This week I get the pleasure of showing you 20 Questions with Jennie Josephson. Jennie is the primary producer for the Daily Tech News Show hosted by Tom Merritt of previous 20 Questions fame. Jennie often stays behind the scenes and gets DTNS to work in what looks to be an effortless manner, but occasionally she will jump in an offer these amazing nuggets of wisdom that are incredibly incisive and very useful. Jennie also has a podcast called “Tell it Anyway” where she invites people to tell stories that are a bit uncomfortable for the people telling the stories. Topics include “bad dates ,” “The Doctor is In,” and etc…
I honestly do not know much about Jennie, but that is what this 20 Questions is intending to change.
Onto the Questions!
I started out my professional career as a cartographer. I have always enjoyed people’s stories of place. I like to consider it each other’s geographic stories. For example, I was born just outside of Oklahoma City, Oklahoma. Whilst I was a little toddler, the family moved to Montgomery, Alabama, and then moved up to the Birmingham, Alabama area (a little town called Center Point) where I spent most of my childhood. I then went off to school at Kent State University where I met my then fiance/now wife. I followed her down to Columbus Ohio for grad school and marriage, and I have lived in the Columbus, Ohio area since then.
Question 1: What is your geographic story?
I was born in New York City, and brought home to an apartment on the upper West Side of New York. Back then the building still had an elevator operator, a distinguished man named Junius. When I was 4, I moved to Brooklyn with my mom, went to high school in New Jersey, then college in Washington, D.C. I moved back up to NY for a while, living in Harlem and on the Lower East Side, and then moved out in 2002 to Los Angeles, where I’ve been ever since! (Also, a cartographer? Awesome! I'm obsessed with maps!)
It is always interesting to find people who have lived on both coasts, because they usually have strong opinions about the coasts and their differences, but this blog is not a hack comedy routine from the mid 2000’s and will not stray into Los Angeles be like____ while New York be all like ____. Who am I kidding? Of course I am that hack.
Question 2: What do you perceive as the biggest difference between LA and New York?
As a 13-year LA resident, I come back to New York and I’m shocked that everyone walks so fast! I remember how intense I used to be as a New Yorker. Everything MATTERED. And some things actually did matter a great deal, especially after September 11. So when I moved to LA in 2002, in my mind I was 3 hours behind the place that mattered most to me. And that allowed me (eventually) to relax just a bit. To walk slower, to try and be kind to people, to notice how the wind felt like velvet on my arm when I drove down Sunset Blvd. And most importantly, I learned how to laugh at the things that pissed me off instead of letting them eat at me. (Credit for that last one goes to my husband Matt.)
I do so love asking these questions to people who have at some point in time written for narrative. It is the only time I get to see nuggets like “ to notice how the wind felt like velvet on my arm when I drove.” Just delightful to have those words dance past my eyes and into my brain box.
Question 3: Cake or pie? Which specific kind and why?
Cake AND Pie. This is America!
Cake: A simple moist vanilla cake with a hint of almond, and usually no icing whatsoever.
Or, in the totally opposite direction, my mother’s Hungarian rum cake - a multi-layered sponge cake, dyed red & green with apricot filling between one set of layers, and a chocolate mousse between the others. The whole thing is drowned in a sugary rum sauce, and then you use a BRICK to weigh the cake down so the rum sauce is forced through all the layers. It lives in your fridge and you have to feed it more rum sauce every day for a week. Then you slather on hot pink butter icing and pray for forgiveness!
Pie: One bite of every pie ever. Apple Pie from the Bridge Cafe in Frenchtown, NJ. Earl Grey pie from Pie Hole in downtown, LA. Any pie featured in the movie Waitress. We ate a lot of Hamburger Pie during the 2008 economic meltdown.
I ate a bunch of humble pie for the 2008 recession, I was caught in a workforce reduction in early 2009. It took a year and a half to get back to steady full-time employment. That job has been a great job to help me find out what what I want to do with my life now, but a terrible job as far as feeling fulfilled and actualized as a human being.
Question 4: What did you want to be as a kid when you grew up?
Depending on the day, a lawyer, an astronaut, the president of the United States or a superhero. After I read the book and saw the movie for “All The President’s Men” I wanted to be a journalist. Always wanted to be, and still want to be a working writer.
