Phillip Picardi and Meredith Talusan inspire listeners to bring change and diversity to media
Phillip Picardi and Meredith Talusan Inspire Listeners at Newhouse Series
On Tuesday afternoon, the Newhouse magazine, news, and digital journalism speaker series brought in Phillip Picardi, Chief Content Officer of Teen Vogue, and them; and Meredith Talusan, Executive Editor of them. Both focused on how they’ve changed the landscape of journalism to be more inclusive and aware, especially for teens.
Ever since Picardi took over teenvogue.com in 2015 at just 23, he has pushed to make the site more culturally, politically, and socially aware. He thought the site was heading in the right direction, but “all we have to do is give her more,” said Picardi.
On that note, he pushed the boundaries even further.
Politics and sexual health are two of the most important issues on his agenda. Because of his desire to make those issues known, in July of 2017, he published “Anal Sex: What You Need to Know,” and almost immediately, the hate mail flooded in.
“People don’t just respond to the piece, they respond to you directly,” said Picardi. He and the editors involved received death, rape, and other harmful threats because of how despicable and inappropriate readers felt this was, especially for a teen site. People told them to stick to lipstick, but ultimately Picardi decided not to apologize. They involved the police, hoping that the threats would subside.
This experience became one of his driving forces to keep up that type of work at Teen Vogue, creating a space where teens feel empowered, understood and aware of the world, not just concerned about lipstick.
“Education does not mean encouragement, it means empowerment,” said Picardi.
This incident and many other articles published on Teen Vogue brought extra attention to Picardi and the site. Since the start of his reign, he helped Teen Vogue jump from 2 million unique monthly visitors to 12 million. It even caught the attention of Anna Wintour, who gave Picardi the opportunity to create Condé Nast’s first LGBTQ publication.
“Phil really values ideas over egos. He’s really focused on the work and is so, so devoted to diversifying the workplace,” said Talusan, who took the stage after Picardi.
Talusan had a completely different route to them than Picardi did. “I didn’t believe that a person like me would be able to produce,” said Talusan. As an immigrant, she thought that “it was more plausible in [her] head to be an astronaut then to be a writer.”
After graduating from Harvard for undergrad, California College of the Arts for an art degree, and Cornell for a creative writing MFA and a comparative literature Ph.D., Talusan realized she could make a career out of writing. She transitioned in her 20s and started to write about it. She began freelancing for anyone who would take a look at her work, regardless if she was paid or not.
Her determination and unique point of view and passion for journalism gained her traction in the industry.
“As soon as that floodgate opened and as soon as I saw that my work was being shared by people and having a real impact, it became really, really important for me to work on it,” said Talusan.
Picardi took notice of her and hired her to join the newly forming staff at them. Both aim to bring a voice to issues that haven’t had a voice before. They both agree that young writers need to bring a unique point of the view to the table and have ideas that no one has ever had before in order to stand out. Being a talented writer isn’t enough anymore. They look for those diverse voices to help them strengthen their staff and content at Teen Vogue and them.
They’re still building the audience for them and continuing to create more innovative, groundbreaking stories for Teen Vogue, but both say it’s up to the next generation to keep it going.
“We had to be the first but that means nothing if it doesn’t get better from here, and that’s up to you,” said Picardi.