New York Times Styles section history ‘was wonderfully fun to research, write and revise’

Praise from a New York Times editor:

Nick Fox, another Times staffer, calls Jacqui Shine’s history of the Styles section “tough, fair, insightful,” while Travel section contributor Freeda Moon says “I’ve been waiting for this essay for as long as I’ve known there’s such a thing as the Style Section.”

Shine tells Romenesko readers about her Awl piece:

I pitched this piece cold to [publisher] Choire Sicha at the Awl (just after he announced that he was passing the editorial torch to Matt Buchanan and John Herrman) in March. (!) It definitely did not take 9 months, but it’s sort of difficult to gauge how much time it did take.

Jacqui Shine via @dearsplenda

Jacqui Shine

There were some delays on both sides, and eventually they decided to hold the piece for their site relaunch. On the other hand, yes, it was labor-intensive for all of us. I just looked at my initial pitch, where I anticipated writing something that was 2,000-2,500 words, and that . . . did not happen! But this was wonderfully fun to research, write, and revise, and I’m really pleased with it.

I was at least as interested in the Styles section’s audience as I was in its history. I’m sort of in a demographic sweet spot for a certain kind of high-level Internet outrage–someone I know is always mad at the Times for something, and the paper’s lifestyle coverage is often the source. (Witness, of course, the Twitter account “The Times Is On It.”) When I found myself frothing about something, I thought, “Wait a minute. Where does this come from, and where do we think it comes from?” These are questions I ask a lot.

In addition to writing for popular audiences, I’m finishing a Ph.D. in U.S. history, and as a cultural historian I’m keenly interested in the stories we collectively tell ourselves and where those stories come from. (My dissertation is about cop shows and, more broadly, media narratives about crime and the justice system.) And it almost immediately became clear to me that be the questions had really complex and deeply fascinating answers.

* Bonfire of the Inanities: History of the Styles section (
* Follow Jacqui Shine on Twitter (@dearsplenda)