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The Monday Media Diet with Juno DeMelo
On Klara and the Sun, Kauai, and wanting a tattoo
Juno DeMelo (JDM) is a friend of WITI and a longtime journalist. She’s also married to another esteemed WITI contributor: Nick Parish. Have a great week. -Colin
Tell us about yourself.
I’m a writer who came of age professionally in the world of Ye Olde Magazines. My college boyfriend’s aunt published a local business magazine in Sacramento, and I convinced her to hire me as a proofreader by marking up an issue with a red pen. I was 23. When I moved to New York a few years later, I got a gig as a copy editor at Jane magazine and as a fact-checker at Us Weekly. A fact could be a text from a reporter saying she just saw Jessica Simpson and John Mayer disappear into a bathroom together. Next I became a copy chief, which is the boss of the copy editors, then I switched to being an editor-editor who assigns stories to writers, and then I got to the middle of the onion and became a writer myself (like, as a job) when I moved to Portland, Oregon, in 2014. Since then, I’ve written for The New York Times, The New Yorker (online only; I want to be transparent!), McSweeney’s, and many many many national magazines. Prestige media outlets! Sounds impressive! But I also write and edit for brands because almost no one can make a living off of journalism alone these days. Outside of work, I’m a volunteer at a furniture bank, a runner, a baker, and a mom to an almost-5-year old, who I pick up from school in the afternoon. That means I work—for pay—part time, which has been a bit of a mindfuck for someone whose identity is largely predicated on output.
Describe your media diet.
It involves a lot of self-flagellation because I’m a compulsive checker of things that absolutely do not need to be checked incessantly or even at all: Twitter, Facebook (for the groups only, I swear), Instagram, the New York Times homepage, the Washington Post homepage, Dlisted (a celebrity gossip blog that’s roughly as old as Perez Hilton but 10 times funnier)—the geriatric-millennial starter pack, basically. I feel icky about the number of meals I’ve eaten with one finger on the “J” button. I do love a good longform story, but I don’t have a great system for finding those.
I subscribe to Jessica DeFino’s beauty-critical newsletter The Unpublishable, Amy Odell’s fashion-critical Back Row, Sara Petersen’s momfluencer-critical In Pursuit of Clean Countertops, and Virginia Sole Smith’s diet-critical Burnt Toast (can you tell that women’s magazines scarred me??). Also Your Local Epidemiologist, Emily Oster’s and Anne Helen Petersen’s newsletters, and the parenting newsletters from The New York Times and The Cut.
Pretty much any time I’m home alone and not working, I’m listening to podcasts. They tend to be about therapy, reality TV, Formula 1, food, celebrities, social media, consumerism, and self-help. My favorites are the couples-therapy podcast Where Should We Begin?, with Esther Perel; Bachelor Party, a Bachelor-recap show; and Table Manners, in which UK singer Jessie Ware and her very lovely mum invite famous people over and cook for them. They have the most delightful voices. I’m a sucker for a host with a good laugh, which is why I listen to three podcasts hosted by The Ringer’s Juliet Litman. Giggling, however, is a turnoff.
I don’t consume TV daily, so I don’t think I can call it part of my diet, but nonetheless, I would like to strongly recommend Severance and Drive to Survive. I ride so hard for both of these shows but have yet to convert a single person to fandom.
What’s the last great book you read?
I Love You But I’ve Chosen Darkness. The main character is a writer who has a baby and does everything a mother, especially a new mother, should not do: ditches her baby and husband, gets high, masturbates a lot. I also loved Klara and the Sun and The Matrix (and really anything by Lauren Groff). I get most of my books from the library, and my library history tells me I’ve read 17 books in 2022. I read a lot, almost always contemporary novels, always before bed.
What are you reading now?
I just started Treasure Island!!! It’s about a woman who decides to live her life according to the principles of the Robert Louis Stevenson book. I cannot tell you who recommended this book or when I placed a library hold on it, but a cursory search shows that Kirkus Reviews called it “a hoot,” which does not bode well.
What’s your reading strategy when you pick up a print copy of your favorite publication?
Tell myself I’ll read it cover to cover, read one boring political front-of-book piece, skip to the profiles, then start reading from the back, again telling myself I’ll read the thing from cover to cover. I actually subscribe to only one magazine, New York Magazine, which—as a magazine writer—makes me feel like a stylist who wears only Levi’s and a basic black T-shirt every day. I can’t get high off of my own supply.
Who should everyone be reading that they’re not?
Lydia Kiesling: her novel, her essays, her stories, her Instagram captions. And Lisa Hanawalt. She’s an illustrator—and the creator of Tuca & Bertie— whose comics about food and raunchy plants and swimming with otters are unlike anything else.
What is the best non-famous app you love on your phone?
I guess the Dark Sky weather app. But I live in a place where it rains all the time, so it’s of more value to me than to someone living in, say, San Diego. I refuse to have more than two screens’ worth of apps on my phone, five rows per screen. And that’s including three bullshit login authenticators I have to have for work.
Plane or train?
Plane because it gets you there faster, I guess, though I don’t much like being in transit regardless of the vehicle. The smell of diesel makes me nauseous, and I get motion sick. The last train I took was a Christmas train for kids during a pandemic surge. Every time someone took their mask down to eat a candy cane, I nearly had a heart attack. I flew on a private jet once for work and realized that I don’t actually hate flying, I just hate flying commercial.
What is one place everyone should visit?
Kauai. Probably also the deep insides of their own psyche while on psychedelics. I throw up easily and have a profound fear of losing control, so while I believe this to be true, I can’t personally vouch for it. Yet.
Tell us the story of a rabbit hole you fell deep into.
Reporting live from the rabbit hole: I started wanting a tattoo in earnest waaaaay too late for it to be casual. I’m the 40-year-old virgin equivalent of a tattoo seeker, so I feel an extraordinary amount of pressure around my first time. I’ve been debating the merits of commissioned art (I don’t want to be a Medici!); color versus black-and-white; and what, of course, I want to get a tattoo of. It’s between my dog, Fitzcarraldo’s steamboat halfway up a mountain, or something kind of stupid and surreal. Then there’s the question of who should do it. I went from following zero tattoo artists on Instagram to following two dozen in the span of a couple of weeks. I saw a man outside my daughter’s dance class with a Chevy symbol tattooed on his arm and thought, why can’t I be that cavalier! (JDM)
WITI x McKinsey:
An ongoing partnership where we highlight interesting McKinsey research, writing, and data.
The value of the digital age. A new episode of the McKinsey Global Institute’s Forward Thinking podcast discusses how to measure the value of the digital age. Professor Avinash Collins, who talks through his work on creating a data dashboard that could help. Listen and learn.
Thanks for reading,
Noah (NRB) & Colin (CJN) & Juno (JDM)
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