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Here's what it's really like to be a woman in journalism: A conversation with Mara Gay

Journalists have one of the most important jobs in the world—they keep us informed and connected to the events, policies and ideas that shape the world around us. If you've ever wondered what it's like to be a journalist covering prominent twenty-first-century issues, we've got you covered. Mara Gay, one truly inspiring journalist (you may have seen her byline on the New York Times editorial page or seen her on MSNBC), talked us through *all* the deets of being a woman in journalism. 

On her daily routine:

Ever wondered what a journalist's daily schedule looks like? "Usually, I wake up early in the morning at around 6:30 or 7 and I go for a run. Then I listen to podcasts and read everything while I'm getting coffee and a pastry," Mara explains. "Local news, national news, The New York Times, The Washington Post, The Wall Street Journal, I take a look at Twitter, all of that." After completing her daily reading, she starts writing. "That can be a pretty intensive process," she says.

On broadcast television:

"I do like being on TV because I think I've realized that it's a really great opportunity to have an impact in a different way," she says. "I reach a different audience and thankfully an even more diverse audience." When asked about pre-show anxiety, Mara notes that "it can be nerve-racking, but you kind of get used to it." She says that she deals with pre-broadcast nerves by running, praying, spending time with friends, walking around the city and sometimes, just breathing. "Just breathing through something and remembering what you know can be really helpful," she advises. 

On time management:

"It's really tricky, it's the hardest part of my job," Mara admits. "At the editorial board it's complicated, but I would say that you come to realize that work-life balance is really important." Mara advises cultivating a healthy lifestyle and schedule. "Work really hard...but make sure you have time for yourself. I think it's really important to take your vacation and make sure you have some separation between work and your life," she says.

On becoming a journalist:

As someone who always enjoyed writing, Mara emphasizes the importance of writing about what you love. "The best thing you can do is to write about what you know or what you love," she stresses. "If you're into fashion, write about fashion. If you think you want to write about travel, travel and study travel. Study politics if you want to be a political writer. That's what I did, I studied political science and history, which has actually served me very well." 

On challenges:

Being a woman in journalism isn't always easy. "There are challenges and there are advantages, but I think the biggest thing is just getting people to take you seriously and treat you as a professional," Mara explains. She says she deals with these challenges by having a strong sense of self-worth and by making sure to keep supportive people around her. "Finding that community is really important," she says.

On favorite aspects:

"My favorite part of my job is that you get to learn so much about the world and the people who live in it," she explains. "It's always new and different. I get to have an impact and help make New York a better place. I have a lot of power and I take it really seriously, but it's fun when you see that you have an impact and can make people's lives a little easier. It's absolutely rewarding and delightful."

On advice: 

Mara's biggest piece of advice to girls interested in journalism? Do what Y-O-U love. "Find what you love and work hard at it. Make sure that you are curious about other people and the way they live...because that's the key. Keep people at the center of your work and take as many risks as you can." 

Do you have any questions about women in journalism? DM us on Twitter @girlslifemag!

GIF via GIPHY | Images via @stpubs on Twitter

Parts of this interview have been edited for length and clarity.


by Eva Mandelbaum | 9/9/2021