I would have probably have written one by now. I'm working on this, I swear.
Lauren Bates
Lauren Bates@lauren_bates · Product Manager, Koho
@annfriedman Call Your Girlfriend is a fantastic podcast, in the last episode you announced a temporary hiatus, while you work on some new stuff. Can you hint at what fabulous changes are in store?
ann friedman
ann friedman@annfriedman
@lauren_bates We're getting some much-needed tech upgrades, institutional support, and maybe a few format updates.
KRMcCoy
KRMcCoy@krmccoy · Writer
How do you find your inspiration for stories? Do you have any places you check regularly for what's new or odd?
ann friedman
ann friedman@annfriedman
@krmccoy The best practice I've hit on is keeping a running notes document where I can put ideas-- I write down questions that occur to me, things that come up in conversations with friends, stuff I read in magazines or online that seems incomplete or begging for a follow-up, people I want to know more about, etc. There is no single source for inspiration-- my best ideas come from lots of places. I also have to remind myself sometimes, especially when I'm hunting for a column topic for the week, that endlessly scrolling social media does not bring inspiration. I'm better off reading a bunch of things, then closing my laptop and taking a walk, or having a conversation with a friend. My brain needs time and space to put things together to come up with a good idea.
Irina Jordan
Irina Jordan@irinajordan · Director of Inbound Marketing
What are the last 3 books you've read and how have they inspired you with your writing? Thanks!
ann friedman
ann friedman@annfriedman
@irinajordan I love this question, because what I'm reading is always informing what and how I write. 1. Maggie Nelson's The Argonauts-- It's an incredible blend of theory and memoir, and if you try to describe what it's about (the experience of falling in love and navigating gender and having kids) it sounds so pedestrian, but really it's mindblowing. I've already given away several copies 2. Eula Biss's On Immunity-- It's another memoir/theory/critical essay hybrid, this time about vaccination and herd immunity and how we consider other people when we make decisions about our own bodies. I loved this book because of the way Biss is open about her confusion and ignorance, takes readers on an intellectual journey with her, pulls from really interesting sources, and ultimately offers a strong point of view without bludgeoning you with it. She's kind to the people she disagrees with. 3. Ta-Nehisi Coates' Between the World and Me-- I'm only halfway through this, so perhaps I'm not qualified to comment just yet. I'm sure you've read many other eloquent endorsements of why this book is both extremely important politically and deeply compelling on a personal level. I agree with every nice thing that people have said about it.
Ryan Hoover
Ryan Hoover@rrhoover · Founder, Product Hunt
I'm curious to hear more about your podcast, Call Your Girlfriend. What inspired it and how are you marketing it/getting new listeners?
ann friedman
ann friedman@annfriedman
@rrhoover My co-host Aminatou Sow and I ultimately decided to start a podcast because we wanted to learn the medium. But I'm not sure we would have gotten around to it if Gina Delvac, our editor/producer, had not encouraged us. We didn't place too many format or content restrictions on ourselves-- we just wanted to make a podcast that reflected our real-life conversations, which range from pop culture to serious politics to personal stuff. So we just started doing it. We're lucky enough to work in media and know lots of people who do, so those friends wrote about us, which helped us gain listeners. There's also a dearth (or maybe it's just a perceived dearth) of podcasts produced by women, so we've been featured by iTunes and on a few lists for people looking for women's voices. But ultimately, I think it was our media connections and our consistency (we publish every-other week, without fail) that earned us listeners. That and the thrill of feeling like you're listening in on a call. People love eavesdropping.
Kelcie Pegher
Kelcie Pegher@klcpegher · Education reporter
How did you first form relationships to start your freelancing career?
ann friedman
ann friedman@annfriedman
@klcpegher I was an editor for 6 years before I became a freelancer. At first these were super unsexy editing jobs, like running the blog of a policy magazine, and eventually they were much cooler editing jobs where I got to commission and edit magazine features. Over the course of several years, I met lots of editors who were my peers, and lots of writers, too. Some of those relationships were easy to form because they were with my coworkers, or people I knew in DC (where I lived for most of my time as an editor). I never ever could have made it as a freelance writer if I'd tried to go that route right out of college. Staff jobs were essential to me getting to know people, and being an editor helped me really understand what editors look for when they make assignments.
Kelcie Pegher
Kelcie Pegher@klcpegher · Education reporter
@annfriedman Thank you! I love reading all of these questions! So helpful and interesting.
Andrew Ettinger
Andrew Ettinger@ettinger · 👟 @wearAtoms // ex @Twitter @ProductHunt
Who is your favorite "techbro" and why?
