Silvia Killingsworth managing editor of New Yorker Magazine and Palo Alto High Graduate class of 2003, says, “The only ‘job track’ I ever seriously considered was also the only one I’d ever considered, and that was becoming a doctor. I was never bitten by the journalism ‘bug,’”
The summer following her sophomore year in college, Killingsworth began working for the Harvard student-run travel guide company, Let’s Go and eventually became editor in chief.
After graduation, Killingsworth moved to New York, where she got a job working as an assistant to the editor-in-chief at a business magazine.
“I got a bird’s-eye view of how everything worked, and discovered by working closely with the managing editor that I was hugely interested in his duties,” Killingsworth says. The managing editor had also worked at the New Yorker for many years and was able to get Killingsworth a job working there as an assistant to the managing editor. June of this year Killingsworth was promoted to managing editor.
In a recent e-mail conversation with Verde, Killingsworth gave her thoughts about her life as a Paly student and now.
What piece of advice would you give your 15-year-old self?
Don’t do anything because you think you’re ‘supposed’ to! Do what makes you happy.
What activities were you involved and who was your favorite teacher?
While I attended Paly my main extracurricular activity was dancing at Dance Connection, a studio in Palo Alto. My junior year, some of my classmates and I founded the Paly Dance Team, which was tremendously fun. I could not be forced to pick a single favorite teacher at Paly, but Barry Bergstrom gets special mention for teaching me how to write the perfect essay.
What do you believe is the most important part and type of journalism? What’s your favorite?
That’s hard for me, because I’m an equal-opportunity fan of all kinds of journalism! There are so many categories, and each person has different preferences, but I think what makes magazines like The New Yorker so great is that “signature mix” of politics, humor, reporting, commentary, criticism and, yes, even cartoons! I think my favorite “part” of journalism is excellent writing. I will read an article about pretty much anything if it’s phenomenally well-written — I would read eight thousand words about dirt, for all I care. Good writing can take you pretty much anywhere.
Do you think print journalism is dying at the hands of digital?
I don’t think print and digital are at odds with one another. Journalism, and our appetite for it, is as strong as ever. The business model for the vehicle with which it’s delivered is evolving. It will take some time until the advertising world figures out how to adapt to the Internet and mobile devices, but we’re still very much in the in-between stages.
Why do you think so many news sources spent so much time covering Miley Cyrus’s VMA performance?
I think we’re living in a world that is very addicted to the instantaneous nature of news as enabled by 24-hour connectedness to the Internet — Facebook, and Twitter — among other sources. If you think about being constantly inundated with information, the items that are likely to spike attention are probably highly controversial, related to the culture of celebrity, or some combination of the two. We’re sort of living in a tabloid era on steroids, so it’s important to provide balance to the gossip and opinions with long investigative pieces that make you stop and think about humanity, the world, or yes, even the composition of dirt.”