Meet the Vanity Fair Hive editor who’s keeping an eye on the Fab Four in Congress & also like, a billion newsletters

Happy Friday, Deezers! Today’s interview is with Vanity Fair’s Claire Landsbaum, who breaks down ~a day in the life~ of her editing role, namechecks her daily media diet, and talks about the biggest post-midterms stories she’ll be paying attention to next year. Enjoy!


The interviewee: Claire Landsbaum (follow her @landsbaumshell!)

The gig: Associate editor at Vanity Fair’s politics & power vertical, the Hive  

So, what’s your day-to-day at the Hive like?

On a very basic level, my day goes like this: alarm at 6:30, tea at 6:40, scanning the news by 6:45. Five people (all of whom happen to be women, which is dope) write for us on a day-to-day basis, and each has a different beat.

Depending on the day, two will log on earlier, and two a little bit later (the fifth is more consistent). I spend the early hours of the morning slacking with my co-editor to figure what angles we want to take on the day’s stories, and how we want to divvy them up, and then I’ll get assignments out to the folks who are on early. Once they’re on a roll, I’ll keep scanning the news and message the folks who are on a little later. Depending on what’s happening, we’ll either have reporters focus on quick-hit responses to the news cycle, or on longer-term projects that involve speaking to multiple sources to offer analysis, or breaking news themselves.

Sometimes I edit the first round of posts from home, and sometimes I head into the office right away—it all depends on who’s on, and what their turnaround time is like. Once I’m there, I collaborate with the rest of the Hive to give out assignments throughout the day (if applicable), or to field any reported pieces that have come in. We have an all-hands Hive meeting once a week, and I’ll sometimes be called into meetings for the print magazine, particularly if there’s a politics angle. That’s the basic framework, but again, it varies widely depends on what’s going down!

So, now that the dust has settled a * little * more on the midterms, what story/person are you most excited about following in the year ahead?

Hmm, good question. Personally, I’m most excited to see how the folks in Democrats’ new class of Representatives carve out space for themselves and define their goals in that chamber, particularly young women of color (Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Ilhan Omar, Ayanna Pressley whaddup).

But I want to answer another question too, which is: what story do I think is most important now that the dust around midterms has settled? For me, there are two things to watch closely: 1) the continued rollback of reproductive rights under this administration, and 2) the rise in homegrown right-wing extremism.

On the first point, midterms saw the passage of two ballot measures—one in Mississippi and one in West Virginia—that basically say abortion is not a protected right. Those measures will be challenged in court, and those cases are basically tailor-made to make their way to the Supreme Court, so it’s more likely than not we’ll have a major abortion ruling in the coming months or years. And given who we have on the court, it could be ugly!

On the second, there’s been a major rise in domestic extremism under Trump, and as the Department of Homeland Security weeds out preventative jobs (and especially if a Democrat is elected in 2020), the situation is guaranteed to get worse before it gets better.

I know, I know—cheery shit. But those are two stories I think will be important moving forward.

Before joining Vanity Fair as an editor, you were a staff writer at The Cut and a freelance writer for several years. What surprises you most about being on "the other side" of the editor-writer relationship?

I get this question a lot, and my honest answer is: that writers turn in such lackluster copy! I suppose my own history of iffy first drafts should’ve prepared me for this, but I’m continually surprised by the clunkiness of some of the early language I see. But hey, what are editors for?

Covering power and politics at the national level in this news cycle sounds pretty nonstop — can you tell us about your own media diet?

For the most part, I rely on newsletters. I’m subscribed to way too many, but also just the right number? Our reporters cover politics, tech, and business, so in the mornings I read Politico Playbook, Axios A.M., New York Times’ DealBook, and Brian Stelter’s Reliable Sources. I’m also subscribed to the NYT’s Morning Briefing, but I usually read that last, just to make sure I haven’t missed anything obvious.

I also don’t usually read Stelter’s all the way through unless something big is happening in the media world. No shade, but that thing is pretty long!

I’m also subscribed to Axios’s Pro Rata, which I typically delete unless it contains original reporting about the business world. And as a longtime devotee of New York magazine’s Intelligencer, I take a spin through their new homepage. I hated the design at first, but it’s actually the perfect product for news editors: a curated feed of significant events in politics, business, and tech, with light commentary.

Throughout the day I’m glued to my TweetDeck, which is divided into columns by subject matter—I find the best way to stay on top of news is to follow the people who cover (and tweet about) it. If things are slow on Twitter, I’ll spin through Intelligencer, Politico, and Bloomberg.

I’m also subscribed to Alison Griswold’s Oversharing, Matt Yglesias’ Weeds, Politico P.M., Axios P.M., and White House pool reports, all of which come later in the day, or at various points throughout the day/week. *Deep exhale* okay, I think that’s everything.

If you had the power to assign any story in the world to any writer in the world, who would it be (and what would it be about?)!

Oh god...good question. I would love to assign a feature to either Pam Colloff or Vanessa Grigoriadis (and I’m in luck, as Vanessa is already a Vanity Fair contributing editor), but I feel like both are best when they self-direct. Their talent for digging up stories is unparalleled, so I’d be happy to run with whatever they brought me. (This is a semi-dodge, but also true!)

Finally, what's a recent piece that you're proud of working on, and why?

I’m proud of this piece I wrote for the Hive about a Supreme Court case that served as a barometer for abortion litigation in the Trump era. Writing about the right’s attempts to restrict abortion access was one of my passions at the Cut, and I’m pleased with the way I was able to (with my boss’s blessing) shoe-horn it into a Hive-ier story while maintaining the core message. And of course, I’m proud of the column Susan Fowler and I worked on together, which appeared in the September issue.


That’s all for this week! Follow Claire on Twitter here, don’t forget to watch the Thank U, Next video at 3 pm ET, and have a mystical weekend y’all.