Last month, High Profile Internet Person Felix Salmon left his perch at Reuters, then re-appeared, somewhat confusingly, working on the Web for Fusion, a cable network with a multicultural, millennial target audience.
So if Fusion makes sense for Felix, than it must be okay for other High Profile Internet People, too. Fusion has been making a series of hires to build out its digital presence, and today it is announcing a boss for many of them — Anna Holmes, the super-sharp writer best known for founding Jezebel, Gawker Media’s smart and popular site for women and people who like them. Oh, and she edited a book and is a columnist for the New York Times’ Sunday Book Review, too.
At Fusion, Holmes will be “editor of Digital Voices and Storytelling.” So what does that mean, and what does she think she can do there? Also: What’s it like to hang out with Sheryl Sandberg? Read on, for a heavily edited Q&A:
Peter Kafka: I’m still confused. What is Fusion and what are you doing there?
Anna Holmes: Fusion is a cable channel, and they want to supplement it with really great stuff on the digital end. And because their audience is made up mostly of millennials, and because they consume stories and the news in ways that are much different than their parents, or even my generation, we want to attract them using the tools that they’re already using themselves, in terms of telling and consuming stories. So that means not just the Internet broadly, but Twitter and Vine and Facebook and Instagram and Tumblr and so on.
The idea is to build the brand among that demographic. Which is not only younger than me, but also much more diverse than my generation. Which is really important to me. Because one of my frustrations for decades now has been that media didn’t reflect the world that I saw around me — the kind of ethnic diversity that is only becoming more prominent in the U.S.
So Felix hired you?
Felix didn’t hire me. I’m going to be Felix’s boss. Felix told me that there was an opportunity there. And then I went in and met with some higher-ups. So he sparked my interest.
He’s taking credit for the hire. Can we leave it at that?
Yeah, that’s fine. He can take credit for the hire. But he didn’t hire me.
I was skeptical, not because of Fusion, but I wasn’t sure what I wanted to do next, because I hadn’t had a full-time job for a couple of years, which I both liked and disliked. I liked the freedom of not having a full-time job, but I also missed working with people.
So what I really want to know is — what’s it like to be a guest of honor at one of those women’s nights at Sheryl Sandberg’s house (to celebrate the Jezebel book Holmes edited)?
How do you know about that?
Oh right. Kara.
Well, I was very flattered, and honored, and very overwhelmed and nervous. And didn’t remember half the people I met. I felt like I was on display, which is something I’m not used to, because I’m used to sitting in my apartment by myself behind a computer screen.
I also wanted to know about this awesome lede in your Cosmo article that’s out today: “I studied journalism at NYU, which was a fucking waste of money.”
Oh no! But it’s true! I mean, I didn’t choose that lede — obviously I gave the quote to [interviewer] Jill Filipovic, and she chose to lead with it, which I would, too. If you want to know what I meant by that specifically …
It seems pretty clear! I didn’t go to J-School, because people told me it would be a fucking waste of money. What do the folks at NYU think about it?
I want to be clear — I wasn’t in the graduate program at NYU. I was an undergraduate major in journalism. I didn’t get any blowback, yet. I did get one NYU student who tweeted at me, and I felt really badly after I read his tweet. But I did not feel that I learned that much in the program, and by the time I realized I wasn’t learning that much, it was too late for me to switch majors.
But I wouldn’t purport to tell anyone that they’re doing the right or wrong thing. I just know it was the wrong thing for me.
But now you’re running a site for millennials! So you have enormous power, because you can steer them.
The thing is, I tend to skew a bit younger. Maybe it’s some part of me that doesn’t want to grow up. But I do feel extremely excited about the ways that younger people — and people my age, too — use different platforms to tell stories. And by that I mean both professional and amateurs, and I don’t mean that as a pejorative.
Anything that you want to import to Fusion from Jezebel?
I doubt it, because I don’t like to repeat myself. There might be a point of view, which is to say that I’m going to try to highlight the voices of women and people of color. But I don’t think that Fusion is lacking in that.
I think this is going to be really fun, and I get to be creative, which is what I’m looking for. I’m not looking to imitate, or be beholden to the metabolism of other media outlets, which are so news-cycle focused. I don’t want to be publishing a series of think pieces of everything that happens every single day. I’m really tired of think pieces.
Will you explain the news?
Is it going to be an explainer site? No.
No, no, no. I don’t have any interest in that, either. I mean, I’m curious to see how everyone else’s explainer sites do. But it’s also early, so we’ll see what we end up doing. There’s a certain unknown aspect to this that is exciting, and a little scary. But mostly exciting.