WILD Profile: Ann Friedman, Taking Back the Vibe
by: Blaine Skrainka
August 24, 2012
Born: Dubuque, Iowa
Lives: Los Angeles, California
What you do: Write, edit, make lots of things on the internet and in print
What’s on your mind today?
Right this second I’m on a plane, headed back to L.A. after a visit to the Midwest. I’m thinking about walking into my bungalow and watering my succulents and going to the farmer’s market tomorrow. I’ve missed California!
What are you currently working on?
Writing about politics for New York magazine’s The Cut, making my weekly pie charts for The Hairpin, composing my advice column for the Columbia Journalism Review. I’m also contributing to an odd little zine about camel toe, and a chapter for a new journalism ethics textbook. (Separate projects, obviously. Though if push came to shove I could probably write something about the ethics of reporting on camel toe.) I’ve been really into making friendship bracelets lately, and I’m trying to visit every thrift store in Los Angeles. Oh, and of course I’m editing and writing for Tomorrow magazine.
Tell us a bit about Tomorrow.
I spent most of the past year and a half as the editor of GOOD. After GOOD fired me and seven of my coworkers, we used Kickstarter to raise money to make a single issue of a new magazine. We’re calling it Tomorrow. It is gonna be big and glossy and beautiful—it’s all about the immediate future, what’s right around the corner.
What compelled you to be a journalist?
I’ve wanted to be a journalist since I was a kid. I love words. I love meeting new people and ask them lots of questions, and connecting their ideas and my own ideas to other things that are happening in the world. I love stories. Oh, and you know, there’s that old adage about the truth being stranger than fiction.
What is your biggest challenge as a writer?
Knowing if I’m asking enough questions, and whether the ones I’m asking are the right ones
What journalists do you most admire?
Kate Boo, who can turn even the driest social policy issues into absolutely riveting narrative. Rebecca Solnit, whose journalistic essays are to be savored. John Jeremiah Sullivan, who’s the best feature writer in the business today. And on the editing front, Adam Moss, who runs the best-edited magazine in America. I could name many more who are no longer living/working, but that seems somehow less interesting.
What compelled you to create the blog, LadyJournos! ?
I was sick of people putting the onus on women writers to change the fact that most bylines in national, thought-leader magazines are male. When critics confront editors about their paltry number of female writers, most tend to say they don’t receive as many pitches from women. (Which is crazy, because editors take responsibility for everything else that happens in their magazines. Why is this one issue everyone else’s problem?) Creating a compendium of work by up-and-coming women journalists was a concrete way of responding to editors’ weak excuses that they just don’t know many women writers.
What do you think there is too much of, and too little of?
Too much should, not enough could.
With whom would you like most to go on a “tête à tête”?
I have a weird love/hate/but-mostly-love relationship with Maureen Dowd. I want a three-martini lunch with her.
What does good energy mean to you?
Taking back the vibe! Finding the value in any situation—no matter how weird—and being self-possessed enough to enjoy it, or at least learn from it.
What is your most striking moment?
When someone challenges one of my deeply held assumptions in a way that is intellectually fierce but really quite friendly. One recent example: At a bar last night, I was arguing that there is more trenchant class criticism in Frank Ocean’s “Sweet Life” than in the entire Steely Dan catalog. And a friend very convincingly proved me wrong. I love that! Or maybe I just remember loving it because of the amount of whiskey I’d consumed.
What cracks you up?
Inside jokes that run so deep and get so complicated, they’re like joke inception. Silly things on the internet. People running into things and falling down. The usual stuff.
What would you like to leave to future generation?
A view of the past that isn’t overly romanticized. I want to remember, but I have no interest in nostalgia.
What is your WILD Wish?
I want to live a long time so I can keep meeting interesting people and talking to them about the things they care about most in the world.