Summary notes created by Deciphr AI


Susan Rinkunas, a seasoned health journalist, shares her journey from Runner's World magazine to Women's Health, and her tenure as health editor at The Cut. Now freelancing, notably at Jezebel, she's committed to amplifying the truth about women's reproductive rights and health. Amidst discussions of her New York relocation and the challenges of the freelance world, Susan reflects on the impact of private equity on media companies like Vice, where she was laid off. She highlights the shifting landscape of abortion rights and the significance of Roe v. Wade's overturning. Susan also delves into the journalistic transition from print to digital, the nuances of editing, and the importance of conveying no-nonsense health information in an era of misinformation. With a passion for health journalism, Susan eyes potential future endeavors, including a reported podcast, while remaining open to full-time opportunities that align with her expertise.

Summary Notes

Introduction and Background of Susan Ranunis

  • Susan Ranunis is a journalist with a focus on women's health and reproductive rights.
  • She began her career at Runner's World magazine.
  • Progressed to Women's Health magazine and then became a health editor at the Cut.
  • Currently freelancing, contributing to Jezebel and other publications.
  • Dedicated to ensuring comprehensive coverage of women's health issues.

"Women's health is arguably the biggest issue journalists need to cover these days, and Susan Ranunis has dedicated her career to educating us about what we need to know."

This quote highlights the importance of women's health in journalism and Susan Ranunis's commitment to the field.

Freelancing and Media Company Challenges

  • Susan Ranunis has freelanced before, notably after being laid off from Vice Media.
  • Discusses the challenges faced by media companies, including bankruptcy and layoffs.
  • Describes the changing landscape of abortion rights coverage before and after the overturning of Roe v. Wade.
  • Highlights the difficulty of getting stories picked up by editors in the past compared to the present.
  • Mentions working at Jezebel and establishing a reputation as a writer, primarily known as an editor before.
  • Discusses the financial and job security aspects of freelancing, including paying for her own health insurance.

"I freelanced once before, and that was an interesting time because it was May 2020 to about October 2021, and we could tell that things were shifting in the abortion space."

This quote explains Susan Ranunis's previous experience with freelancing and her focus on the evolving situation regarding abortion rights.

Cocktail Preferences and Social Interactions

  • Discussion on cocktail choices, specifically old fashions and tequila soda with pineapple.
  • Susan Ranunis expresses her seasonal preferences for drinks and the practicality of ordering in different social settings.
  • The conversation touches on the culture of drinking within the journalism industry.

"I like old fashions. I do not like rye... It's just on a freelance basis. I feel like I have enough work right now to have a full-time job, but I am freelancing."

This quote provides insight into Susan Ranunis's personal preferences and her current work situation as a freelancer.

Experience at Jezebel and Media Industry Dynamics

  • Susan Ranunis sought a staff writing job focused on abortion and politics.
  • Jezebel had a history of covering abortion issues and other political topics.
  • Discusses the changes in media companies after acquisitions, specifically the impact of private equity.
  • Describes the "stick to sports" mandate at Deadspin and the subsequent staff quitting in protest.
  • Talks about the importance of the unique voice of Gawker media brands and their value to readers.
  • Explains the challenges faced by editorial teams due to business models focused on programmatic advertising and brand safety.

"So when I was in my last freelance period after getting laid off by Vice, I was looking to have a staff writing job on this beat of abortion and politics, heavy emphasis on abortion, and it's just really hard to find."

This quote explains Susan Ranunis's job search focus and the challenges of finding a staff writing position in her area of expertise.

Editorial Control and Advertiser Influence

  • Discussion about the conflict between editorial content and advertiser preferences.
  • The impact of programmatic advertising on editorial decisions and content monetization.
  • The tension between creating engaging content and adhering to advertiser-friendly policies.
  • The paradox of high-traffic stories being deemed unsafe for advertisers, affecting monetization.

