The Monday Media Diet With Jeralyn Gerba and Pavia Rosati

On Libby, popping Substacks like candy, and the Audubon app

Why is this interesting? The Monday Media Diet With Jeralyn Gerba and Pavia Rosati

Today, we’re doing a rare double MMD interview. Pavia Rosati (PR) and Jeralyn Gerba (JG) are longtime friends of WITI from the early days in NYC. Now they run Fathom, a travel-focused site, and business. They’ve also published a few books which are worth picking up as you plan your next journey.

Tell us about yourself.

JG: We are the founders of Fathom, an independent and highly spirited travel business that includes an editorial website, custom content agency, trip planning concierge, and a beautiful book series (our latest, Travel North America (and Avoid Being a Tourist) is all about traveling joyfully and thoughtfully). We launched Fathom a decade ago and worked together for eight years before that as editors at the now-defunct DailyCandy (RIP). Discovering cool stuff, especially cool stuff that beats the odds (i.e.: passion projects by eccentrics), really turns us on. As editors, we’re wildly open-minded, but also a little judgy (it goes with the territory), because we want to surprise you and delight you and sometimes push you a little bit onto a path less trodden.

Describe your media diet. 

PR: The New York Times compulsively, including the Spelling Bee game, which is the second thing I check in the morning after the headlines. If anyone reading this knows how I can break the habit of reading in bed on my iPhone, please DM me. I don’t remember a time when I didn’t read New York Magazine cover to cover — and I’m talking decades when I’d swipe my father’s copy — but I’ve given up on fashion magazines. I’ve been in London this year, so my print titles are Conde Nast Traveller (note the UK version has two Ls), How to Spend It, Stylist, and the Evening Standard which I pick up on the Tube. Otherwise, I’m all digital: WNYC Morning Brief, The Cut, Eater (National, NY, and London), NYPost, DailyMail, Daily Beast, Cassandra Daily, Dezeen, all the usual travel suspects, and my pals Kim France (Girls of a Certain Age) and Jesse Kornbluth (HeadButler). Podcasts-R-Me: UpFirst, The Daily, BBC Global News, Today in Focus by The Guardian, Consider This, Short Wave (tapping my inner science geek), The Argument, The Indicator from Planet Money, New Yorker Radio Hour, Aspen Ideas to Go, Highway to Well, Science Vs., Every Little Thing, and Corriere Della Sera (to remind me how bad my Italian is). 

JG: I pop Substacks like candy. The Ink from Anand Giridharadas touches on politics, culture, money, and power. Priya Parker’s occasional Art of Gathering newsletter looks at how we get together in a time of physical distancing. I get email missives from Clint Smith, Ann Friedman (QUEEN), Courtney Martin, Jessica Stanley, The Rumpus, A Thing or Two, NYT Parenting, CAP Beauty, Cee Cee (for excellent happenings in Berlin), Travel Is Better in Color (a newsletter about amplifying diverse voices in travel, which I co-write with a few industry colleagues), and a whole bunch of cooks who can write. The Blackbird Spyplane jawns KILL me. Anti-Racism Daily has been the best resource for me. Each newsletter contains a timely news piece with context, education, and actionable steps individuals can take to make life more humane. Now that I work almost exclusively from my apartment, I can blast public radio all day to hear the soothing voices of Brian Lehrer, Jami Floyd, Brooke Gladstone, Terry Gross, and Krista Tippit. I still get my weekend edition of The New York Times (including The NYT Magazine, which I love) delivered to my door, along with The New Yorker, New York Magazine, Conde Nast Traveler, and Stranger’s Guide.

What’s the last great book you read?

PR: I’m so glad the pandemic reminded me what it was to read a book (as opposed to an article)  that I’m going to share a few recent highlights: Bel Canto, Rules of Civility, The Vanishing Half, The Heart’s Invisible Furies, The Dutch House (does the exquisite Tom Hanks-read audiobook count?), and Girl, Woman, Other

JG: The Body: A Guide for Occupants, a deep dive into the body’s systems — told in Bill Bryson’s trademark fascinating-yet-folksy way. He drops a ton of knowledge via fun anecdotes and historical gossip. Heather McGhee’s The Sum of Us would be completely disheartening (why are we so terrible?!) without her heartfelt, empathic, and visionary throughline (we can be better!) — the book feels less like a resume of American failures and more like a roadmap for a successful future. And, since I read a lot of kid’s books, I’ll just mention that there’s a new epic adventure from Kaya Doi, who writes and illustrates the awesome Chirri & Chirra Japanese book series.

What are you reading now?

PR: Scoff: A History of Food and Class in Britain, Six Thousand Years of Bread, and A Prayer for Owen Meany (which I’ve tried to read 6,000 times, and will finally finish now). 

JG: Olga Dies Dreaming, by the terrific Xochitl Gonzalez (I requested an advance copy; it’ll be out in January) and The Body Keeps the Score, by Bessel van der Kolk.

What’s your reading strategy when you pick up a print copy of your favorite publication?

PR: Cover to cover, so meticulously that years’ worth of magazines pile up before I go through them (another annoying media habit). I tear out anything that might be interesting and file it away for eventual and potential use and still have “Around the Boot,” a travel article about circling Italy along the coast ripped from the Washington Post magazine my senior year in college. That was a long, long time ago, and I’m not sure this is a flattering thing I’ve just revealed about myself. 

JG: Cover to cover for some; front of the book, back of the book, feature well for others.

Who should everyone be reading that they’re not?

JG: I dive right in when I come across bylines from Jia Tolentino, Kelefa Sanneh, Jelani Cobb. I really enjoy the poetry and essays of Ocean Vuong and Ross Gay and the beautiful picture books of Jessica Love.

PR: I’ll tell you who we should NOT be reading and paying attention to: all the navel-gazing political pundits who have been hogging the oxygen for too long. On the positive tip, I’m a sucker for all the doctors and PhDs we should have started listening to long ago. 

What is the best non-famous app you love on your phone? 

PR: A toss-up between the library app Libby, which helped me get back to reading, and the word puzzle Gogen. 

JG: Picture This and Audubon for plant identification and bird sightings.

Plane or train?

PR: Yes. Because each has its purpose, there’s no way to choose when you travel as much as I do. 

JG: I’ll take anything -- get me outta here.

Tell us the story of a rabbit hole you fell deep into. 

PR: I found great comfort in the dark winter of London lockdown binging on every hilarious episode of the Smartless podcast hosted by Jason Bateman, Sean Hayes, and Will Arnett. I found myself wondering more than once, “do the people they’re interviewing realize this conversation is public?” The History of English — another rabbit hole of linguistics — is the first time a podcast inspired me to take notes on what I was learning. I can now tell you why the letter C can be pronounced as a S or a K (as in “circuitous”).

JG: During the pandemic, I fell very, very hard for the new storytelling device Humans of New York rolled out on Instagram. The wild, heart-wrenching, suspense-filled personal stories from alllllllll kinds of New Yorkers — and the incredible fundraising that resulted from the unveiling of said stories — blows my mind. The tag-team with New York Nico really did me in —- together, the pair found only-in-New-York personalities and helped tons of individuals and small businesses in need, really lifting the community up in the darkest of days. (They’re both still at it!) After spending hours scrolling through all the captions and videos, bookmarking old favorites and new finds, and laugh-crying over the things people say on camera, I am certain I can never-ever leave this place. (PR and JG)

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An ongoing partnership where we highlight interesting McKinsey research, writing, and data.

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Thanks for reading,

Noah (NRB) & Colin (CJN) & Jeralyn (JG) & Pavia (PR)

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