A Career in the Creative Side of Journalism

March 4, 2021

Yvonne Gay

A woman stands next to a body of water across from downtown New York.
Justine Goode '16 stands in front of the Hudson River. Vanity Fair is published in New York, the United Kingdom, Italy, Mexico, Spain, and France.
Photo credit: Courtesy of Justine Goode '16

Justine Goode ’16 has always wanted to work at a print magazine in either a design or an editorial capacity. Today, the former editor of the Grape, Oberlin's alternative student newspaper, is fulfilling both career goals at Vanity Fair.

Goode, a native of San Fernando Valley in California, majored in English and minored in art history. She was awarded high honors in English and was a John F. Oberlin Scholar. For the past two years she has worked in New York as assistant to the creative director for Vanity Fair, a monthly magazine that features popular culture, fashion, and current affairs.

Read more about Goode in this After Oberlin Q&A.

What were your internships or projects during winter term? I had several internships over winter term. I worked for the Laura Dail Literary Agency and POV | American Documentary, and completed the Student Docent Program at the Allen Memorial Art Museum. 

Did you have mentors at Oberlin? [Visiting Donald R. Longman Emerita Professor of English] Sandy Zagarell was my advisor and an incredible mentor to me. I am so indebted to her for the support she gave me as both a student and a human being. In addition to helping me become a better reader, writer, and thinker, she looked out for me and helped me through many trips and falls of my college career. I will always be grateful to Sandy for her endless patience, guidance, and for helping me shape my senior thesis, something I’m still really proud of.  

What does your job entail? As the assistant to the creative director, I help everyone in the art department—creative director, design director, and art directors—with both administrative and creative tasks. Generally, I spend my days working on editorial layouts, commissioning and art directing illustrators for columns, and designing Instagram stories for Vanity Fair’s feed. I’ve also had the opportunity to contribute to some really special photoshoots and issues, such as our Hollywood 2020 portfolio and our September 2020 issue, which was guest-edited by [New York Times best-selling author] Ta-Nehisi Coates. A dream came true last year when a concept I pitched—a photo portfolio of TikTok stars who were breaking into the mainstream—was developed and produced. I also write about podcasts for VF.com when I have time.

Have you experienced any challenges at Vanity Fair that you would like to share? I don’t have formal training in graphic design. I’ve been designing as a hobby since I was in high school, and worked as a student graphic designer at Oberlin—my former boss, Emily Crawford ’92, is actually my colleague at VF, now—I’m completely self-taught. On the one hand, I feel lucky to have gotten a design job without a BFA, but sometimes my lack of a formal foundation can feel frustrating. 

Has the pandemic greatly affected how you do your job? Yes. Creating a print magazine is such an incredibly collaborative and hands-on process; it was difficult to adjust to doing everything over Slack, and still feels difficult sometimes, even though we transitioned to [working from home] almost a full year ago. I really miss the camaraderie of the office. It feels like creative ideas spring up way more naturally when you’re talking and pitching things to people in person, as opposed to over Zoom. 

What are your long-term career goals? To be completely honest, I’m still figuring that out. At this point, as long as I’m able to make a living in a creative field, I would consider that a success. 

Any advice for students who wish to seek a job in the creative side of journalism? I am very open about the fact that I got this job through the Columbia Publishing Course, a six-week professional development program offered every summer through Columbia University. I attended the course in 2018 and although it didn’t happen immediately, it led me to my current position. I would encourage students to look into similar programs and also take advantage of resources like Study Hall, a social network for freelancers that offers tons of advice on pitching, leads on jobs, and more. Also, talk to me. I’m happy to help in whatever way I can.


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