Alex Carter
Alex Carter@alexcartaz · Operations @ 60dB. Ex-PH Podcasts 😻
Hi @annfriedman! I've heard a lot of people speak highly of Call Your Girlfriend. What made you decide to start it? What has been the most interesting experience or insight since starting it? and what most excites you about the future of podcasts? Thanks!
ann friedman
ann friedman@annfriedman
@alexcartaz I answered the first part of this above, but as for the exciting future of podcasts... One thing I love about the medium is how intimate it is. People listen to podcasts while they're in their cars alone, while they're making dinner, while they're exercising-- they are woven into daily life in a way that the written word just isn't. Plus, the feeling of having someone's voice in your ear is very intimate. So perhaps it shouldn't be surprising that people feel they're very close to me and Amina after listening to us yammer on the podcast. That is both weird and wonderful. As for the future, I'm aware that only a tiny segment of the media-consuming population has *ever* listened to a podcast. There is a ton of opportunity for growth. And I think that the audience for podcasts could really expand significantly over the next few years, especially if a social podcast-listening app really takes off.
Melissa Joy Kong
Melissa Joy Kong@melissajoykong · Content, Product Hunt
I loooooove your charts :-) What chart did people love more than you expected? What chart caused the most controversy, if any?
ann friedman
ann friedman@annfriedman
@melissajoykong I made one chart about deciding you no longer have a crush on someone. (http://annfriedman.com/post/5173...) One of the slices was "Your internet presence seems too gay" -- which I meant, like, you seem to be legitimately into dudes and therefore, as a woman, I have no chance with you. But people read it as homophobic, and I get why. Some concepts are better left un-charted.
Benjamin Mock
Benjamin Mock@benjaminmock
@annfriedman What pdocasts do you listen to regularly?
ann friedman
ann friedman@annfriedman
@benjaminmock Another Round. Actuality. Longform. Death Sex and Money. The New York Public Library Podcast. The Read Reveal. Yes Means Yes.
William McBee
William McBee@gerbick · UX Director
@annfriedman As a freelancer, do you find yourself having to refine or even define a process to adhere to or is it just something that "just happens"?
ann friedman
ann friedman@annfriedman
@gerbick I am always trying to figure out better ways of working. I often have to adjust my process based on the type of assignment I'm tackling, and what I'm committed to deliver. The way I interview a source for a profile vs. a reported/investigative article vs. a Q&A vs. a column can vary greatly, and I'm still learning how to ask the right questions. When it comes to actually writing, because I was an editor before I was a writer, it's almost too easy for me to step outside my process and critique it. Usually, I should just be focused on getting a draft done and then doing the critique in collaboration with my editor. It's the rare essay or article that "just happens," although I've had a few super productive mornings and other flashes of inspiration.
Lyndsey
Lyndsey@runlyndseyrun · NA
What tips do you have for managing your online presence as well as getting content that matters?
Jeff Umbro
Jeff Umbro@jeffumbro · CEO of The podglomerate
@annfriedman can you link me to what you consider your best work of all time and tell me why?
ann friedman
ann friedman@annfriedman
@jeffumbro I can't, actually. There is no one piece I consider my best. I am really proud of my body of work, especially my THREE YEARS' worth of columns for New York magazine-- but I'm not sure one single article really stands out as something I want to stand behind as The Best. This is another reason why I need to write a book-- to have something to point to.
Jeff Umbro
Jeff Umbro@jeffumbro · CEO of The podglomerate
@annfriedman Ha! Maybe I should have asked for your favorite. I'll do some googling.
Mike Hince
Mike Hince@zer0mike · Freelance UI Designer Founder Howler.co
@annfriedman As a journalist I imagine you get insane amounts of emails, how do you approach dealing with it all? In my experience the bigger the publication the harder it is to get through, any top tips?. 😆
ann friedman
ann friedman@annfriedman
@zer0mike I try to answer all emails from readers and most from other journalists, but I don't feel bad about it taking a long time. Sometimes a *really* long time. I've got email from as far back as February waiting for a reply-- usually the ones that take longest are from people who are just like, "Hey, can i get some advice... about life?" The more specific the question or comment, the quicker my reply. When you're trying to get through to an editor, email a human being and not a submissions inbox. You can do this with some creative googling and use of twitter-- look for the masthead page, figure out the format that their staff emails use, etc. Or ask a friend for a connection. Whatever you do, email a person. Submissions@bigimportantpublicat... are where pitches go to die.
Maggie Carr
Maggie Carr@racecarr
@annfriedman I'm curious about the care and maintenance of your side hustle(s). How do you decide what new projects to prioritize, and how do you balance them with the gigs that pay your rent?
ann friedman
ann friedman@annfriedman
@racecarr I am always trying to get better at this. Some things, like the podcast, work because there is group accountability. It's something I do with two other people, and we're all equally bought in even though it makes us no money. Other things, like the newsletter, are genuinely fun for me, because they draw on my editor-brain and help me give structure to my week. And still others, like making time for big writing projects that I haven't sold to a magazine, are really hard. I'm working on that last one.
