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Jenna Wortham wants to expand the journalistic playing field

(Photo by Naima Green)

Jenna Wortham Photo Credit: Naima Green

Jenna Wortham
Staff Writer
The New York Times Magazine
University of Virginia, B.A.

Jenna Wortham writes a technology column in The New York Times in which she spends considerable time “using and observing behavior on social media and then writing about it.” A great example is her recent piece, “How I learned to love Snapchat.” Wortham begins it with a brief history lesson on German engineer, Friedhelm Hillebrand’s phone texting technology, then weaves in her personal texting and social media evolution. Not limited in range, Wortham has also interviewed the Blackish actress Tracee Ellis Ross and queer South African photographer Zanele Muholi.

The Path

Starting out, Wortham was a freelancer by day and a waitress at night, which gave her the freedom to write for free or very little money. Wortham believes this was a good investment. “I do think that when starting out, it can be profitable down the line to get exposure and build clips for less than you would expect to make. But I would never advise someone to put themselves at risk in order to get published or do it for longer than a year.”

After freelancing for Wired for a year, she was hired as a culture reporter, before moving to The Times in 2008. While primarily a print journalist, Wortham is looking to branch out. “I’ve mostly worked in print — in 2016, I really want to expand my multimedia footprint and work in video, perhaps even make a documentary. I love visuals and there’s so much more you can say with images than words.”

Wortham chose journalism as a career out of a desire to have an impact and make a meaningful contribution to the world. “One way I do that is [by] showcasing black and queer creators,” explains Wortham, “so that the world knows we exist.” She predicts the future will see even more diversity in the field:

“I think institutions are realizing that women and people of color are important audiences and they must pay attention to our narratives and stories to get our clicks and subscriptions, which I hope will lead to an uptick of reporters, writers, filmmakers, developers and creators who can cover those communities authentically.”

Wortham’s favorite Black Twitter hashtags are #TrapCovers and #AskRachel.

Noteworthy

Wortham recently debuted The Times’ new culture podcast Still Processing, with her co-host and colleague, Wesley Morris.

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