The Cohort is Poynter’s bi-monthly newsletter about women kicking ass in digital media.
Being a journalist is a tough gig during election season. Between conventions, debates, evening announcements and vote-counting, there are a lot of late nights. Wading through reader comments on stories and social posts is like navigating a minefield. And then there’s the principle that we should be neutral and impartial — an important concept, but one that seems especially tough to follow this year.
I’m not going to get deep into politics here. But I’d be remiss if I didn’t talk about the historic moment that happened this week.
I was early in my career at CNN when Barack Obama was elected president in 2008. That election was my first as a journalist. My desk was situated right next to a set for the network’s now-defunct (and, in retrospect, maybe too ahead of its time) livestreaming station, CNN Pipeline. Those of us in the newsroom had clear instructions not to let out any sort of audible reaction when the winner was announced, in part because the Pipeline crew would be live.
It was a bizarre experience to stifle an emotional reaction as America elected our first Black president. I stayed heads down, watching the flood of incoming audience contributions, looking up every so often to make fleeting eye contact with another co-worker. There was so much to say! So much to discuss! So much, no matter who you supported in the election, to note in that very moment.
We’re again in a historic election. I have no idea what will happen on November 8, but I do know that it’s near impossible to not be deeply moved by the fact that a woman is the first major party nominee. Seeing women, some as old as 102, announce their delegate votes for Hillary Clinton was incredible. And cheesy or not, watching Clinton shatter a virtual glass ceiling and deliver a message directed to young girls was pure joy.
Whenever someone is the first of any kind to break a new barrier, that person opens doors and widens the perspectives and possibilities for everyone.
This is an undeniably big moment. Celebrate it how you can. No matter if you support(ed) Bernie or Cruz or Trump, try to set politics aside for one second and acknowledge the fact that the other half of America now knows what it’s like to see a candidate who looks like them. That’s something worth cheering about, even if you have to do it offline and out of the newsroom.
I’m organizing an audience engagement event on August 29 in New York City with the lovely Joy Mayer. The list of speakers is a who’s who in the world of audience participation and includes many rad women. See the full lineup and purchase tickets: The 10UP Summit.
Things worth reading
We know confidence is essential to leadership roles. According to a new study, in order to be seen as confident, women need to appear both competent and warm. This profile of Audrey Cooper, the first editor-in-chief of The San Francisco Chronicle is SO REAL AND SO GOOD. I’ve admittedly never thought of this, but it’s a good question: Why isn’t childcare considered a work expense? New York Magazine’s Case Against the Media, by the Media is an in-depth piece of industry self reflection that takes some time to dig into. It’s worth it. I’d recommend inviting colleagues to also read the report and organizing a happy hour or lunchtime gathering to discuss it, book club-style. And here are two digital tools you can use: A calculator to determine how children affect women’s salaries and a clock to keep track of who’s dominating the conversation in meetings.
I’m going on my first legit vacation of 2016 next week! And that’s why I’m excited to officially introduce you to Kristen, an excellent reporter, cool mom, caring colleague and the editor of this newsletter. Kristen also happens to be an excellent role model when it comes to setting personal boundaries and knowing how and when to unplug. She somehow makes it look really easy, too.
Kristen’s answers have been edited (by me) for clarity and length.
You’re one the best people I know when it comes to fully enjoying evenings, weekends and vacations. Has this always been a superpower of yours?
Definitely not. I think both my work and play ethic developed after college when I stepped away from journalism and joined the Peace Corps. I realized two things in those two years in Guyana: One, give everything you have now because you’ll never be in this exact place again and who needs regrets? And two, the things you do that aren’t about your job will probably make you better at your job. Living in a different culture, navigating issues of race, religion, language and love has equipped me with all kinds of tools to use in my work.
That’s not to say that you don’t spring into action when necessary. You drove to Orlando soon after hearing about the nightclub shooting, for example. What factored into that decision?
I don’t think there was much factoring. I just went. But I do think because I’m able to close my computer and put my phone away on a fairly regular basis, it’s easy to go long when the news calls for it.
It can be hard to resist the pull of social media, Slack and email. There’s a fear you might miss something. What are the benefits of breaking away?
Perspective is probably the biggest. I spent last week in Barbados with my family. I stayed away from email. I deleted Twitter on my phone. And I told Slack to take a nap. And … I still knew everything that was happening in the world. People shared things on Facebook. The soca stations we listened to as we drove around the island offered snippets between songs. Newspapers, and the news, were everywhere. So was crystal blue water, palm trees, sneaky green monkeys and the most delicious rum punch.
Oftentimes, when we talk about kids and careers it sounds like such a burden — a near-impossible balance. It seems, though, that children sort of force you to get into healthier work habits. Was that the case for you?
No, actually I think working remotely did that for me. When you mostly work in your home, there comes a point where you can either always be working or you can build some boundaries that you may not have to consider when working involves physically moving yourself. I did work part-time when both my son and daughter were born. I really cherished the time I had with them to be a mom and the time I had with me to be a journalist. What kids did force, at least for me, was some prioritizing. Time for them, myself, my husband and my work all made the cut. Sleeping in, happy hours and the seeing the latest movies did not. Unless Grandma’s visiting.
What tips do you have for a journalist who’s trying to get better about unplugging?
The desire to know and understand what’s happening in the world is what drives a lot of us. It’s not a bad thing. So you don’t have to unplug everything. But could you unplug one thing? Close Slack? Set your email alert to “gone fishing”? Turn notifications off? See what happens. (Just guessing: You’ll be fresher and therefore better at your job.)
I’m going on vacation next week! Advice on how I can make the most of it?
One reason I really enjoy traveling is because I’ve learned to approach it the way I approach work. For instance, I love research, so spending time getting to know a place before I go gets me excited before the trip. I love immersive reporting, so I try to stay, eat and adventure outside of the tourist spots. I love documenting. So I tell stories with photos and Snapchat. I love discovering themes and patterns. In Barbados, that included meeting a new cat almost everywhere we went. And I love creating something out of all that. Right now, my kids and I are working on a Shutterfly book about our adventures. It’s called “The cats of Barbados.” tl;dr: Don’t go on a vacation and leave yourself behind. Instead, take the things that make you a great journalist, too.
Thank you, Kristen. May we all discover the power to unplug every once in awhile.
I’m looking for more badass women to profile here! Drop me a line at firstname.lastname@example.org. You can also join the conversation on Twitter with #digitalwomenleaders.
The Cohort is part of the Poynter Leadership Academy for Women in Digital Media. Props to #lifegoals queen Kristen Hare for her newsletter edits and insight.