Emily Snowdon (née Hodgins)
Emily Snowdon (née Hodgins)@emilyjsnowdon · Operations @ Product Hunt
What do you see as the main barrier for women in tech? Do you see the divide changing positively? What, in your opinion and experience as tech writer and journalist, still needs to be done to address the issue?
ann friedman
ann friedman@annfriedman
@ems_hodge I can only speak as a tech-industry outsider who has interviewed and is friends with a lot of women within it. Speaking broadly, women are really interested in technology and in tech jobs. All the research on women in STEM professions across the board says that they are. What turns them off is the environment once they get there. The so-called pipeline problem is, in reality, a dropout problem. And so, while I definitely support programs that enable more women and girls to brush up their coding skills, I see culture as the main barrier. Which can be tricky to explain... I've found this pretty helpful: https://medium.com/matter/the-pi... I also think that nothing is going to change until tech companies value "soft" roles equally with engineering roles, and until they let go of the ridiculous belief that they are purely meritocratic.
Martha Garvey
Martha Garvey@hobokenmartha
@annfriedman Okay, a money question: how do you handle the uncertainty of freelancing? Are there projects you've put on hold that might be less lucrative to pursue rent and food money? BTW, I think making money is awesome. I am just always curious about how folks balance time and money.
ann friedman
ann friedman@annfriedman
@hobokenmartha I'm constantly trying to get better at making time for meaningful work that doesn't pay, or won't pay me immediately. Freelancing is pretty certain for me at this point, especially with the stability of my weekly column. It's harder, though, to turn down less-than-ideal assignments in order to trust myself by taking time off to do some writing or preliminary reporting on something I care about personally.
Sara Weber
Sara Weber@sara__weber · Journalist
@annfriedman who and/or what inspires you - as a woman and as a journalist?
ann friedman
ann friedman@annfriedman
@sara__weber As a journalist, I'm inspired by the people I talk to every day. I like making connections between the things I read in the news and the everyday dilemmas and struggles and triumphs my friends and I discuss. The things I consume—books (see the previous question!), movies, articles, everything—are also inspiring. It's hard for me to name a singular source or person because I tend to be most inspired when I take in a lot of different things, then try to find connections between them. It's weird to think about what inspires me "as a woman," because I've never really identified as anything else, but I think the obvious answer is ... other women. I love other women, and I honestly think I'm inspired simply by talking to them and observing how they navigate their lives.
Sara Weber
Sara Weber@sara__weber · Journalist
@annfriedman thanks so much for your answer, I appreciate it (also, love your work!)
Teresa Hammerl
Teresa Hammerl@colazionearoma · Socialmediapreneur
What's the most exciting thing about writing for ELLE?
ann friedman
ann friedman@annfriedman
@colazionearoma Writing for a big glossy magazine like ELLE often means meeting and interviewing people I'd never have access to otherwise. I don't always love the process of doing a celebrity q&a (or really, interviewing anyone who doesn't have much time for me or who is sandwiching our conversation between dozens of other press interviews) but big magazine interviews can be incredible opportunities to directly ask people like Christine McVie how she writes a song, or ask an incoming congresswoman like Kyrsten Sinema how she views her professional responsibilities. I read a lot of interviews they've done previously in order to find the gaps, and I try to ask about things that haven't been asked before.
Carlin Scrudato
Carlin Scrudato@ctscrudato
Hey lipstick twin! If you were on Drunk History, what story would you tell liquored up?
ann friedman
ann friedman@annfriedman
@ctscrudato The creation of the birth control pill. (Also, HI CARLIN, my lipstick-twin.)
Michael John
Michael John@michaeltjohn · Sales Manager, TZ Insurance
@annfriedman Love your work and would love to know- would you rather live in a world where all animals were 2x bigger or 2x smaller?
ann friedman
ann friedman@annfriedman
@michaeltjohn One of the most controversial things about me is I don't care about animals. I am so disinterested that I don't even like eating them. Maybe if they were 2x bigger they would catch my attention more?
saraher
saraher@saraher
Is there a story you've pitched that you were glad was rejected?
ann friedman
ann friedman@annfriedman
@saraher There have been weeks when, with absolutely no good news-related column ideas, I pitch some seriously dumb personal essay. Luckily my editors at New York mag are excellent at shooting down these non-ideas. I am grateful every time.
Kristen Popa
Kristen Popa@kristenpopa · Requirements Analyst, Nationwide Ins.
What advice would you give to your 22-year-old past self? AKA fresh out of school, first real job, post-college friend/relationships, trying to contribute meaningfully to/not get swallowed up by the world, etc. What do you wish you had known then?
ann friedman
ann friedman@annfriedman
@kristenpopa Surround yourself with people who encourage you to make and do the things you want to do-- ideally, work with those people to make things outside of your day jobs. Even if you don't find an audience or a following for these side projects, keep doing and trying new things and putting them out into the world. Be kind and supportive to your peers. Know that it might take a long time for your paid work and your passion to overlap. And don't be too hard on yourself-- it's really hard to be 22. Way harder than it is to be 32, in my experience.
