MediaFile continues its “The Women in Media” interview series, showcasing women in newsrooms who inspire, lead, and make waves in the media world and beyond. This interview is the second in this series – read the first here, and the third here.
Eve Peyser is 23 and a true gem of the internet age. In 2015, she matched with Martin Shkreli (from Turing Pharmaceuticals) on Tinder – and decided to chronicle her experience by posting screenshots on Twitter and writing about it. Her chance encounter with Shkreli went viral, and her journalistic work saw subsequent success.
Now a staff politics writer at VICE, Eve has brought her unique, punchy, and funny perspective into the political realm — all while expressing herself through her personal side projects. In an interview with MediaFile, she gives us the lowdown on being a journalist in the Twitter age and finding her voice.
This interview has been slightly edited for length and clarity.
MF: What was your first job?
EP: I feel like there are two ways to get into media: You can intern and take a traditional path, or you can freelance. I didn’t come up through media through institutions, I started with freelancing — which I love, it’s a really great way to get into media.
My very first job was at a movie theatre, then I moved to being a barista and freelance writing on the side. Things really started to change when my [Martin Shkreli] tweet went viral in 2015. All of the sudden it changed my life. I was getting requests to write and it gave me exposure that I wouldn’t have gotten otherwise.
fuck yes found martin shkreli on tinder pic.twitter.com/ardijHxhFW
— eve peyser (@evepeyser) September 30, 2015
MF: You’ve written a lot about a large range of topics. How do you think this stuff up?
EP: I mean, now I have a very focused thing where I have to write about U.S. politics. When I started freelancing, I was mostly writing about sex and dating stuff — and lots of women find their way in media like this. Especially at the time, there was a big market for personal essays about women, sex, and dating, and I sort of fell into that. For those, I took a more conceptual and personal way to get ideas, and I wanted to write personal essays that were funny. As I grew as a writer and got older, I became less interested in that and less interested in writing about myself.
Now, I get my stories by reading all the time, and looking at the news 24/7. That’s the best advice I could give — if you read the news, you will come up with an idea. I also think about who I’m writing for and tailor the idea to them, because it totally depends on the site.
MF: What’s your writing process look like once you have an idea?
EP: It really depends on the story. I’m a horrible procrastinator, and I tend to over-research my stories – which is stupid, because I feel overwhelmed when I write it — and then I sort of just go. I can’t even sum up my process, and it usually will depend on what I’m writing. If I’m writing a blog post, I’ll come up with something to write about and just quickly write something witty and snappy.
MF: You’ve been published in a lot of places. What do you feel makes your writing unique?
EP: My writing is super voice-y, and I try to be funny when possible. It makes it more fun to read, and it allows me to be as honest as possible. I definitely think I have a unique voice, as I’ve been told by many bosses of mine, and I think it makes people want me to write for them – which is cool because they’re interested in me saying what I want, not what everyone else wants. This is not a piece of advice, I just personally think using my voice is a more honest way of writing. Everything in life is subjective, and writing through my perspective gives the reader some context.
Me before the election vs. me now pic.twitter.com/z0dcTBiYmh
— eve peyser (@evepeyser) November 9, 2016
MF: Some of your work and your side projects – like your “Am I Crying?” tinyletter — is from a very personal standpoint. Why do you produce and publish such personal insights into your life?
EP: I’ve done a lot of mental health writing, and my tinyletter was in the spirit of being super upfront about it. I write this newsletter every time I cry just to keep track of it for myself, and it’s been a really crazy journey with that project. In a fucked up way, it was really rewarding because I got a lot of lovely responses, I felt less alone, and I felt that people could identify with it.
I’m doing much better now, but in the depths of despair, you feel super alone and you feel like you’re a bad person for struggling — and there are so many other people who feel like I did. I have access to good mental health professionals and great friends, but not everyone is so lucky.
MF: What does it feel like being a woman in political journalism, especially in today’s political arena?
EP: I mean, no matter what field I’m going into, I am a woman going into it. All I can say is that I’m glad they’re hiring women to write politics.
I’m young, I’m 23, and I started my career really young. In the media world, there’s always a struggle to be taken seriously as a woman — especially as a young woman. Personally, I try to downplay those elements, and hope people look past those facts. Now, I’m pretty confident in my work and I feel that’s rewarded. It sucks to be a woman in media in many ways, but I’m now at a level where people show me the respect I deserve — and when they don’t, I call out their bullshit.
MF: Any advice for college folk that want to pursue journalism — specifically in the political realm?
EP: Well, I came up through Twitter. Twitter is a network that all journalists use to communicate and spread news. So I would definately say to get on Twitter, and just think about the websites you like. If you want to write for them, read 10 of their articles and come up with an idea. My best advice to freelancers is to read the publication’s work first. Sounds super simple, but it happens a lot — freelancers will pitch to a certain site and they don’t have a sense of what the site is looking for.
I’d also say to read as much news and writing as you can. Read writing about what’s happening right now and pertains to what you want to be doing. Find friends who want to do similar things. All of my friends are in journalism, and it’s always inspiring to be around people like that. Finding your people helps your work. Most people just see a single byline on a piece, but so much of writing is talking to others.