Our Modern Love Editor on How His Job Is ‘a Lot Like Online Dating’

BEHIND THE BYLINE • DANIEL JONES

Our Modern Love Editor on How His Job Is ‘a Lot Like Online Dating’

Interview by Lara Takenaga

Feb. 14, 2019

The Reader Center has began a brand new collection of brief interviews, Behind the Byline, to introduce you to Times journalists. Is there a reporter, photographer or editor whom you want to get to know? Tell us within the kind under.

Daniel Jones is aware of extra about love (and heartache and loss) than in all probability another journalist at The Times.

As the editor of Modern Love, he has learn tens of hundreds of non-public essays referring to the enjoyment and despair that relationships, in all their varieties, can engender. Overseeing the weekly column because it began greater than a decade in the past, he has helped carry its tales to life as a well-liked podcast and a tv present debuting later this yr.

Here, Daniel talks about how he chooses essays, essentially the most memorable ones — and that point he virtually died.

What do you take pleasure in most about being the editor of Modern Love? What is most difficult about it?

I like discovering new voices and tales. You’d suppose after 14 years at this, I’d have seen each love story possible. But then I pull up some unusual story full of peculiar knowledge and am floored over again.

The different pleasure has been seeing how the tales may be retold and reimagined in different mediums by gifted actors and administrators — each within the podcast, which has been going for 3 years, and extra not too long ago within the coming “Modern Love” tv collection from Amazon that has been filming in New York.

The difficult half is discovering these tales.

We get some eight,000 submissions a yr, and the one technique to discover contemporary materials is to have a look at every part. If I’ve slept properly the night time earlier than, I can get by means of 150 in a day, which is nice for maintaining with the job however not so nice for my well being. Not solely does that type of quantity offer you a foul again and eyestrain, it drains you emotionally, as a result of these are sometimes an important tales within the writers’ lives. Even essays that don’t work may be about devastating experiences. But as an editor, you must combat the impulse to really feel jaded or dismissive, as a result of as quickly as you give in to that, you’re achieved.

The course of might be quite a bit like on-line courting. It’s a quantity downside, of discovering a diamond within the tough. People get numbed by the method and seal off their hearts, however you may solely discover love (or a diamond, or an essay) should you’re open — each time — to discovering it.

How would you describe your modifying philosophy?

It’s probably not a philosophy, however I imagine within the unknown author and the concept all of us have a narrative to inform. In doing the work of modifying, I clearly wish to make the story higher, which normally means making it clearer and virtually all the time making it shorter. I feel writers usually get in the best way of their very own tales with out realizing it, prioritizing language or type over substance. An editor must be curious (greater than a know-it-all) and reliable. These tales may be intensely private. Handle them, and their creators, with care.

Which essays have left the largest impression on you?

Ann Leary’s “Rallying to Keep the Game Alive” captures a standard marital dynamic in a method that’s fully contemporary and revelatory — it’s one I consider usually. Heather Burtman’s “My Body Doesn’t Belong to You” grabbed me by the collar and stated, method earlier than #MeToo: This is what it feels prefer to be objectified as a younger lady. Mandy Len Catron’s “To Fall In Love With Anyone, Do This” taught tens of thousands and thousands of individuals world wide tips on how to be weak with a stranger. And Gary Presley’s “Would My Heart Outrun Its Pursuer?” opened my eyes to how some should overcome the bitterness of incapacity to permit love in.

I’d add 100 extra essays if we had the house.

How do you spend your time while you’re off obligation?

It’s onerous to ever really feel off obligation. The final time I really disconnected — reduce off from work, e mail and social media — was three summers in the past once I took a weeklong rafting journey with my son down the higher half of the Grand Canyon. Our guides had introduced alongside an unique wood skiff from the early days of Colorado River rafting that was rowed by the boat-maker’s grandson. You sat about 6 inches out of the water on this tiny rowboat that bounced by means of these large rapids like a cork.

I noticed a narrative in that and began to take notes to pitch it to the Travel part the second we had cell service. So even there, I discovered a technique to be on obligation. But it made the expertise extra memorable as a result of I used to be doing every part to make it so.

What’s one thing that readers can be stunned to find out about you?

When I used to be in my 20s, I by no means dreamed I’d be on this enterprise, a lot much less have this job. I hoped, at finest, to get a gig instructing writing at a small faculty someplace, anyplace. But nobody would interview me.

Oddly, although, again then is once I got here the closest I’ve ever come to getting my identify on the entrance web page of The New York Times — not as a author however as a ski teacher, which I used to be for a number of years at Deer Valley Resort in Park City, Utah.

One week I used to be instructing the C.E.O.s of American Express and Squibb Corporation when, after a day of snowboarding in a blizzard, I drove us down an icy mountain street and misplaced management of the van, practically plunging us right into a canyon 200 ft deep.

By frantically spinning the steering wheel, I received us sliding within the different course, the place we slammed right into a snow financial institution and had been high-quality.

Afterward I joked that had I gone over the cliff, taking out two of an important males in enterprise at the moment, our story absolutely would have made The Times. That may need been type of darkly glamorous? But I feel I’d reasonably make my mark in The Times as a dwelling editor than as a lifeless driver in another person’s obituary.

Illustration by Rebecca Clarke

Follow Lara Takenaga and Daniel Jones on Twitter: @LaraTakenaga and @danjonesnyt.

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