From an early age, maybe around 5 or so, I wanted to be a comic book artist. I really made a pretty concerted effort up until college. I have relatively recently started seriously drawing again and am aware that without taking a significant time off from any vocation, there is no way that I could be a successful comic book artist. If I spent 40 hrs a week for 6 months I could probably get into fighting shape drawing-wise. I also wanted to play wide receiver for the Minnesota Vikings.
Question 5: with all the democratization of media going on right now, where are you writing?
I am a huge fan of Medium. ( https://medium.com/@jenniej23 ) Their look is beautiful and it’s really easy to use. My favorite thing I wrote there was an article called “Red Wedding Got You Down?” which actually got featured on the front page of Medium. Now it’s all famous people and actual pro writers so that doesn’t happen as often. My other favorites are “The Unexpected Magic of Casa de Fruta” which is the kind of travel essay I don’t always have the time to write, and a piece called “A Culinary Three-Way” which is not what you think :) There’s also some techie stuff in there from when I go and cover CES. The rest of my stuff is unpublished, mostly because getting something published is a full-time job, but here’s a poem I wrote once, and now you’ve published my first poem!
Through the glass
Standing in the shower in the grey of April
one of those bugs, the kind I always smash,
appears on the misted glass.
I reach out to end it but the light is clear
and reveals shimmering wings, a benign stalk,
and a mouth like two petals.
I see this creature will do me no harm.
This new thing, its end stayed, sips mist off the pane;
its kisses leave puckered circles
in orderly lines
that could almost be letters.
And I remember
how this creature and its kin huddle under my lamps at night
when the garden is too cold.
And I how they hover above my bed,
polite, without the buzzing of flies,
or the dangling menace of spiders
whom I know not to kill, thanks to Charlotte.
So many mist-sippers gone
before I took the time to see they were not mosquitos.
Penance is due, for lost moments, in the shower,
in the lamp-light, in bed.
And how many other mist-sippers, in other forms
have I smashed,
without listening to their music.
Okay, well. That was a first. No one has ever shared any poetry on my blog before and I feel less for it. Thank you. A sincere and heartfelt thank you. Seriously though… is there something you cannot do? Wait. That’s not Question 6, don’t answer this. It sounded very question like, but I intended it to be rhetorical. Great, now I am flustered.
Medium is a bit of a conundrum to me. I do not quite understand it. I will definitely add you into my feed. I have read some articles on there, but see no way to insert my inanity into its format. I feel like if I started to write for/on Medium, I would need to come at the platform from a different direction of my other artistic endeavors. I really have no idea what form that would take. Maybe something more professionally related. I don’t know. Right now I am focusing on NaNoWriMo and a job search (editors note: NaNoWriMo was a success, I finished the story... now I need to edit the heck out of it and hit up some artist friends to help flesh it out). Medium will have to come later.
I know a bit of Tom Merritt’s story and the whole generation of DTNS. I was lucky enough to be his first post-TWiT interview, but Question 6: How did you get involved with DTNS?
So, how I got involved with DTNS is a funny story about how chance encounters with awesome people can pay off years and years later. In 2010, I was freelancing for my former employer CBS News covering forest fires and mudslides with a producer named Mary. We got along great and she recommended me for a gig working with CBS Interactive down at International Comic-Con. I was supposed to work with a great host name Derrick and I started to talk to him about my love of Battlestar Galactica, and Joss Whedon and all these things I was excited to cover, when from across the room I hear, “HER. THAT’S MY PRODUCER.” And that was Molly Wood. And we had an absolute blast running around Comic-Con together. Cut to October 2013. Molly reaches out and says "there’s a guy living down in LA now that I think you should meet, his name is Tom.” So Tom and I meet for I guess what you’d call a “general”. Cut to December of 2013 and I get let go from Yahoo, and Tom gets [insert whatever you call it that happened at TWiT] on the SAME DAY. And Molly calls again and says, “You two should REALLY talk.” And so we did! There wasn’t any money yet for the show, but I thought, this seems interesting, and so I just started working for Tom. Cut to today! So it just goes to show you that you never know how one random gig covering Comic-Con in 2010 is going to change your life.
