Ann Friedman

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

THIS CHAT HAPPENED ON September 28, 2015

Discussion

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@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@bentossell · newCo
@annfriedman What's something you've changed your mind about in the past 6 months?
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@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@lindsayaellis · Journalist
@annfriedman Thanks much! Excited to keep reading and listening to your work.
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@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@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@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 · 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@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@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 · 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@annfriedman
@lauren_bates We're getting some much-needed tech upgrades, institutional support, and maybe a few format updates.
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@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@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@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@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@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@klcpegher · Education reporter
How did you first form relationships to start your freelancing career?
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@klcpegher · Education reporter
@annfriedman Thank you! I love reading all of these questions! So helpful and interesting.
Andrew Ettinger@andrewett · 👟 @wearAtoms // ex @Twitter @ProductHunt
Who is your favorite "techbro" and why?
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@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@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@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@benjaminmock
@annfriedman What pdocasts do you listen to regularly?
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@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@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@runlyndseyrun · NA
What tips do you have for managing your online presence as well as getting content that matters?
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@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@jeffumbro · CEO of The podglomerate
@annfriedman Ha! Maybe I should have asked for your favorite. I'll do some googling.