Joel Stein– the writer for the New York Times, and now more currently, the Awesome Column for TIME– was sitting around in the living room of his LA home when I got to interview him this summer to talk about life, journalism, and his advice to all.
From writing for Martha Stewart Living to Time Out New York to eventually TIME magazine, Joel Stein had an interesting path to his success. His high school career was a simple one, with a small high school and solid group of friends. Although a major journalist now, Stein’s first debut in the world of published writing began on his high school newspaper, where he wrote a reoccurring column “You Know You Go To J.P Stevens When….” From then on, and even though “it was more about the writing than the reporting”, Stein continued on to study at Stanford University as an English major and write for the Stanford Daily and for magazines like Newsweek.
One of the things that intrigued me most about Joel Stein’s career is not only the humor and content of his wide variety of articles, but also the controversy that follows with others. If you look up Joel Stein on the internet, first come a few of many articles he’s written, but then start to come the endless number of articles by others bashing his ideas. Now, it’s true that there are definitely some faults with some of his work in that Stein’s personal opinion shines through and can border on offensive to certain groups. But in my opinion, that’s the freedom of speech. Stein isn’t afraid to say what his ideas and thoughts on present day issues and society, and he doesn’t mean for it to be offensive, but instead something thats original.
In an article written earlier this year, Stein talks about the millennial generation—our generation—and how we’re narcissistic, self-absorbed, and expect everything to be handed to us. The article was filled with various statistics and profiles of typical millennial archetypes, and critics of the article claimed that Stein just came to an conclusion based on his own bias and ignorance. But that wasn’t really the case. “I worked on that article for a year.” Stein mentioned, “I’ve never done this for an article, but we probably talked to more than 50 different people. We did a lot of research.”
“It hurts. I mean, no one likes to have everyone on the Internet screaming at them about how much of an idiot they are.” Stein says when asked about how he deals with all that criticism. “I feel it, but I don’t particularly regret anything I wrote.”
Regardless of controversy on Joel Stein’s part, his position as TIME is one of that many truly envy opened. “I worked for a sitcom for 6 months in a writers room, but what I started to realize as the weeks had gone by was that I had missed reporting. And I didn’t know that, I thought I just loved writing,” Stein mentioned when asked about the best part of his job. “And then I realized that the great things that I’ve got to do in my life was thanks to TIME Magazine. Getting to interview all these people… and not necessarily just celebrities, but just seeing how things work like talking to the CEO of a company or the guy who runs Burning Man or anything to show me around and show me how something works– that’s kind of amazing.”
His own passion and value for journalism is what inspires many to take a deeper interest into the field themselves. “Write a bunch of different styles for a bunch of different publications for a bunch of different audiences.” Stein said when asked about any advice he could think of for aspiring writers. “And the same with reading. Read poetry, read fiction, read nonfiction, it’ll broaden your perspective.”
And his tip for the rest of us? “Anytime you will express yourself, written or orally, there are going to be mistakes that you will make.” But hey, you’ve got to make them sometime.