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Lisa Bonos is the writer and editor for Solo-ish (The Washington Post).
WHAT LED YOU TO START WORKING IN DIGITAL/MEDIA PUBLISHING?
I actually got my start on the print side. Right out of UCLA undergrad, I got a copy-editing internship at The Washington Post, where I first worked on the Business desk and later moved over to the daily op-ed page. At that point, copy editors were learning basic Web production, too, so as early as 2009 I was thinking about how to cater to print and online audiences. Headlines that work in print, for example, don’t necessarily grab eyeballs online, and online readers are more fickle than print ones. So I had to learn to edit for both audiences simultaneously.
By the time I was pitching Solo-ish — a blog about unmarried life — to higher-ups at The Post, I knew that it made sense to pitch it as a primarily online product, as my core readership was millennials who rarely read print newspapers anymore.
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WHAT DOES A TYPICAL DAY LOOK LIKE FOR YOU?
Solo-ish typically publishes one post a day, which goes live at 7 a.m. So I wake up and do a bit of work from bed — sharing that day’s post on Facebook and Twitter, and alerting my colleagues to what we’ve published. If there’s news on my beat — like the D.C. man who attempted to go on 6 dates in one night — then I’ll start Slacking my editor about how we might cover it on Solo-ish. In my job running Solo-ish, I write and edit, so if there’s breaking news sometimes I’ll handle it, or I might put a freelancer or an in-house reporter on it. For every piece we publish, I coordinate with our photo editors or designers to find an appropriate photo or illustration.
The Post has a site that’s geared toward millennial women — called the Lily — and they publish some of our content, too. I keep an eye on Twitter and the Washington Post homepage as well. I’m always looking for Solo-ish angles to bigger news stories, such as how single women rushed to get long-term birth control after Trump was elected and in response to the recent sexual harassment news, I spoke to some therapists about why powerful men like Louis C.K. force women to watch them masturbate.
Most days, I’m editing freelancers in the morning and doing my own writing or interviews in the afternoon. But some days that definition isn’t so clear; it’s a constant juggle between my own writing and editing everyone else’s. One of my favorite things about Solo-ish’s robust freelance network is that whenever one of our writers happens to be in town and gives me a head’s up, we try to grab a coffee. A lot of the content we publish is intensely personal, so I often feel as if I know this person, but we’ve only interacted by email. Meeting in person, I usually get updates about their personal lives since whatever they’ve written as well.
I try to review freelance submissions on Thursdays, but there are always queries to answer from freelancers who are in various stages of writing or reporting. I work with freelancers from all over the world, of varying relationship statuses and sexual orientations. On Thursdays, I also rough out Solo-ish’s lineup for the following week, trying as hard as I can to craft a mix of topics and writers’ perspectives.
Something else that happens nearly every day — it could be on my bus ride to work, a run-in in the newsroom kitchen, someone stopping my desk to chat or cornering me at happy hour — is that my colleagues often tell me what’s going on in their love lives. Maybe they’re looking for a good first-date spot or want tips on how to break up. I’m not a licensed therapist! But I am fascinated by relationships, romantic or otherwise. I always like to hear what other people are going through. And I have been known to dish about my love life in the newsroom kitchen as well.
WHAT’S YOUR WORK SETUP LIKE?
I have a dual-screen setup: Outlook email on the left screen; WordPress and my many Web browsers on the right. I look at our real-time traffic on Chartbeat more than I should. Transcribe Wreally is my favorite tool for transcribing interviews; it allows you to slow down audio and rewind and fast-forward real easily.
WHAT DO YOU DO TO GET INSPIRED?
I come up with my best ideas when I’m not at my desk! As much as possible, I try to go for a walk when I’m stuck. Inspiration strikes anywhere and everywhere — while watching TV, listening to a friend’s dating dilemma or swimming laps. Most of all: Inspiration strikes when I’m NOT looking for it or trying so hard.
WHAT’S YOUR FAVORITE PIECE OF WRITING OR QUOTE?
Like much of the Internet, I devoured Mandy Len Catron’s Modern Love column about the 36 questions to fall in love. The column is wonderful on its own, but I had had the experience of doing those 36 questions on a study-abroad program when I was 18 — and yes, I developed a crush on my partner. (At the time, he was dating someone else!) That conversation had always stuck with me, so when Catron’s column went viral, it hit home for me. I understood why the questions had worked for her, because, to a lesser extent, they had worked for me once, too. I devoured the follow-up book she’s written, too.
WHAT IS THE PASSIONATE PROBLEM YOU ARE TACKLING AT THE MOMENT?
How to make Solo-ish relevant in a world that’s full of pressing, urgent news. Relationship content, even well-told stories, can get lost in our current news environment. So I’m currently thinking about how to make the blog newsier and also full of content that’s a joy to read.
IS THERE A PRODUCT, SOLUTION, OR TOOL THAT YOU THINK IS A GOOD MATCH FOR YOUR DIGITAL PUBLISHING EFFORTS?
I used to have a podcast and had to drop it for the moment because of time constraints. But I think the intimate nature of audio is a great medium for telling stories about relationships and for interrogating love-related questions. If I had more time or a bigger staff, we’d restart the podcast in a heartbeat.
DO YOU HAVE ANY ADVICE FOR AMBITIOUS DIGITAL PUBLISHING AND MEDIA PROFESSIONALS WHO ARE JUST STARTING OUT?
Think about what medium works best for the story you’re telling. Does the medium match the content? If the answer is no, and your video would be better as a story or your story would be better as a podcast episode, don’t be afraid to adjust and start over. You might not get the perfect match every time; I’m still trying to get that right. But asking yourself that question at the outset can help.