Yesenia Lugo
Yesenia Lugo@yeslugo · Contract Processor
@annfriedman Hi Ann. I love to be surrounded by books and one of the last things I see, before going to bed, are the books in my bookshelves, so I am always thinking about which book to add to my collection. As a book enthusiast, what books/authors do you believe a person should own? And what books are you excited to read this fall? Thanks!
ann friedman
ann friedman@annfriedman
@yeslugo Maybe I'll just tell you which books are on my own bedside table right now-- which is a combination of things I've just read and things I want to read soon: Marlon James' A Brief History of Seven Killings, those trendy Elena Ferrante novels, Maggie Nelson's Bluets, Lisa Alther and Francoise Gilot's About Women: Conversations Between a Writer and a Painter, Ta-Nehisi Coates' Between the World and Me, Wayne Koestenbaum's My 1980s, and Gloria Steinem's forthcoming memoir.
Hi Ann I am currently writing a book and was wondering who would I be in contact with to get published and reviewed? Thank you!!
ann friedman
ann friedman@annfriedman
@povilife Are you asking if you can hire me as a publicist? Unfortunately, book marketing and media relations are not my strong suit.
elisa chan
elisa chan @elschan3 · developer
@annfriedman How did you know Amina was who you wanted to work with for the podcast? Also how long are your actual talks before it gets edited out?
ann friedman
ann friedman@annfriedman
@elschan3 Amina has one of the most interesting brains I've ever encountered. She is constantly spending time with smart, interesting people, and she consumes an intimidatingly wide range of media. I'm really lucky to call her a friend and to work with her and Gina on the podcast. Some unedited episodes run longer than an hour (then poor Gina has to edit us down), but we try to keep most of them under 45 minutes. And we usually talk for awhile before we hit "record," and awhile afterward, too.
Natalie Daher
Natalie Daher@nataliedaher7 · Reporter
@annfriedman I'm a Call Your GF devotee -- thanks for all ya do. How did you decide that writing regularly for The Cut was a solid fit for you? You've long been outspoken on gender and social issues, but how did your earlier journo and life experience contribute to your role now as a thought leader on the internet? And in today's "personal essay economy" (or so dubs the internet), how do you approach your work differently, if at all, now?
ann friedman
ann friedman@annfriedman
@nataliedaher7 I was lucky: The Cut approached me about writing a column for them (shoutout to my first editor there, the wonderful Maureen O'Connor) shortly after I was fired from my last editing job. Turns out that a weekly column provides really good structure (both in terms of my time and financially) for a freelance career. But I've had a lot of opportunities over the past three years to reconsider that relationship, and each time I've come to the conclusion that the quality of editing I get there, and the fair pay, really make it a place I want to continue to be associated with. I didn't decide to become a thought leader on the internet. I just have a lot of opinions, and I was lucky enough to be born in an era when it's possible to make an okay living by articulating them. When I use personal details or anecdotes, I try to do so for a good reason. Ok, sometimes I use an example from my own life because I'm on deadline, and I don't have the time to interview dozens of people and incorporate their stories. (Real talk.) But often it's more strategic. Sometimes I use my own story because I'd rather be vulnerable with my own feelings than ask someone else to expose theirs. Sometimes I use my own story when my personal experience directly contradicts an accepted narrative about an issue, and I want to question that narrative. Sometimes I use it because I've made a choice as a writer than first-person is the most powerful way to argue or tell something. But even though I have written a lot from a first-person perspective, I really don't feel I've shared a lot about myself online. What am I most worried about right now? Which relationships am I struggling with? What questions keep me awake at night? If you don't know me personally, you can't answer questions like that. And so I don't feel too exposed.
Ban white phosphorus
Ban white phosphorus@thrashradical · Code monkey
@annfriedman How do you keep current on the topics you write about or are interested in?
ann friedman
ann friedman@annfriedman
I could do this all day, but I've got to stop myself now. It's lunchtime on the west coast and nothing is more important than lunch. Thanks for your questions, everyone! This was fun.
Ban white phosphorus
Ban white phosphorus@thrashradical · Code monkey
How are your 12,000 favorite journalists?
Erik Torenberg
Erik Torenberg@eriktorenberg · Former Product Hunt
HUGE thanks to @annfriedman for taking the time to join us today!
Nick Gaston
Nick Gaston@nickgaston · Customer Support, Proposify
Hi! I just discovered you through the Product Hunt Podcast, though I used to read Feministing so I've probably read you and didn't know it! :-) Question: How do you keep track of your ideas and notes. What's your system or process?