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Home  > Insider profile
Jenn Shreve
Assistant Editor

"So, I was very freaked out as graduation approached because I seriously had no idea if I was ever going to get a job that I would like."

As children, we're all asked the question "What do you want to be when you grow up?" How did you answer?

I kept journals from a very early age. I founded my high school newspaper. Wrote poetry briefly?that stopped, thank God. I also was an avid reader from an early age on. I just had an aptitude ... I actually had studied music as a child and I played classical piano and I performed professionally, so I had always thought I was going to do that. But I liked the creative process of writing a lot more.

What have been the most defining moments along your career path?

I was told early on that the college newspaper was looking for writers, so I walked in, told them that I was a writer, and I made up some experience that I didn't have. They sent me out on a little test run and liked what I did, even though they rewrote most of what I wrote. Mercifully, though, they kept me on. I found out pretty quickly by trying to write everything and anything that I did not have very much skill in the way of news reporting, but I could whip out a pretty decent essay or opinion column. So I quickly rose to the rank to Assistant Opinion Editor at the college newspaper and had a column, which I had every week for two years.... The thing that really worried me was that at the time, the web had not really exploded, so really the only jobs available were at magazines and newspapers. I didn't really want to work for a newspaper, because everyone who did that had to live in Kansas and pay dues for five or ten years, which didn't sound like much fun to me. And the magazine industry just seemed to me to be so impossibly big and glossy and tony, and I didn't think I could possibly hope to break into that. So, I was very freaked out as graduation approached because I seriously had no idea if I was ever going to get a job that I would like. Later, when I did get a job, it was very corporate and stuffy and I didn't feel like I could thrive there for very long. I started looking around and knew that I had these HTML skills, which made me much more marketable, and the web just sounded fascinating. There were all these aspects of the technology that I really wanted to know more about. So I was surfing around the web and my editor at Starwave alerted me to a column by James Carville in Salon. I read his piece, and then got to looking around the site. After reading everything on there, I decided that was where I really wanted to work. [a couple of months after joining Starwave] ... I sent them my resume and clips and they were really excited because I knew HTML, I had journalism experience, I had writing experience, and I was a literture major. At the time, Salon was mostly focused on literature and books. So they thought it was a good match since they needed someone who could do HTML production as well as editorial stuff. So they hired me as an intern. So the election ended and I packed up everything and moved from Seattle to San Francisco.

How did you get your big breaks?

I graduated, spent a month looking for a job, and I ended up taking an internship with the Starwave Corporation, which is based outside of Seattle.... It is a multimedia company that does ESPN Online, Mr. Showbiz, Outside Online. I was actually trying to get a job with Mr. Showbiz, but somehow I ended up covering the election for Family Planet. These things happen. It was not my first choice, but I learned HTML and I was writing every day. At the same time, I took an unpaid internship with Reuters in Seattle that I heard about through a friend. That involved a lot of filing, but the guy [I was working with?s wife] had just had a baby, so he couldn?t make all of the news events he was supposed to cover, so I ended up covering a Republican rally that Jack Kemp spoke at, I ended up interviewing Walter Mondale. I ended up really just being in the right place at the right time, and I became a stringer for Reuters, getting to cover the election, learning HTML, and you had to learn HTML.

What most excites you about your job right now?

I am an assistant editor and I have various tasks. For example, I edit the letters to the editor section section. I also do a lot of copy editing and production, so I make sure the site?s beautiful before it goes up. Editing the Letters to the Editor section is a lot of fun, especially at a place like Salon. We get like 50 to 60 letters a day. I skim read them all and pick out the good ones. I?ve actually found some good writers this way. We?ve actually published people based on their letters. And sometimes someone famous will write us a letter, and that?s always exciting.

What would you like to have achieved by the last day of your career?

The thing is, I really love living on the west coast and I don?t want to move to New York. But the unfortunate truth of it is, aside from Salon and a couple of other publications, there isn?t a whole lot here. So I?d like to stay at Salon and continue riding the wave. If that doesn?t happen, then I could see myself quitting to do some full-time freelancing, which I do a lot of now and we?re all allowed to do that, which is nice. So I could see myself doing that full-time or going to edit somewhere else.

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