"This is the concept of like, brand safety. I mean, people are reading this stuff. Some of these stories are like the highest traffic things that websites like Jezebel, will publish even advice. This was an issue advice too."

This quote discusses the concept of brand safety and its impact on the types of stories that are published and monetized.

Monetization Strategy and Audience Engagement

  • Jim should have implemented paywalls across all sites to monetize the dedicated readership.
  • Enthusiast audiences are more likely to pay for content.
  • Paywalls should not be overused; a balance is necessary.
  • Community engagement is crucial; old Gawker sites had a community system with levels.
  • Charging for community access could be a new way to engage readers and monetize.
  • Crooked Media uses Discord channels to connect with audiences.

"It feels to me that Jim should have implemented paywalls across all of the sites and monetize the audience."

  • This quote suggests that a paywall strategy would be beneficial for monetizing a dedicated readership.

"That's an enthusiast audience."

  • The quote identifies the type of audience that is likely to pay for content as "enthusiast."

"And maybe the new way of doing that is by charging for community, right? Like charging access to the writers."

  • This quote suggests monetizing the community aspect of media sites as a new strategy.

Revenue Streams and Media Strategy

  • Podcasts were a revenue stream that Jim shut down.
  • Jim's approach was outdated, focusing on content quantity and SEO gaming.
  • AI implementation was attempted but not successful.
  • Media companies owned by private equity face pressure for increasing returns.
  • There are multiple models to make money in media, not just programmatic advertising.
  • Understanding the audience is key to a successful media strategy.

"And Jim shut them all down. So it's just like he was doubling and tripling down on these strategies from 2005, 2010."

  • This quote criticizes Jim's decision to shut down podcasts, suggesting he was stuck in outdated strategies.

"But that's awful because they don't understand media."

  • The quote implies that private equity's focus on returns demonstrates a lack of understanding of the media industry.

The Impact of Misguided Leadership on Media

  • Older media figures with early successes may become complacent and ego-driven.
  • Misogyny and disrespect in media leadership can drive away talented individuals.
  • Private equity's lack of understanding of media can lead to poor strategic decisions.

"And they did one good thing. Well, they did one thing that was successful."

  • This quote reflects on how some media figures rely on a single past success and may not adapt to new challenges.

"That's another thing that people that, like, some of my former colleagues, like Onun Gizmodo, lost their jobs."

  • The quote discusses the negative impact of poor leadership decisions on employees within the media industry.

The Role of AI in Media and Journalism

  • AI-generated content has been tested but resulted in errors and backlash.
  • The reliance on AI can be seen as disrespectful to professional journalists.
  • AI strategies must be carefully considered and executed to avoid compromising journalistic integrity.

"But the first big like AI generated article that was just a catastrophe."

  • This quote highlights a significant failure in using AI for content generation.

"It wasn't his idea. So was he just conjuring that excuse to, like, appease Jim?"

  • The quote questions whether the promotion of AI was a genuine belief or a tactic to maintain a position.

Political Coverage and Journalism Strategy

  • Journalists must cut through noise and directly address the contrast between politicians' statements and actions.
  • Covering laws like the Comstock Act and their implications is important.
  • Highlighting hypocrisy and political strategy is a key part of journalism.

"So it's like putting those things together. Here's what you say and here's what you've done."

  • This quote emphasizes the journalist's role in comparing politicians' words to their actions.

"And Jonathan Mitchell know about, has known about Comstock forever."

  • The quote discusses the importance of covering legal strategies that have long-term implications for issues like abortion rights.

Medical Supplies in Abortion Procedures

  • Discussion about medical supplies used in procedural abortions, such as vacuum aspirators and cannula.
  • Concerns over potential enforcement of regulations under the Trump administration.
  • Activists' perspectives on Trump's stance regarding a national ban on abortion.

"Other supplies like vacuum aspirators or these things called, like, cannula, these like supplies that are used in procedural abortion."

This quote highlights the specific medical supplies used in abortion procedures, emphasizing the technical aspects of the practice.

