Wonkette founder shares take on journalism

By Christina Schwartz

Journalist Ana Marie Cox (A.B., ’94), a former MAROON editor, discussed her career path, the campaign trail, and the future of journalism with students at a presentation on Wednesday.

Cox currently serves as the Washington Editor of Time.com, where she coordinates political coverage while also writing features and essays for print and online editions.

At the event, Cox discussed her unique career choices before she made it into mainstream media. After graduating from the University of Chicago, she briefly attended graduate school in history at the University of California at Berkeley. Suck.com, an online media and humor website, recognized Cox’s talent for juxtaposing such concepts as the Kentucky Derby to the band Pavement and hired her to write an early version of a blog. The dot-com crash of the ’90s caused Cox to move to Mother Jones Magazine, a job that was followed by a number of positions at other startup blogs.

Cox finally found her niche in journalism when she became the founding editor of the snarky political blog, the Wonkette. “Washington is such a rich target for satire that no one was taking advantage of; I had it all to myself,” Cox said.

She resigned in January 2006 to promote her book Dog Days and is now covering the campaign trail for Time.

She discussed each of the front runner’s campaigns with comments running the range from serious—“Hilary’s campaign is the most professional and well developed I’ve seen. It runs like clockwork, the gears just click into place”—to the satirical—“I used to like Edwards but now I see him more as a weird combination of Bulworth and Howard Dean.”

Finally, Cox addressed the journalism industry. When asked where the industry will head in terms of technology and the future of newspapers, Cox answered, “[Newspapers] might turn into an affectation. Reading the paper will be like having a cane or a monocle.” She also expressed a frustration with new technology and her new role of podcasting. “I have to talk for two minutes into the camera, which is harder than it sounds if you don’t want to make a fool of yourself.”

New media carries its downside with the readily available avenue for response. Blogs often incur criticism. “It’s like crack: once you start reading criticism, you can’t stop. I don’t have thick skin, but I heal quickly,” Cox said.

Cox is working hard on her new book, an anthropological study of young conservatives. Her articles are available on “Swampland,” the Time.com political blog.