Allegra Kirkland, OC ’12, Political Director of Teen Vogue Talks Journalism – The Oberlin Review

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Allegra Kirkland, OC ’12, is the political director of teen vogue. While at Oberlin, Kirkland served as editor and managing editor of the Exam. Before joining the teen vogue personal, Kirkland has worked as a reporter and editor for Talking Points Memoan independent news organization dedicated to politics and public policy coverage.

This interview has been edited for length and clarity.

Can you tell me about your role with teen vogue and how did you get involved?

I started to teen vogue in the summer of 2019 as Senior Political Editor. Basically, in this role and this one, I oversee everything that goes into the political section – everything from editorials to breaking and daily news, to longer features and all of our franchises and columns. It’s a lot, and we’re a very small team, so it’s pretty comprehensive. I’ve been working mostly in political journalism since leaving Oberlin, with a brief stint trying to figure out what to do and working as a receptionist without getting the journalism jobs I was hoping for. Then I went through a series of internships and lower-level journalism jobs. And then I was at Talking Points Memo for five years in a whole bunch of different roles, from breaking news writer on the 6 a.m. shift to editor-in-chief. And then I went from there to teen vogue.

What does your daily life look like at teen vogue as a political director?

You know, I feel like no one ever told me how being an editor responds to emails, which isn’t exactly a sexy response, but it’s true. There are a lot of moving parts – especially where we no longer have a print edition and are still mostly distant. We mainly work with a team of freelancers. We don’t have full-time editors, so there’s so much coordination with our fact-checking and copy teams, and then with the editors. It’s just editing drafts and making sure other drafts move forward. Again, because we’re such a small team, I have to enter all the stories into our content management system, write the titles, and choose the art. It’s everything from getting serious to planning what we want to have for policy coverage in three months. Lots of Zoom meetings. Yeah, just a lot of small management details.

I would love to hear about your time at the Exam as well.

I think I started working there in my second year. I just arrived and I was like, “Can I start writing for you?” John Light, OC ’11, who was editor at the time, became a very close friend of mine – we actually worked together at Talking Points Memo. I helped him find his job there because the Oberlin network is small and tight-knit. I think my first posting to the Exam was to cover Dr. Seuss’ day at the Oberlin Public Library or something very cheesy, but I still loved it. I was just like, “It’s so fun and such a fun way to get to know the community — not just the school, but Oberlin as a city.” Then I was a news writer there for a while and then I became a news writer at some point, maybe a year later. Then I was editor my senior year at Oberlin.

Do you feel that your work at Exam have you prepared for your role now?

Yeah, that’s for sure. I always say to writers who contact me about this stuff, like, “Write for your school newspaper. It’s a good way to get a feel for what it’s like to be in a newsroom, working collaboratively with other journalists. Just have this kind of practice of, “Okay, I can turn things around on time. I can find good angles, find good story ideas. And again, my friend John was a great editor who made my work much better.

I think the Review has a lot of very good journalists working there. I learned a lot from my peers and stayed in contact with many of them as well. Many of them have gone on to careers in journalism, and I’ve crossed paths with them either at social events or in jobs I’ve had. So definitely really, really helpful. It also really clicked for me when I was at Exam like, “Oh shit, it’s a career. I can do this after college and I love it. And it just made it feel like a real possibility.

More generally, how was your time at Oberlin?

My time at Oberlin was good. I grew up in Manhattan and went to Oberlin partly because I was like, “Oh, I’m probably going to end up in New York, so I should try something new.” Then I was like, “Oh wait, so many students here are from New York and the Bay Area.” But most of my best friends ended up coming from the Midwest. I loved spending fall break and spring break in different places in the Midwest, like Missouri, Detroit, and Chicago.

I had amazing teachers – I majored in history and minored in art history – and I had a great relationship with them. They were incredibly smart and I learned a lot. Steve Volk – he was my advisor – was awesome. Yeah, I loved my time at the review. Oh, and study abroad. Everyone should study abroad and leave campus, because it’s just too small to be there all the time. I went to Chile for six months and it was excellent.

What advice would you give to students at Oberlin or Exam as they seek to leave Oberlin?

I guess you don’t feel like you have it all figured out when you graduate. I mean, I was a history student, and I didn’t really end up doing anything specific with it. But I think once you leave the college kind of bubble, nobody really cares what you majored in. You don’t have to tick every little box. It’s more like you went to Oberlin, you got everything you got out of that experience, and no choice you make is the wrong choice. It’s just a choice. Whatever your job, you are simply building the story of your life. It doesn’t have to be exactly perfect and exactly what you wanted it to be.

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