"Some activists want Trump to enforce it."

This quote suggests that there is a faction of activists who desire strict enforcement of regulations related to abortion by the Trump administration.

"Trump says he doesn't support a national ban."

The quote captures the stated position of former President Trump on the issue of a national abortion ban.

Political Influence and Strategy

  • The influence of political figures on public opinion and policy, particularly Donald Trump's statements and actions.
  • The strategic importance of winning elections as emphasized by Trump.
  • The notion that actions and appointments are more indicative of political direction than public statements.

"It's what he's going to do and who he's going to appoint to these positions."

The quote underscores the idea that the true impact of a political figure lies in their actions and appointments, rather than their public statements.

"He's basically signaling to people, shut up. Let me win. Help me win. And then, you know, then we can do whatever, then we can do whatever we want."

This quote reflects a perceived strategy by Trump to prioritize winning elections, suggesting a means-to-an-end approach where achieving victory allows for greater freedom to implement desired policies.

Personal Background and Career Development

  • A personal narrative of growing up in Pennsylvania and the evolving career aspirations from childhood to adulthood.
  • The transition from various interests, including veterinary science, acting, and fashion design, to ultimately pursuing a career in journalism.
  • The role of family influences in shaping career paths, with a blend of creative and logical traits inherited from parents.

"But even then, I don't know if that's what I thought I would do as a career. But I knew I wanted to be in New York."

This quote reveals a personal reflection on career uncertainty but a clear desire to move to New York, indicating a strong geographical preference that influenced career decisions.

Education and Early Career Experience

  • The experience of pursuing an English major in college, facing stereotypes about the value of the degree.
  • The lack of a journalism major at the University of Delaware, leading to a concentration in journalism through an English major.
  • Early work experiences at a college newspaper, including selling classified ads and eventually working on the paper editorially.

"So I went to University of Delaware, and they did not have a journalism major, and they, at the time, did not even have a journalism minor."

The quote highlights the educational background and the limitations faced in pursuing a journalism career through formal education.

Transitioning to New York and Media Career Progression

  • The strategic move from a job in Pennsylvania to eventually working in New York media.
  • The financial sacrifices and practical adjustments made to live and work in New York, such as living with roommates and accepting low salaries.
  • Career development through roles at health and fitness magazines, and the progression from intern to web editor.

"I think one of the things that helped me is that I didn't have my first job in New York. My first job was at Runner's World in Pennsylvania."

The quote reflects a strategic approach to career progression, starting outside of New York to gain experience before moving to the city.

Learning and Growth in the Media Industry

  • The value of learning from colleagues and the experience of editing and writing in the media industry.
  • The importance of observing and participating in the editorial process, including interviewing and transcribing.
  • Reflections on the dynamics of editorial feedback and the impact of both positive and negative editing experiences.

"I think I learned the most by, like, observing it. So I think it also helps. It really does help when you've been on both ends because when you're a freelancer and you see how certain editors treat your work or you're a staff writer, staff reporter, I think that makes you a more empathetic editor."

This quote captures the importance of learning through observation and the empathy gained from experiencing both the writer's and editor's perspectives.

Challenges and Realities of the Editing Process

  • The diverse experiences with different editors and the varying levels of feedback provided.
  • The insecurity that can arise from minimal editing, leading to doubts about the readiness of a piece for publication.
  • The personal development that comes from navigating the editorial process and learning to work with various editorial styles.

"Sometimes a lack of changes can make me as a writer feel insecure. Like, wait, are you sure?"

This quote conveys the writer's concern and self-doubt when an editor provides minimal feedback, questioning whether the work is truly complete and polished.

