Black and white cartoon drawing of a girl with glasses and striped shirt
Illustration: Edith Zimmerman

Writer and Artist Edith Zimmerman Shares Her Media Diet

The Brooklyn-based media maven discusses what she’s watching, following, and reading now.
By Aileen Kwun
September 12, 2020
7 minute read

Brooklyn-based writer and artist Edith Zimmerman served as the founding editor of The Hairpin—the former general-interest women’s website that defined a generation of online journalism, with pieces like the perennially viral and still-very-funny “Women Laughing Alone With Salad”—and has gone on to contribute to outlets including The New York Times Magazine, The Cut, and the podcast This American Life. These days, you can find her work in Drawing Links, a frequently published newsletter of comics and musings. We recently polled Zimmerman about her current media diet. Here, she shares who and what she’s following, reading, and watching—and the YouTube channels that soothe her in times of stress.

How do you start your mornings?

I wake up and check my phone briefly to make sure there’s nothing crazy [going on]. Then I make coffee, and draw for about two hours. After that, I will more thoroughly check and engage with my email, and also open everything else. That’s when I feel like I’m exposing myself to the rest of the world. But those two hours when I draw are sort of the anchor of my life now, because my job is doing this newsletter. The stuff I draw in the morning is the fodder for that, and the rest of my day is spent on and offline, refreshing and reading things.

Any daily go-to reads?

I have a lot of stuff on Feedly that I follow, but I’ve taken a break from that for the past few weeks.

What are some of your favorite newsletters?

There’s a daily newsletter I skim everyday called Why Is This Interesting? I became a guest contributor, and afterwards learned that one of the perks of contributing is that you get invited to join a Slack group of fellow contributors. I did this right before Covid started. I was living alone, and joining that community ended up being one of the best things that ever happened to me—for the camaraderie, and the cool links and stuff, but also for the sense of just having people kind of “there,” in my digital living room. It was huge, and all of these other things happened from being in that Slack group, too. Like, I started running. I now refresh my running app all the time, as much as I used to refresh and read news feeds.

A few other favorites include The Browser, which features four or five synopses of cool stories from around the web every day. Even though I don’t always click through, there’s something really satisfying about reading the little summaries. The dude who runs it, Robert Cottrell, has very wide-ranging interests. I also read Money Stuff by Matt Levine at Bloomberg. There’s a meditation and politics newsletter that comes out about once a week, called Nonzero, that I really like. Craig Mod’s newsletter, Ridgeline, is weird, and I enjoy it—he writes about photography, tech, pizza, Japan, and walking around. And I really like Rob Brezsny’s astrology and writing inspiration newsletter, Free Will Astrology. He’s wonderful. Anyway, I’ll stop there.

There’s a newsletter renaissance upon us. What’s your take on its place in the wider media landscape?

I think it’s great. I love them. I’ve subscribed to so many that I’m in a culling phase right now. They resemble blogs—the way that blogs used to be—in that there’s more a sense of personal tone that I’d been missing lately. Maybe because the internet got so big that certain kinds of expression felt very high-stakes, and newsletters are sort of a safe space, which sounds cheesy, but feels real. It’s like, I want to say my stuff, but I don’t want to blast it out to everybody. Newsletters are limited to the people who are interested, and I just love hearing from people all the time. It’s a really nice way of feeling connected.

What illustrators are you following these days?

Oh man, this is going to be hard because there’s so many. I love Jillian Tamaki, Gabrielle Bell, Julia Wertz, Amy Jean Porter, Sarah Glidden, Liana Finck, and Roz Chast. I follow this Instagram account called Still Here (@stillherestilllife)—every week, its co-founders share a photograph, and then people submit photos of their drawings, paintings, sculptures, or whatever they make in response. It’s a really cool fountain of art. Hilary [Fitzgerald] Campbell is another great cartoonist. And I follow Jerry Saltz for art stuff. He got me into this other account called @bitchgrammy that I also started following recently. Those are the main ones I’m scrolling through right now.

Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, or TikTok?

I don’t use Facebook or TikTok. Twitter feels very intense, which sometimes is fun, but mostly I just kind of hover on the sidelines. Instagram is fun because it’s neat to follow art accounts, but I try not to use it too much, because it starts to feel very heavy.

What are you watching or reading for fun?

I’ve been watching The Last Alaskans, which is a Discovery Channel show about these different families that live on a wildlife preserve in Alaska. It’s very slow and repetitive and beautiful and, at times, deeply moving. It may be the most human TV show I’ve ever seen. Earlier this year, I read a novel called Tyll by Daniel Kehlmann that was super good—the best thing I’ve read in a long time. Also, the novels Euphoria by Lily King and Sea of Poppies by Amitav Ghosh. I also really enjoyed Haruki Murakami’s book What I Talk About When I Talk About Running. Then, there’s an entrepreneurial book that I want to read called Profit First by Mike Michalowicz. It’s about how to make a lot of money off of your small business. [Laughs]

Any guilty pleasures?

I kind of feel like a pleasure’s a pleasure, but in terms of other things I’m consuming, it’s not TV, it’s not a book—it’s kind of weird, but ASMR is a pretty big thing in my life. There are these two YouTube channels, ItsBlitzzz and Nānā Fox, that I turn to pretty frequently, and I’ll just put them on in the background while I’m working or knitting. They zone me out in a way that is really pleasant. They’ll braid their friends’ hair, or give them shoulder or scalp massages or something, and just talk slowly and quietly. It puts me into a trance. It’s very peaceful, weird, and really nice.