Question and Answerby Natalie Jacobs December 29, 2015
I was interviewing Toni Robin for her Q&A feature in this issue (pg. 54) when she, being the story-pitcher that she is, said “you should interview yourself for your column this month!” I had to admit it was not a bad idea. I tried really hard to think of something, anything else to write here, but I kept coming back to this. So here goes, five questions with Natalie Jacobs, interview conducted by Natalie Jacobs.
Q: How long have you been editor-in chief of the San Diego Jewish Journal?
A: About a year and a half. I was assistant editor for about a year and a half before that.
Q: You look so young! How did you get to be the editor of such a prestigious magazine? Who do you know?
A: I might be older than I look. But also, the big secret is – Craigslist! I had recently moved back to San Diego with the goal of becoming a writer. This was 2013. The year before, I was living and working in New York City at a global public relations firm when all of a sudden I got bit by this “creativity” bug (not the same as those bed bugs you may have heard get free reign over that fabulously filthy city). This was a special kind of bug that hatched in my brain and really wouldn’t leave me alone. At a coffee shop in San Diego, trolling the Internet for some sort of income from some sort of “creative” work, I saw an ad for an assistant editor, preferably with some knowledge of or interest in Judaism. So I wrote a cover letter that had a bit of personal history and excellent grammar, and everything happened from there.
Q: What is a regular day like for you?
A: I’ve read a lot about the things that writers attribute to their success and one thing they all say is that a regular routine is incredibly important. That, and taking walks. So I try to maintain a pretty standard schedule to avoid getting distracted by the wrong things. I wake up at 6:30 every weekday morning, shower, make coffee, eat breakfast, answer emails and drive to work. Even the traffic is predictable. I spend the first hour in the office reading through emails – I get about 100 a day and pretty much all of them need to be looked at. So once I have a sense of what’s urgent, I work down my list. Our production schedule is also very regimented. I spend about a week determining stories, the next week writing. The week after that, I edit my and my writer’s submissions and the final week in the process is spent working with Derek, our creative director, to get the visuals just right. Then we go to press and start all over. The structure really works for me. It’s predictable but still different enough every day to keep me interested and challenged. Now to get the walking routine down…
Q: What’s one story you’d really like to tell?
A: I was at a discussion forum put on by JNF last month, about the drought and how Israeli technologies could be used to solve some of our water woes here in California. All of the panelists and a fair bit of the audience noted that the media should be doing a better job of telling the story of how we got here and the options for moving beyond this crisis – including the political complications that inhibit a county’s ability to achieve water independence, and the public’s misunderstanding of the true cost and value of water as a limited and not-at-all free resource. I’d like to figure out more ways to tell that story.
There was a great quote in a recent radio piece about a company that sells water to people whose wells are empty. A client of the company was interviewed and he explained that having to pay for his water has made him think differently about everyday things, like flushing the toilet.
“That’s $0.50 literally down the drain,” he said.
Those are the kinds of quotes I live for! It’s one that still pops up in my head almost once a day. Stories are such powerful tools to invoke change, even in the smallest, most seemingly inconsequential ways.
Q: You mentioned you read a lot about writers. Who are some you admire?
A: Yes, writers, also visual artists and musicians. I’m fascinated by creative people. Professionally, Terry Gross is a big idol for me. Her interviews are like magic tricks. The things she’s able to coax out of a subject, pure mastery. She approaches everyone with such genuine intrigue and compassion that I imagine it’s very difficult not to be really open with her. I learn from her interviews all the time.