By Gianluca Russo
In January, The New York Times announced that its editors were on the lookout for college and recent graduates to contribute to The Edit, a newsletter that began few years back. The callout stated that The NYT was looking for five—yes, only five—young adults to contribute. The posting stated, “We want to explore issues that you and your friends would like to see in The Times. We want to provide a platform for your stories and perspectives. To accomplish both of these goals, we need more of, well, you!”
The application opened, enthusiasm roared, the application deadline was extended, and, when it closed on February 2, over 20,000 people had applied.
“We were definitely not expecting 20,000,” said Lindsey Underwood, editor of The Edit. “We definitely were surprised but I was [also], not so long ago, trying to get my start in journalism as a writer…I know there are a lot of college students and recent grads who are hungry for opportunities like this, and so we’re glad that we’re able to provide one.”
In a time when younger Millennials and Generation Zers are standing up for their beliefs and fighting back against the stereotypes and forces being used against them, The Edit’s editorial shift to include young contributors is incredibly timely. As a newsletter that is intended to address the concerns, obsessions, and issues faced by college students, there’s no better way to create relevant content than to have it crafted by the students themselves.
“We thought that there was probably an opportunity to embrace the format of it more, and it made sense that we would use it as a platform to elevate the voices of these readers,” Underwood said. “We are so excited that we heard from people from all corners of the U.S. as well as around the world and hope that we can bring a lot of the different issues and ideas that are on their minds into the newsletter.”
The NYT did not require applicants to be journalism majors or have prior media experience. Instead, potential contributors were asked to briefly introduce themselves and to respond, in 500 words or less, to one of four questions.
“One of the questions that we asked was about what are your frustrations with how your generation is written about usually in the media or discussed, and [with] that one, I would say we’re seeing a lot of common themes. It’s interesting to me how some stereotypes about Millennials and Gen Z have really permeated, like that article about how Millennials are poor because they spend all their money on avocado toast. It’s something that really struck a chord it seems with a lot of the applicants and many of them disagree with that sentiment.”
Other applicants took the opportunity to express their thoughts on more political and social issues such as gender equality and workplace culture. Underwood also mentioned that, as the application process opened around the same time as the rise of the #MeToo, many wrote about sexual harassment and issues surrounding the movement.
But The Edit is not just political. It is intended to be intriguing to all college students, whether or not they have an interest in the current social climate or administration. When asked to talk about their current obsessions, Underwood recalled receiving a wide array of responses about topics like Ultimate Frisbee, Pokemon, Carly Rae Jepsen, popcorn, and Charli XCX.
“I think that we have a really awesome opportunity to take on weightier issues and politics and social justice and foreign relationships and things like that that are on the minds of many of these students and recent graduate that we see. But I also want to explore issues of culture and things that might be going on in their lives, navigating the transitional period of being a student and joining the workforce, and relationship issues; All kinds of things. We don’t really need to stay in one lane. I’m sure there will be moments when there will be things going on in the culture and the world that we can’t ignore…but I think that there’s also a chance to write about people’s obsessions and memes and internet culture.”
Due to the immense number of applicants, more than five contributors will be hired. Underwood was unsure of an exact number but explained that more information would be revealed shortly. In the meantime, she was elated to continue to work her way through applications and to find unique, diverse voices to represent in The Edit.
“I think The Times should aim to have as broad of a range of coverage as it can and if we are not representing or covering the issues that are important to a portion of our potential audience, then we’re cheating them and we’re cheating ourselves. So when we hear from different parts of our audience, this one being college students and recent graduates, that they think that something is missing, we sit on that and try and correct.”
Regular contributor Gianluca Russo is a freelance writer who attended Schenectady County Community College and now attends UAlbany.