Arts & Culture

The Big Jewcy: Rachel Sklar – New Media Machine

With such an impressive resume, it almost makes you wonder: is Rachel Sklar the skeleton key to new media success? Read More

By / June 6, 2011

Have you ever really kicked ass?  Rachel Sklar does it on a daily basis.  If you follow this “media addict on the loose” on Twitter, you probably already know she’s a professional ass-kicker.  Because without trying to sound grandiose or anything, Sklar has had her name attached to some of the biggest new media outlets of the last ten years: namely The Huffington Post and The Daily Beast.  Most recently, she’s turned her attention to the networking site while acting as an editor at large at Mediaite.

With such an impressive resume, it almost makes you wonder: is Rachel Sklar the skeleton key to new media success?

You went from law to journalism. Why the switch?

Law was never the end goal, despite, er, going to law school. I went in that post-college-what-do-I-do-now lull (my other option, going to the Tisch musical theater program, was too expensive and New York was big and scary) – so law school it was. I loved it, every second – incredible classmates, great profs, fascinating subject matter, 100% finals – but the common refrain amongst my friends at school was “you’ll never stay a lawyer.” I liked to do creative stuff; let’s just say it showed.

As for journalism, I’m not sure that was intentional – I just always knew I wanted to write, and journalism is one way to do that. But after a bit of a meandering path after leaving law, I started writing about media which meant writing about news which meant writing about politics, and the meta-questions about how it all was covered really appealed to me. You can take the girl out of law school, but you can’t take dork out of the girl.

You’re constantly hearing how tough it is for women to succeed in their given industries, media is always cited as one of the toughest. What is your advice to women who want to work in the industry?

That narrative just changed with the ascension of Jill Abramson to the top job at the New York Times – probably the most visible top spot in the industry. It’s exciting – but at the same time there still remains a lopsided ratio of bylines at the big magazines, and a sort of de facto inclination to cover, note and *see* men over women (Ann Friedman, the Editor of GOOD Magazine, has been doing some great work on this.)

But as far as ‘breaking in’ is concerned, it’s obviously never been a better time to just do it – the barriers to entry have all but disappeared for self-publishing and engaging via social media (get on Twitter, and be active). One thing I will say is that in my experience as a recruiter for HuffPo and Mediaite, men were consistently more likely than women to step up and write stuff. So women have to self-select themselves into the club.

You’ve been involved in some capacity or another in some of the most important websites on the internet. Do you even bother reading print newspapers or magazines anymore?

God I love me a print magazine. I’ve been making a point of buying Newsweek (Tina Brown is putting so many women on the cover!) and of course I can’t resist a Vanity Fair (the Rob Lowe cover, mmmmm). And the New Yorker. But yes, I’ve migrated in a big way online and actually of late to my iPad. I no longer subscribe to any magazines – just the NYT Weekender – but I am still an easy touch at airports.

I have this mental image in my head that you might have the most insane RSS feed ever. You seem to know everything that is going on. Is that really the case?

Ha! I’ve never used RSS. I take things in 98% through Twitter. But I may have the most insane Tweetdeck ever…you don’t want to see how many columns I have.

What are your three favorite websites that you haven’t been involved with?

Nowadays you can be involved in any website you want to be, right? The Atlantic always always has great stuff on their blog. Jezebel was a real groundbreaker and still consistently delivers great, fun and important stuff (shout-out to Irin Carmon, who is a machine). I also never go to The Hairpin without getting sucked in to something amazing.

What’s the most common question that people ask you about being a media figure?

I’m not sure it’s ever been phrased that way. Or that it’s a common question. I get “do you sleep?” often but the actual answer to that is Yes, with my iPhone, and my iPad, which means anytime I wake up I reach for Twitter, and will often rock a retweet. Sometimes when I set the alarm too optimistically I’ll post something fast and then take a snooze. Shhh. Don’t tell the keeners up at 6 a.m. that I’m not one of them.