Devon Maloney came and went quickly as pop music editor of the Los Angeles Times. I never heard her name mentioned in the four months she was there, but there's probably no reason that I would have. She admits in a piece for Jezebel that she didn't come in with a lot of experience — J-school grad just in 2010 — or much of a sense of why they picked her or why she was there. However it came to be, things didn't go well and she was miserable. As she weighed whether to quit, friends said stuff like, "What’s scarier, being in debt or being in that building for another six months?”
She doesn't think the problem was her. Some excerpts from the story:
By any reasonable professional standard, it was a Great Job: The publication was impressive, it was a high-profile management position—pop music editor!—and it came with one of those unicorn salaries (plus benefits) to which most journalists rabidly aspire. The offer alone was enough to send anyone I told into shrieks of congratulations….The Times really seemed to want me, so much that they offered a salary bump for a dog-walker when I expressed concern about leaving Oscar at home all day.
A bad job can make you feel immediately unhinged, and even more so when, on the surface, it looks so much like success. Of course, there were red flags: that nine-month interview process, for one; the fact that one of the oldest, most tumultuous journalistic bureaucracies in the nation hired a twenty-something female editor to manage an all-male, all-older and nearly all-white team should’ve been another. At least I know what I’m getting into, I’d reasoned. But seeing red flags, it turns out, is not the same as anticipating what dealing with those red flags will do to you….
In a series of events that’s probably familiar to young people in any industry, I was welcomed into the company for my digital expertise and energy, then given no resources, accommodations or support to actually put those assets to work. My emails would often be ignored or forgotten, my specific requests taken as suggestions, my questions laughed at in edit meetings. When I would ask for support with my staff, I was told I just needed to be “nicer” (a code word many women in management know all too well). Suddenly, all those supposedly manageable red flags metamorphosed into bloodsucking chupacabras, and before long, the full-time job I thought I wanted—thought I needed, and needed me—was turning me inside out and backwards more violently than freelancing ever had….
Did every editor encounter this kind of pushback going into a legacy brand, or was it just me? Was I overreacting thinking my experience would have been different were I a white man? All I knew was that, in practice, my colleagues gave me no enthusiasm or positivity or even just trust in my leadership—no baseline benefit of the doubt. With no support system, I was immediately asked to prove to a section that was already downtrodden, and mismanaged and doubtful that I could turn everything around….I had (and still have) no idea how I was supposed to inspire stubborn, conservative people (dudes) to trust me, let alone change course. Maybe I really wasn’t management material (whatever that is).
Lots of reaction to the piece, at Jezebel and everywhere that journalists (especially ex-LA Times staffers) gather on the web to vent.
The illustration at Jezebel is by Tara Jacoby