That is awesome. I love that kind of serendipity. The show seems to be running very well. It is a great show. I do not listen daily, but I do binge the eps and listen to every episode. I love the show and its consistency. Best tech news show in the podcastosphere. I always love it when you chime in with information, your voice is always welcome.
Question 7: Is there a topic in the geek/nerd/tech that you can’t help but chime in on? Tom starts talking about X and I know we are about to get some Jennie-Insight.
Usually when it’s a media-centric show, I can’t resist. Having worked at a major network in the exact last moment when the network news was still hosted by “The Big Three” right before the internet became a viable platform for storytelling, I’m constantly fascinated by the shifts in the media landscape. I also tend to chime in when we have an issue that would specifically benefit from the opinion of a) a woman b) a normal non-techy or c) a super user of a particular product. But we definitely hold guests on this show to a certain standard of quality of original thought, and before I’m on a main show I always ask myself, can I meet that level on any particular topic?
Well, I absolutely love when you chip in. Since you primarily find your livelihood via the Internet...
Question 8: Do you work from home now?
I spent the first 9 months or so of 2014 working from home, sitting at the dining room table. But that got a little old / uncomfortable, so eventually my friend and I got a great little office together (she’s a video editor). It’s in a great part of LA, and it’s actually turning into a bit of a podcast studio. We record Tell It Anyway here as well as the other podcast I produce called Hooray for Garbagetown, which is about trying to make it in the entertainment industry here in LA. It’s actually starting to sound pretty great, although I grew up in a home with a public radio studio in the back, so I developed a particular ear for good audio quality, which is a little annoying/frustrating when you’re still learning how to achieve the level of audio that would satisfy that ear.
Because of course, like any rebellious kid, I ran away from radio into the “glamorous” world of television, so when I started to do podcasting, I had to learn a lot of stuff on my own that I could have learned very young. :) My dad, who is a long time public radio host and producer has been great in sending me gear and giving me advice now that I’m back in the audio universe.
But back to the office. It’s made me feel much more like a professional, which is important for an independent.
Also, we have a small office trampoline.
That is awesome. There is a bit of difficulty when your living space becomes your workspace. There is a nasty danger of the work/life balance becoming crazily out of whack. That is an issue we are currently having in the house because of the work my wife does. If we were making all the moneys, I am positive that my wife would get an office of some kind. At the moment it would not be fiscally responsible.
Question 9: As an independent podcaster and producer, how do you dance the line of the work/life balance? Do you find yourself bringing too much work home?
I do have a tendency to bring work home for sure. Mostly because the days get so busy with the show, with meetings, with errands etc, that the best time to do intensive “buckle down, don’t get interrupted” work, like research or writing or editing is in the evening. I also sometimes find that the “going” to places takes so much time away from the “doing” of work (especially in LA) that sometimes it’s just easier to roll out of bed get your coffee and start plugging away. This of course is why some freelancers often go the whole day without getting out of their pajamas.
Pajamas are comfortable, and business casual (my uniform, so to speak) is comfortable enough, but not as comfortable.
Question 10: Fill in the blanks: I find that I am mostly ________. Others find that I am mostly _______.
I find that I am mostly happy. Others find that I am mostly pretty useful in a pinch.
Mostly happy is great. I wish more people were able to answer the first part of that pair of statements that way. That being said…
It is interesting that others answered with a comment about your efficacy in problem solving, while you answered with a comment on your internal state of being, but enough of that. Let’s move on to another topic…
You are typically very (and this phrasing is a little strong for what my actual intention is) outspoken when you talk about gender equity in movies. You often have very well formed and well spoken opinions about, for example, the merchandising snubbing that Black Widow gets in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Question 11: Why do you think the powers that be consistently marginalize female characters when it is clear (at least to my circles) that female characters are becoming more and more integral to the cultural landscape? As the father of a seven year old girl who is stoked that Captain Phasma is a woman, I am really interested in your answer.
Welllll now, that is a good question: There’s a lot of excellent commentary about this on sites like the mary sue and the elemental but as a quick visual guide here are pictures of the CEOs of Mattel, and Hasbro.