Career Journey and Aspirations

  • Susan Ranunis shares her experiences working at Runner's World and New York Magazine, which she was obsessed with.
  • She began working at The Cut in May 2015, during the U.S. primary elections and was present when Trump won the presidency.
  • Ranunis discusses the impact of working at The Cut during the election and how it influenced her as a journalist.
  • She reflects on the challenges of being the first dedicated health hire at The Cut and the difficulties in managing content that was new for the site.
  • Ranunis expresses interest in a full-time job that allows her to cover health and reproductive rights without the pressure of producing multiple stories a day.
  • She hints at the possibility of hosting a reported podcast in the future, although she does not have a specific idea for it yet.

"I started May 2015, and then, yeah, 2016, I was there when Trump won the election." "I would love to have a full time job at someplace that wants me to cover this stuff full time and isn't gonna ask me to write two stories a day."

  • The quotes reflect the timeline of Ranunis's career at The Cut and her aspirations for future employment in a role that allows for in-depth journalism.

Intersecting Health and Politics

  • Ranunis brings her background in health to her work in politics, focusing on topics like birth control, pregnancy, and abortion.
  • She emphasizes the importance of understanding how health issues intersect with politics and the impact on people's lives.
  • Her time at The Cut was described as a period that radicalized her and pushed her to become a more intense journalist.

"So I came from that health background and then was working on politics of like birth control, pregnancy, abortion." "This isn't just politics to me. This is like people's bodies and lives."

  • The quotes highlight the connection between health issues and political reporting, underscoring the personal implications of political decisions on individuals.

Challenges at The Cut

  • Ranunis faced difficulties at The Cut due to a lack of experienced editors for health content and the challenge of establishing a new beat on the site.
  • She experienced issues with management and editorial direction, particularly in aligning health content with the brand's voice.
  • Ranunis describes the process of adapting to a new editorial style that required a balance of humor and intelligence in the writing.

"Cause I was their first dedicated health hire and they didn't have editors who had experience editing that kind of content." "It was totally, like, practiced and, like, easy for people writing about fashion and celebrity and probably politics. But I think, like, the stuff I was doing, there wasn't like a well worn path for that yet."

  • The quotes convey the struggles of pioneering health journalism at The Cut and adapting to the site's editorial style.

Move to Vice's Tonic

  • Ranunis moved to Vice's health brand Tonic because it promised no-nonsense health content, countering the misinformation prevalent in other health publications.
  • Tonic aimed to debunk health myths perpetuated by influencers and address pressing health issues.
  • The small team at Tonic included experienced editors from other health publications, which facilitated the production of impactful content.

"It was at a health brand called Tonic, which they folded after, like, three, two years of my being there, whatever." "So tonic was supposed to be the no bullshit health stuff."

  • These quotes illustrate Ranunis's motivation for joining Tonic and the brand's mission to provide straightforward health journalism.

Health Journalism Landscape

  • Ranunis praises Self magazine for its high-quality health content and inclusivity, noting its coverage of women's health issues and more.
  • She observes how health publications have evolved due to movements like body positivity and body neutrality.
  • Ranunis discusses the challenges in health journalism, such as fat phobia in medicine and society, and the complexities of covering health trends like Ozempic.

"I think self does a really great job. And two of the editors at self used to work at Vice." "So I think the content that some of these publications would publish in the past would never get greenlit today."

  • The quotes reflect Ranunis's approval of Self magazine's approach to health journalism and her critique of past practices in health media.
  • Ranunis expresses concern over the push of drugs like Ozempic by doctors and the potential long-term effects on patients.
  • She discusses the intersection of health trends with policy issues, such as abortion bans, and how these can affect people's lives.
  • Ranunis mentions writing an article for Jezebel about the interaction between GLP-1 drugs like Ozempic and birth control, highlighting the unintended consequences of these health trends.

"I think about so many stories policy wise and trend wise, like ozempic and then also childcare costs, things like that. I think of that in the back of my head. I'm always like, abortion bans, abortion bans." "These drugs might cause birth defects? Are you gonna be able to get an abortion if you live in a state that has banned it and you were taking ozempics? Probably not."

  • These quotes demonstrate Ranunis's approach to health journalism, where she connects individual health trends with broader policy implications.

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