By Heather Taylor
Julia Carpenter truly defines what it means to be a renaissance woman. As the embedded social media editor at The Washington Post, she is as adept at telling stories via the WaPo Snapchat as she is writing them for outlets like The Hairpin and New York Magazine. Oh, and she also runs a newsletter called A Woman to Know that’s dedicated to helping you increase your lady knowledge. We caught up with her to talk about what a typical day at The Washington Post is like, using anger as inspiration, and what it means to #PayUp.
Before The Washington Post, you interned at newspapers, magazines, and TV stations. What made you want to get into journalism, especially the social media side of it?
I’ve wanted to be a writer since I was in second grade, when teachers and friends told me I was good at it. From there, I worked on the school newspapers in high school and college, writing on every topic and on every beat. But I didn’t know exactly what kind of journalism I liked best. So I interned at The New York Daily News, ELLE and Esquire, CNN—and what I found is that I love all of it, but especially the technology of it. I love looking at tech and writing, exploring that place where those things intersect. That’s why I work in social media, telling stories on The Washington Post Snapchat and Tumblr, as well as in more traditional reporting, writing about gender, technology, queer issues, and more.
What does your job title “embedded social media editor” mean exactly?
The term “embedded” refers to my hybrid role on both The Washington Post audience team and features section. I work on the audience team telling stories on social media platforms and experimenting with emerging technologies and alternative story formats there; and with the features team, I develop digital strategy with editors and reporters.
What five things are you doing during a typical day at The Washington Post?
This varies so widely! Because my job is that kind of hybrid role between our social media team and with our features section as I described before, I could be doing any number of things—consulting on social media strategy for an enterprise project, managing our Washington Post Tumblr, researching and writing a story I pitched and produced on my own, checking in on Pay Up, workshopping headlines and social language for our features section, and putting together digital strategy for a big event like the Women’s March on Washington.
Can you tell me more about Pay Up?
About this time last year, I teamed up with my friend and colleague Alex Laughlin to create a community for women. We wanted to make a space where women online felt safe talking about money—where they could share negotiation horror stories, career tips, and more with other women like them. The experience has been a highlight of my career. We’ve written incredible stories from it, we’ve been profiled in Wired and Nieman Lab, and most importantly, we’ve had women tell us this community is their most valuable space on the Internet.
Speaking of incredible spaces for women, A Woman to Know highlights ladies who have bucked the system and paved the way forward in tons of industries. What inspired you to start this newsletter?
Anger was my immediate inspiration! I just kept getting so angry whenever I’d see or hear or read about some woman who played a critical role in World War II/ancient philosophy/the creation of Hollywood/more, more, more, and I would think to myself, “Why did I have three history units on male heroes of the Oregon Trail but none on these amazing women?” I took it upon myself to channel all that Wikipedia rabbit hole diving I was doing in my spare time into the newsletter.
What do fans and readers think about it?
It has been received so beautifully. My favorite is when people respond with their own lists of “How come I didn’t know about her???” women. I’m hoping to turn it into a book this year!
What published piece are you proud of most right now?
I’m super proud of this piece from The Hairpin, a profile on Susan Miller, astrologer to the stars. Silvia Killingsworth is one of the greatest editors I’ve ever had. She’d edited another piece of mine, a look at women’s safe spaces online, and writing that with her guidance was one of the greatest journalism experiences of my career.
Fill in the blank: to be a great editor, or writer, you must ________.
Who are some of your biggest role models?
Jenna Wortham, Nora Ephron, Ann Friedman, Amanda Hess—I could go on forever with a badass list of lady journos.
Heather Taylor is a former entertainment writer turned brand mascot aficionado (and head writer) for Advertising Week’s Icon Blog. She shares her thoughts on pop culture at HelloGiggles and has been published in Brit + Co, The Drum, and BettyConfidential. Chat with her about anything from SNL to the Pillsbury Doughboy on Twitter @howveryheather. GIFs highly encouraged.
Photo: Maura Friedman