Seriously though, to me the lack of female action figures represents the larger challenge of innovation within large companies and being agile in the face of a changing market. In the toy market, the conventional wisdom has long been that girls want dolls, Barbies, and stuffed animals, and boys want action figures and trucks and blah blah blah. So toy companies, mostly continue to “go with what has always worked” and market the same type of toys to each gender. Which then means that the sales figures “reflect” the conventional wisdom.
Now thanks to extremely popular and strong characters that came out of the book world (Katniss Everdeen) and of course the long line of awesome Disney heroines (Anna! Elsa!) you do see strong indicators that conventional toy wisdom might be a bit outdated. So you can bet there are a lot of meetings going on behind closed doors at these companies about what to do, but as with any manufacturing company, you’re looking at a lag time between idea and hitting the shelves. (Although if there are not rows and rows of amazing Black Widow action figures by the time Captain America: Civil War comes out I am going to flip the fuck out.)
Believe me, by the time Star Wars: The Force Awakens completes its world domination, there’s going to be a lot more sales data on female action figures. #ReyRules
Now as for badass, fully realized female characters in popular entertainment, I’d say TV is kicking some serious ass in that department right now. And bonus: women are no longer just being represented as the perfectly put together “best at their job” hard ass, hot cop, blah blah, but in all shades of good/bad/crazy, and that’s just on Fargo.
Anyway, I could write all day on this topic, but I’ll just say that when I was four years old I got a Princess Leia action figure for Christmas and carried it with me everywhere, man chin and all.
The tide is definitely turning. My 12 year old son asked why Captain America was on the motorcycle in the Quinjet instead of the Black Widow, and, as I said, my 7 year old daughter is all sorts of ready to see a female baddie kicking some ass in the Star Wars universe.
After getting the amazing Patrick Beja to answer 20 Questions, I stole one of the questions he asked himself. That question was “Are you happy?” You kind of answered that one in Q10… so thanks for that.
Question 12: What is the most interesting aspect of being a producer on a podcast (DTNS)? and what is the most difficult aspect of being “on air” content creator on another (Tell It Anyway)?
I love working on DTNS because working for Tom Merritt is awesome. The only better thing about DTNS is working for our bosses, the people who back our show. Whenever I hear my friends in other media jobs worry about ratings and streams and how much their bosses want them to “generate engagement at scale” etc., I think about the people who fund our show with their hard earned dollars. The best part is how well we know our audience, not because we have sophisticated metrics, but because the people who support us do so in SO MANY WAYS. They write emails, chat with us, show up at meetups, build things, draw things, and give us amazing suggestions that make it clear just how much they are invested in the show, and you know what? There’s no metric that I know that will ever measure that kind of awesome. It’s such a humbling thing to be a small part of. (Oh, no! I ended a sentence with a preposition! SMACK.)
The most difficult part of being “on air” is having a story to tell every time! Oh, and getting good quality audio from Skype convos. So many great friends in so many different cities and countries, but none of them have podcast microphones! Oh and making the time to edit. I have a way I want these episodes to feel in my head with the way the conversation flows, and the music and the fine-tuned editing and I reach that goal once every five episodes or so.
There has to be such a different set of skills for doing these two different tasks. I bet it is fun to exercise those different muscles.
We are now at Question 13: oh, Triskaidekaphobia… do you have any superstitions or rituals?
Interesting. I would have thought you might have some pre-show rituals. From what I understand, Patrick Beja was born ready. Good on you for not falling into those traps.
I have found that I am missing ritual in my life right now. I left the religion thing a while ago due to the insidious invisible racism I experienced with my home church growing up. I think I need to figure out some intentionality and ritual to my life to add in time for reflection.
Question 14: Do you do anything currently to encourage self-reflection and mindfulness?
When I get caught up in a moment, I try to think about how other people feel in the same situation. What brings those people to their moment of anger and frustration or what their point of view might be on the issue we’re talking about. And then I try to remember that at the end of the day I’m really lucky to be where I am, doing what I’m doing. And that unless someone’s life or immediate welfare is in danger, nothing is worth flipping out over. I will say, that took some time to learn.
Those lessons are difficult to learn. I am still in the process of learning many of them. The one I am working on right now is not thinking that I can do something, feel something, become something as soon as X happens. I am trying to remove these self-imposed barriers and allow myself to grow and change without arbitrary requirements. I wish I could say it was easy, but it is very easy to focus on a ‘grass is greener” mentality where life will be better after X.
