Who's Afraid of Taylor Lorenz?
Mainstream journalists and the tech world fear her and smear her... but why?
Hello, dear readers.
Last week, Steven Perlberg published an article at Insider about a challenge facing The New York Times: staff retention. According to Perlberg’s report, the Times has been worried lately about losing top talent to places where journalists can make more money and have more autonomy. In it, he interviewed Taylor Lorenz, a reporter who recently jumped from the Times to a new gig at Washington Post about the issue. I’ve been a big fan of Lorenz’s work for a long time, and I was pretty excited to see what she had to say.
For those who aren’t familiar with her work, during her time at NYT, Lorenz wrote about things like the “Birds Aren’t Real” movement, covered OnlyFans’ brief plans to ban “sexually explicit content” on its platform, provided a behind-the-scenes look at the Biden administration’s efforts to fight vaccine misinformation with an “influencer army,” highlighted the rise of TikTok-based résumés, explored burnout within the world of online content creators, shared the bizarre story of “Adrian’s Kickback,” provided a look into why one of the richest men on the planet steals memes, helped explain the GameStop stock market chaos of 2021, and wrote about digital sleuths naming and shaming the people who stormed the Capitol.
If you want to understand the creator economy — and, if you’re at all interested in politics, culture, technology, business, or influence, you should want to understand the creator economy — Lorenz is the person you go to. But anyway, back to the interview…
"When you think about the future of media, it's much more distributed and about personalities," she told Perlberg. "Younger people recognize the power of having their own brand and audience, and the longer you stay at a job that restricts you from outside opportunities, the less relevant your brand becomes."
To anyone who pays attention to the world of media, this should be obvious. Call it “brand,” call it “reputation,” call it “personality,” call it whatever you want — it’s real and it’s important. The point Lorenz was making and Perlberg was highlighting was simple: the Times has been banking on its brand to be strong enough to retain employees, and that may not be enough anymore.1
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Washington Post reporters Jacqueline Alemany, Greg Jaffe, and Josh Dawsey, along with New York Times reporters Mark Mazzetti and Maggie Haberman, got in some jabs at Lorenz for referring to journalists’ “brands.” Jaffe took exception to the phrase “influencer journalist,” Mazzetti said the piece made him want to “dig a giant hole and crawl into it,” and Haberman, whose biggest recent story involved the former president’s toilet habits (which she chose not to report at the time, but rather, decided to save so she could sell her new book), mocked Lorenz for supposedly trying to “get more attention.”