Anna Holmes, NYU alumnus and creator of Jezebel.com, speaks at journalism school

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Students gathered to hear Arthur J. Carter Journalism Institute Professor Alexis Gelber interview jezebel.com founder Anna Holmes on Nov. 25.

Holmes, a NYU alumna, is an acclaimed writer whose website, jezebel.com, was launched in 2007. The site is known for commentary on mainstream women’s magazines and gender politics. In addition to her website, Holmes was recognized by Time Magazine as having one of the best Twitter feeds of 2013. Holmes has also recently released “The Book of Jezebel,” an encyclopedic book that includes significant moments from Jezebel’s history and also features important women.

Audience member Angela Flynn, a third semester journalism graduate student heard about the event in Gelber’s class and wanted to learn more about Holmes’ experience in creating the Jezebel website and book.

“If I want to start up a website, this will help me know what I need to know beforehand,” Flynn said.

Holmes began by discussing her career trajectory, which started at Entertainment Weekly. She began a path in celebrity gossip and women’s fashion, but she said she thought women’s magazines were too patronizing in offering advice to women. So Holmes said she strove to make jezebel.com different.

“We had to define ourselves from the get-go,” Holmes said during her interview with Gelber. “It felt like women’s magazines got worse and worse with sex-relationship advice and the consumption of material goods. It was cathartic to give the finger to women’s magazines … Women’s magazines are creating insecurities and purportedly solving them.”

An opportunity to create change arose when Gawker Media assembled a print media team to run websites and paid its employees competitive salaries. Holmes was originally supposed to start developing the website with a friend, but after her friend left Gawker, Holmes’ created jezebel.com by herself.

After running the website for three years, Holmes said she developed the idea for her book.

“I couldn’t run the website anymore, but I didn’t want to leave it behind,” Holmes said after the event. “There was some discussion about a book, and one of my ideas seemed to make it work. I could have ended my association with the website, but someone within the company suggested doing the book. That way, I can still feel attached to the Jezebel readership in a healthier way.”

“The Book of Jezebel” is a collection of important terms, people and concepts related to jezebel.com, and Holmes compiled content and wrote some entries herself.

Gelber said Holmes spoke at one of her classes last spring about how a publication is created.

“My students were enthralled by her, so when her book came out, I thought it would be great to have her speak again,” Gelber said. “Anna is a great editor and journalist, and it is inspiring for students to hear from someone like her.”

A version of this article appeared in the Tuesday, Nov. 26 print edition. Anjana Sreedhar is a contributing writer. Email her at [email protected]