Day in the Life: How Hearst’s centralized features editor makes stories travel
For the past three years, collaboration has been the mantra at Hearst as it pushes its historically rival magazine brands including Cosmopolitan and Esquire to share content to meet digital media’s demand for scale.
Carrying out this mission falls to people like Whitney Joiner. As Hearst Digital Media’s senior features editor, her job is to assign and edit long-lead digital features for 17 of Hearst’s sites. As such, Joiner spends part of her time thinking about which sites a story will be a good fit for, although it’s ultimately up to each site to decide whether to run the story. Other sites may tweak the headline and art, but the story will remain unchanged. Typically, a feature story will wind up running on three to five sites, like one about foster kids she describes below, whose college kid subjects and emotional quotient made it a good fit for Cosmo and Seventeen but whose family themes also suited it to Redbook.
There are many opportunities for syndication across Hearst’s women-focused portfolio, but there are exceptions. “I did a story for Popular Mechanics about traffic in the Philippines,” Joiner said. “That’s not a story that’s going to work for another Hearst brand.” Here’s a day in her life, lightly edited:
6:15 a.m.: Wake up after hitting the snooze function. After checking my email and the news—which I get mostly via newsletters — I meditate for 10-30 minutes. I’ve practiced Tibetan Buddhism for 15 years, and my teacher always stresses consistency. Like, whether you sit for five minutes or an hour isn’t as important as just doing it daily.
7 a.m.: I’m running in the Paris Marathon in April with my friend Dev, and we train together a few times a week and on the weekends. Since he’s in Arizona for work, this morning the Hollywood-history podcast “You Must Remember This” keeps me company. I never thought I’d run a marathon; I’m a yoga/hiking person.
9:30 a.m.: I don’t care what the MTA says about Wi-Fi working in all stations; it’s still too spotty to actually respond to email during my commute. I usually use that time for books or stories I’ve Pocketed. (I try to read at least three features a day that I’ve saved to Pocket.)
10:15 a.m.: On February 1 I published a big feature by Sarah Elizabeth Richards on Cosmopolitan.com, supported by the Economic Hardship Reporting Project, about kids in the foster care system that are permanently separated from their siblings. A few of the other brands — Seventeen and Redbook — syndicated the story after it ran on Cosmopolitan.com, so when I get into work, I check the story’s performance across the company. I love the instant feedback we get in digital; we can see how well a story is doing at any given time.
11 a.m.: I adore the writer Ada Calhoun’s personal essays, and today I’m psyched to publish a hilarious and thoughtful feature on Elle.com about Ada’s childhood obsession with those romantic-getaway hotels in the Poconos in upstate New York, and what happened when she finally visited with her husband as an adult. The lead art is a super 70’s photo of a couple making out in the hotel’s infamous heart-shaped tub; I die laughing every time I see it.
11:15 a.m.: Downstairs in the Hearst cafeteria, I meet up with Kristin Koch, Seventeen.com’s new site director. I used to be an editor at Seventeen and will always have a soft spot for that audience. We talk about the kinds of big features she’s looking for that I could help with, and what topics might perform best for her.
11:45 a.m.: In between meetings, I invoice for my recent stories and upload a few contracts. I’ve been a freelance writer before and am hardcore about invoicing ASAP. I also send my boss, Brooke Siegel, HMDM’s executive director of editorial strategy, a long email about a story idea I had over the weekend; we ping back and forth about whether it might work.
12:30 p.m.: Meet with Nick Neubeck, HMDM’s creative director, to discuss my upcoming stories over the next few months and art for each. I’ve formally assigned around 18 right now, for everyone from Esquire.com to MarieClaire.com to TownandCountrymag.com, and since they vary in structure and scope — investigative pieces, oral histories, reported personal essays, trend pieces, as-told-tos, etc. — the art will vary, too.
1:15 p.m.: Lunch in the Hearst cafeteria with HMDM’s entertainment director Nojan Aminosharei, who, like me, works across all the HMDM brands. We’re meeting to go over a few stories we’re working on together — celeb profiles for MarieClaire.com, Elle.com and HarpersBazaar.com.
2 p.m.: I usually edit in the afternoon in the lounge on our building’s third floor. I set a timer on my phone and work in one-hour or 90-minute chunks while listening to a kind of ambient, good-for-focusing Spotify playlist. (This is dorky, but it’s called “Study Vibes.”) Today I’m working on an Elle.com feature — a kind of untold literary history that we’re doing as a partnership with Lenny Letter.
4 p.m.: Meet with HarpersBazaar.com site director Joyann King and features editor Olivia Fleming to discuss some of their long-lead features. I have two stories coming in for them over the new few weeks, and Olivia wants to brainstorm writers for some of her ideas. Besides editing my own features that I’ll then collaborate on with the brands, I love these kinds of brainstorms: who we could ask to write what; whether an idea might work; and how to best execute it.
4:45 – 6:45 p.m.: Another editing block. This time it’s an inspirational as-told-to feature from Abigail Pesta, who’s a genius at first-person pieces. In the meantime, a writer friend whose work I love emails that she saw Ada’s Elle.com essay and wants to pitch us.
6:45-9:45 p.m.: Heading to a potluck. Between jobs at Hearst I spent many years living in Marfa, Texas, a small town close to the Texas-Mexico border; my friends Sandra and Ham are having a Marfa Diaspora party for those of us who ended up back in New York.
10:30 p.m.: Back to Brooklyn, where I call my friend Andy on the West Coast for recommendations for what to do in Cuba, where I’m heading this weekend with Jen Doll, a writer I’ve edited and also a close friend. We’re gathering recs from everyone we know … at this point our Cuba Google doc is pretty intense.
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