So What Do You Do,
Vanessa Grigoriadis? The people in your media neighborhood.
ALBERT LEE | Grigoriadis has profiled Monica Lewinsky,
Mariah Carey, Lizzie Grubman, and other members of the troubled-yet-stylish
sisterhood for a variety of glossy magazines, including Spin, Talk,
and Rolling Stone. A few years ago, at age 25, she sold the movie rights
to her first New York magazine cover story a rollicking piece
about a clique of glamorous, shallow, 20-something publicists to Columbia
Pictures for $400,000.
Occupation: Contributing Editor, New York magazine;
freelancer for other glossies.
What did she do with that $400,000? You know that whole
bear market thing? There you go.
First real job: After waiting tables? Assistant to Michael
Hirschorn, then executive editor of New York magazine.
Heroes: Bruce Chatwin
Latest obsessions: Yoga, trance, Osho, big parties on big
rooftops, and walking around NYC.
She'll always read a story by: George Gurley, at The
New York Observer
Why she became a journalist: Because I believe that the
world needs less product and more examination. Because I like acting, which
is essentially what you're doing when you're reporting. Because I've always
liked telling long stories to big groups of people. Because I'm an absolute
and complete adrenaline junkie. Because there's no better feeling than thinking
you possess the ability to think objectively. And because I wanted people to
think I was cool and smart and important, because then I thought they'd like
me more! Oh, the irony... No one has more enemies than a journalist.
Worst moment on assignment: Getting kicked out of a dorm
bathroom in U. Wisconsin Eau-Claire (a girl had killed herself and her new baby
there), sneaking back in, getting kicked out again, sneaking back in, getting
kicked out again by a posse of unbelievably irate Christians who told me I was
definitely going to hell.
Best personal source for gossip: Wouldn't you like to know?
Smartest thing she ever did for her career: Stopped turning
in as a first draft to editors what I considered a final draft. If you turn
in something rough, the process becomes much more collaborative. Plus, they're
going to get their way no matter what, so you might as well get that shredding
Note-taking tips: Someone once told me to keep a notepad
where everyone can see it and a recorder where no one can see it. Unfortunately,
when you conceal a recorder, you can't hear anything that you've taped, so that's
no good. So I usually keep a notepad and recorder out at the ready.
Her two cents (and then some) on celebrity journalism:
It's KILLING THE PROFESSION!!!!!!
Why do you think that all these mags are cutting pages and losing
ads and shortening their articles? Because half the stories in them are about
an actor who sat down with a reporter for 45 minutes over a cup of tea! Who
wants to read that?
I mean, it can be fun to write those kinds of pieces, because
it's always fun to analyze someone's personality. But you're essentially engaged
in the opposite of what makes journalism good: instead of writing about an exciting
thing that happened in the universe somewhere today, you have to write about
a TOTAL non-event. You have interview subjects who are only there because their
publicist told them they had to be there, who hate you no matter how cordial
you appear because they know you're going to stab them in the back because they've
had it done a million times before, BUT you've got to be cunning and flirty
and oh-that-happened-to-me because you're under huge editorial pressure to get
them to say something plantable, please, please, please.
To add insult to injury, then you have to go write nice things
Which is the part I really don't understand. How many people do
you know who sit around slobbering about how great celebrities are all day long?
Sure, we've each got a couple that we like, but for the most part the only reason
anyone wants to look at pictures of celebrities is to make fun of them!
Anyway. I think we all need to put our collective feet down and
say that we won't do interviews with celebrities under these conditions, 'cause
if this shit doesn't stop, there are going to be even fewer mags to write for
than there are now, and soon enough of us writers are going to find ourselves
up a creek. Vote Vanessa for mayor.
Three lessons learned from freelance writing:
1. You can always get the story (re: what you want).
2. You can't always get the story (re: what you want).
3. Life: roll with it.