First Edition: Linda Kramer Jenning
By Ali Boone
From the first moment you listen to Linda Kramer Jenning speak, you are immediately taken by the way she shares her experiences. There is a sort of soothing and thoughtful way she approaches her words, a way that can only come from someone who has dedicated her entire career to getting at how to tell a solid story. Having come from a background consisting of work at People, Glamour, Time, and the Associated Press to name a few, Linda is a seasoned journalist with a passion for her craft.
Linda’s interest in reporting began when she wrote for her high school paper and then continued into her college years where she had the opportunity to report for the Associated Press during the summers. Upon graduation, those summer gigs led her to a full-time position with the AP – taking her from New York to San Francisco and places in between.
Having watched the journalism world transform over the years, Linda agrees that one thing hasn’t changed: the need for good storytelling. She thinks that stories need to engage the audience but also make a difference. Of course, they also need to be factual and balanced.
While she started as a print journalist, Linda did a stint as a broadcast supervisor at the AP and later reported for the CBS affiliate in Portland, Oregon. She found working in broadcast created different challenges.
With broadcast, there are things you have to think about like how the reporter or anchor is going to read the script. “You can’t have five words that start with P in a row,” Linda says. Another consideration is how the visuals are going to play in. She also learned how to do stand ups and voiceovers, among other skills.
“It’s a rich way to be able to tell a story,” she says. Writing for broadcast was maybe the steepest learning curve in her career, but one that helped her when she returned to print because it gave her a better understanding of the visual element of stories.
Like many magazine journalists, Linda began her career as a freelancer. While living in Oregon, she reported as a stringer for Time magazine. Looking to take on more freelance articles, she moved to Washington and met with the bureau chief who suggested she take her pitches to People (owned by Time Inc.) because it was very freelance-driven at the time.
Freelancing with People quickly turned into a full-time position in 1990. During her time there she focused on political profiles and breaking news stories. She also covered the occasional celebrity who came to advocate a cause.
While working for People, she witnessed four presidential cycles and was able to report firsthand on some of those campaigns. There were times when she was one of a handful of media allowed access to sit on a plane with presidential candidates like Bill Clinton and George W. Bush.
She remembers moments she was able to chat with the candidates, witness memorable speeches, and even experience the “hanging chad” presidential election in the year 2000 when George W. Bush and Al Gore faced off in the close race for the title of commander in chief.
Linda says that it’s in those moments when you’re in the front row seat of history, when unexpected things happen, that you’re reminded of why you got into this crazy business.
While she has had many incredible journalism experiences, she says that it’s difficult to find someone in the business that has not been laid off at some point.
After spending close to two decades at People, the managing editor in New York unexpectedly announced that they were shutting down all the domestic bureaus except for its New York and Los Angeles locations. This led Linda to her career at Glamour magazine that started in 2007.
Linda knew that along with fashion and beauty, Glamour had a great reputation for writing about politics, among other issues of interest. So when she heard that Glamour was looking for a part-time editor in Washington D.C. she decided to go for it.
Being a “little older” and not a typical fashionista, Linda admits that she met with a personal shopper prior to her interview. She believes it’s true that you dress for the job you want and also that first impressions make a difference. While her outfit was not the reason she got the job, she knew taking the steps to look the part helped with creating a good first impression.
Despite her efforts to dress for success, Linda didn’t go into fashion reporting at Glamour – although she says working with the magazine gave her a deep appreciation for the intensity and challenges of good fashion reporting and how well Glamour executes it.
One aspect of her job was to create regular memos to the editors in New York suggesting younger women in D.C. who were doing things that could make stories for the magazine, and also to keep the editors up-to-date on issues that were important to their readers like violence against women.
One of the projects Linda was a part of while at Glamour was assisting with the Glamour Women of the Year festivities. She constantly kept an eye out for women all over the world who might merit consideration for becoming Glamour Women of the Year, and part of her responsibility was to try and get those women to agree to participate.
Back in 2008, Glamour decided to honor presidential candidate Hillary Clinton, and because of the contacts Linda had made while at People, she was able to help get Hillary to agree. She also had the opportunity to conduct interviews for a few of the magazine’s cover stories, one of which was the interview with former First Lady Laura Bush and her daughters that ran in November 2011.
Assisting with Glamour Women of the Year events and interviewing these powerful women was such an incredible and inspiring experience that Linda says it makes you ask yourself, “What have I done with my life? Not enough because women are so awesome!”
Linda is passionate about seeing women grow and excel in her own industry, too. Throughout her years working in journalism, Jenning has noticed positive changes for the role of women in the business. She’s thankful that there are more women working in news today than when she first started.
There were times she remembers being the only woman in the newsroom, and when she wasn’t the only one, there were rarely more than two. Linda notes that women are also covering more types of stories and are not limited to a few, stereotypical beats.
As to how she was able to defy the odds and continually advance to new positions as a female journalist, she says, “You need to be your own best advocate. I was one of those women who thought if I did really good work I would get noticed and rewarded for it. And sometimes that did happen, but I learned over the years that you do need to also speak up and put yourself out there for that next job that you want and not be afraid to take risks.”
After eight years with Glamour, Linda decided to pursue new challenges and more writing opportunities. Linda currently teaches as an adjunct professor at Georgetown University and is very active with the Journalism and Women Symposium, or JAWS. In 2014, she served as the president for the organization where she mentors and encourages the women of JAWS to tell their stories.