April 7, 2016

The Cohort is Poynter’s bi-monthly newsletter about women kicking ass in digital media.

When I first announced this newsletter and invited you to share your accomplishments, the vast majority of responses were from women talking up their wonderful coworkers. (In fact, the badass ladies featured in this email were nominated by their colleague, Jessica Stahl.) It’s not surprising: Many of the accomplished women I know are really good about bragging on others.

There will be times, though, when we won’t have anyone else to recognize our work. We also need to get comfortable bragging about ourselves. I’m not great at it. In fact, I’m pretty terrible at it. It makes me uncomfortable. I don’t feel worthy. I’m quick to turn the attention to someone else in the room who also deserves praise.

That’s part of the reason I end each newsletter with a call-to-action, an invitation to brag. We all could use a little practice, so why not do so in this space?

Don’t get me wrong: Cheering on each other is still THE BEST and very much needed. I asked Jessica, an editor at The Washington Post, about why she recommended her colleagues, and her answer was perfect: “My job is to enable people to do cool things. I could brag about cool projects I’ve personally done in the past, but now I’m all about helping other people do their cool things (and very happy that way, I might add!), and focusing on more behind-the-scenes kind of successes for myself.”

Here’s to bragging, whether it’s for ourselves or the amazing ladies in our lives.


I wrote about women taking credit for their work contributions — a topic I’ve wanted to tackle for a while and a skill I’m still struggling to master. (Let me know what you think? Good and/or bad. I’d like to focus more on women in the workplace, and feedback will undoubtedly help me get better at that.)

Things worth reading
“As a manager, you don’t need to know it all. You don’t even need to pretend to know it all.” Julie Zhuo’s unintuitive tips on management are spot on. This Huffington Post article looking at competence bias (through the lens of Hillary Clinton and Melissa Harris-Perry) is really smart. I’ve devoured most everything about the U.S. women’s soccer team’s discrimination claims — including FiveThirtyEight’s wage breakdown and the New York Daily News’ excellent/depressing overview of their mistreatment. And if you choose just one inspiring thing to read this week, take time for Nicole Chung’s beautiful piece on discovering her first Asian-American hero.

Also: The deadline to apply for Matter’s excellent accelerator program is today! Newsletter subscriber Lara Ortiz-Luis is available for questions/pep talks/motivation for you to get that application submitted.

Meet Alex and Julia
When I think about Alex Laughlin and Julia Carpenter, I picture a real-life version of the twin dancers emoji: They’re fun, full of energy and totally in sync. They’re both social editors at The Washington Post — Alex runs the main Facebook and Twitter accounts and Julia works on the social embeds team, where she shapes social content, strategy and planning. They work on some pretty fantastic feminist projects, too, including Pay Up and #womenbywomen. And if that’s not enough, they’re also queens of the side hustle. Outside of work, Alex hosts The Ladycast podcast and Julia pens a daily newsletter, A Woman to Know.

I sent the dynamic duo a handful of questions, and their answers were a delight to read. Enjoy!

You have a ton of awesome side projects. What motivates you to keep these projects going? What advice do you have for someone looking to start their own passion project?

Alex: We are both adamantly #TeamSideHustle. I think we both feel it’s very important to cultivate creativity in our personal lives. It’s definitely hard sometimes to find time and energy to keep working on a project like the podcast, but I think ultimately this is a more useful use of my time than watching TV. When that becomes untrue, then I know it’s time to put down the project! In terms of advice for starting your own passion project — I actually did a video series with Femsplain called Side Hustle where I break down my best tips!

Julia: For real, the first advice I give to anyone curious about side hustles is to watch Alex’s Femsplain series. It’s informative and so fun and so Alex. The hardest part for me in starting my newsletter was actually starting. I am the guiltiest when it comes to letting great ideas die in the back of a brainstorm notebook. So I knew I had to gather my creative cohort together and ask them to follow the first few issues, give feedback and keep me on it. Once I started and told my friends to critique, my motivation was sheer peer pressure! Not even joking! And that’s what’s helped me build some momentum — and the wealth of suggestions for my newsletter since has been overwhelmingly inspiring and fueling.

Pay Up is such a fantastic idea. How are you two involved? Why did you decide to start with women in tech? Do you have plans to expand it from here?

Alex: Pay Up is our latest idea baby. The idea initially came from my supervisor, Herman Wong, who tasked me with coming up with an idea “about the gender wage gap.” Originally it was going to just be a round table discussion with successful women about their experiences! Very quickly though, I realized I wanted to create a space where we were facilitating these conversations, rather than just recording them. This is where I looped Julia in — we had been trying to think of a way to use Slack for journalism for almost a year, and this finally seemed like the right time.

Julia: Herman is the ultimate idea ally.

Alex: Shoutout Herman.

Julia: HERMAN! But anyway, we started with women in tech because we wanted to narrow our focus. We’ve loved the support from our journalism ladies, though, and we’ve already talked about opening up to other industries (including media) as we streamline this process and determine what works and what doesn’t. And, also, as we listen more to this community and ask them for their feedback, too!

Did you two meet in college? How did you become friends?

Alex: We did! Julia was my editor at the Red & Black, the University of Georgia’s student newspaper. She taught me how to write a lede and a headline.

Julia: I didn’t have a car my last semester of college. But Alex did, and we were both interning at CNN, so we would carpool together twice a week. We listened to Delia Ephron’s audiobook and talked about our lives and I was like “this girl and I are friends.” And then we both moved to D.C.! And now we work together! And we were in a wedding together! It’s disgusting, really. We have this close-knit squirrelship with Lindsey Cook, and having a little trio like this on my side really helps make D.C. feel more and more like home every year I’m here.

This week’s issue is about women taking and getting credit for work. Do you have any advice for how to speak up and get recognition for work contributions?

Julia: I learned a really valuable lesson from one of Alex’s podcast guests, Emma Gannon. I’m paraphrasing, but her wisdom is serious: “No one is going to shout about your work louder than you do.” That’s true for you, and that’s true for your friends, too. Tell them something matters to you, sing out your own work, sing out theirs, and create a circle of support and feedback and awesomeness. Don’t worry about sharing your own shit! The rest of us need you to do that so your work can inspire us, too. Also, I need to be better about this! Period! That is why I subscribed to The Cohort

[KHG: Well, damn. I promise I didn’t make Julia say that.]

If you have a project to share, email me at katie@poynter.org or brag on Twitter with #digitalwomenleaders.

The Cohort is part of the ONA-Poynter Leadership Academy for Women in Digital Media. Props to Kristen Hare, champion for all, for her newsletter edits and insight.

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Katie Hawkins-Gaar was Poynter's digital innovation faculty member. She ran the Leadership Academy for Women in Digital Media and was one half of the duo…
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