Question 15: Is there a particular mind trap that you find yourself falling into more than others?
Ha ha this feels like the question they ask you on a job interview, like, what is your biggest weakness?
Maybe frustration? I value fairness and I try to being kind before being a jerk, not the other way around. But that doesn't always happen, and it's not even something that I can achieve 100% of the time (just ask my husband). So nowadays I just try to smile through it and laugh it off later.
Smiling through and laughing it off later can be a great methodology. I try to do that as much as I can… It works well some days, and on others… Not so much. C’est la vie.
Question 16: Do you think that Internet culture has caused a bit more of the reacting virulently before pausing to think? Or has this reactionary outrage always been there, but the instant connection of the Internet has made it more noticeable?
A little bit of both, but I think another aspect of internet culture--the ability to use a username that isn’t directly connected to a person’s legal name---has also had a huge impact on the online experience. Anonymous (ish) usernames allow a greater degree of expression, both negative and positive. On the positive side, sometimes a username can come to feel more like a person’s true self than their legal name, especially if they’ve had tough experiences in the real world. I don’t need to tell anyone the downside, it’s all out there for anyone to see.
As always, I think the answer lies in ground up community decision-making in concert with the platforms on which those communities thrive. We have to figure out how to live in the digital world the same way we’re constantly figuring out how to live in real life, and that takes time, effort and most importantly, empathy.
Personally, I think this tendency has always been within the human condition, but the potential for someone to generate outrage was limited to a smaller population of people who were more or less the same. By the time news of something that might cause outrage typically reached people, the issue was already resolved. I think the amount if connection coupled with the speed of interaction has allowed this outrage reflex to come to the forefront, but this isn’t about me, it’s about you.
Question 17: Is there a question I have not asked you that you feel I should have asked?
I like my eggs scrambled (soft) with a little bit of cheese melted throughout layered on top of sliced ripe avocado on sourdough toast. Lots of butter throughout the whole process.
Butter is always required. I like eggs over medium with thick bacon and sourdough toast. We could get along well, I think.
Now it is time for me to turn the tables for a second. Question 18: Do you have any questions for me?
What have you learned asking all these questions of various people on the internet?
That is an interesting question, and a logical question to ask. I have learned that asking people relatively sensitive questions requires sharing from me. Often, for these 20 Questions, I feel like I am exposing parts of me a bit more than I expose of the people I am asking my questions. I have also found that there needs to be an ebb and flow to the depth of the questions lest the 20 Questions become less readable. I have had some really compelling conversations within these 20 Questions that were absolutely terrible to read and needed levity. I hope that I have hit that balance more often than not.
Question 19: What are you taking from these 20 Questions that you did not bring with you?
That I’m genuinely fond of eggs. And questions.
Eggs and questions are worthy of fondness.
Here we are at the end of the 20. I have really enjoyed doing this 20 Questions with you. I feel honored that you shared your poem with me, and am happy that we chatted about misogyny in toy sales. I hope you have enjoyed this as much as I did.
Question 20: What's next? Be as vague or concrete, as close term or long-term, as philosophical or grounded as you want.
I had so much fun doing this! I will recommend it to others. As for me,
Some things may change, or not. Others will remain the same, or not. I will still love empanadas, bbq pork bao, kolaches and all other meat wrapped in bread. Jennie out!
This was an absolute blast. Please any and all of you listen to, watch, and support Jennie with the podcasts that she involved with, Daily Tech News Show (as the producer) and Tell it Anyway (as the host). If you like those podcasts, please go their respective patreons and donate to make them better, (DTNS and Tell it Anyway). Follow Jennie on Medium and Twitter. She is awesome and should be a part of your daily social media consumption. Do it people.
2 interviews in 2 weeks?
Yeah, you read that right
I am on the fires
So, Iowa happened
That means the political race in Ohio is warming up
Election year in a swing state is a terrible thing
It is a good thing that the fam has cut the cord
Netflix and Amazon Prime do not have commericals
I have upgraded to YouTube Red and am contemplating upping to the non-commercials version of Hulu
No more ads
That would be glorious
I really need to change this job sitch
Have a great week everyone!