It isn’t just special projects that are swallowing up an editor’s day. The necessity–or the preceived necessity–of staying connected via social media has definitely added to the average editor’s workload–and sometimes it can come at a real cost to the job. “At fashion shows, I’m often struck by how frantically people are Tweeting comments and uploading images or videotaping a show,” The Daily Beast’s Robin Givhan, who is the only fashion journalist to have won a Pulitzer Prize, told me. “They’re not actually watching the show. At best, they’re viewing it through the lens of a camera. And after having many conversations with still photographers over the years, I know that seeing a runway show through the lens of a camera while you’re photographing it is a wholly different experience from just sitting and absorbing it. People are turning real experiences into virtual ones. I find that disheartening.”
“I definitely feel pressured to be producing content at all times whether it’s blogging, tweeting, or editing,” Chen said. “It does get overwhelming sometimes. I feel like my job is never over.” However, Chen is quick to add that social media has given editors a chance to connect with readers in a way never before possible, and that that’s something she would never want to give up.
Social media has also become an indispensable tool for editors to build their own brand, and solidify themselves as a “personality” in the industry. One need only to look at Anna Dello Russo’s meteoric rise to fame, or Derek Blasberg’s career trajectory, to understand how important the cult of the personality is in the fashion industry, and what a powerful tool it can be for an editor’s career. The problem is, sometimes it gives an unfair advantage to those who, while being perfectly outfitted in the best designer duds, frequently photographed with celebrities and always present at the industry’s coolest events, are not necessarily that great at being editors.
“People might be so caught up in creating a persona or sharing a persona on social media that it takes a way from what their job actually might be,” Chen said. But in an industry like fashion that quite literally revolves around appearances, a person’s projected image can easily be mistaken for reality. And that, in turn, can put a lot of pressure on aspiring editors or fashion journalists to fit into the preconceived notion of what they should look an act like.
Take the proliferation of street style bloggers and their fascination with how the fashion set puts together an outfit. “It’s flattering to be photographed by the talented and discriminating eyes of Garance, Phil Oh and Scott Schuman,” oft-street style-snapped Teen Vogue editor Mary Kate Steinmiller told us, “and one can’t help but to take an extra moment to put effort into looking camera ready.” But, she concedes, it’s all gotten a little out of hand. “We are all supposed to be going to fashion week because its our JOB, not to be self promoters getting photographed,” she said.
A job that never stops.
“Because of the cult of personality, being an editor can definitely feel like a 24-hour job,” Chen said, adding that she is much more aware of how she appears and interacts with others during her off-duty hours.
For Givhan, trying to be a ‘personality’ is just too stressful. “I don’t want to be Robin Givhan: personality. Frankly that’s way too much pressure!” she told us. “I’m Robin Givhan: gratefully working journalist. I hope that stands for something.”