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"The Insider" Makes the News Again!

NOVEMBER 2022 | SILURIAN NEWS


What I Did During the Pandemic:

A Q&A with Andrea Sachs


Andrea Sachs, The Insider's publisher and editor, got her first COVID vaccine in the detergent aisle of the Wellness Pharmacy on West 72nd Street in Manhattan (photo: Doug Dworkin)
Andrea Sachs, The Insider's publisher and editor, got her first COVID vaccine in the detergent aisle of the Wellness Pharmacy on West 72nd Street in Manhattan (photo: Doug Dworkin)

Some of us languished during the COVID-19 pandemic, others took up serious cooking, while a few continued their usual writing or broadcast routines. Andrea Sachs, a 29-year veteran of Time magazine with virtually no background in digital publishing or technological expertise, launched a weekly online publication. She named it The Insider. It is now, to the best of her knowledge, “the world’s oldest pandemic magazine.” And perhaps the only.


In keeping with the snappy vibe of The Insider (www.theinsider1.com), we conducted this Q&A via text messages.


Silurian News:

Hi. Are you ready?


Andrea Sachs:

Hi Aileen! Let’s go!


Silurian News:

First, tell me a little about your background.


Andrea Sachs:

Unlike a lot of journalists, I was late to the game. I was dazzled by the press, but I was too scared to apply to my junior high school newspaper. Same thing in college. I was an English major at the University of Michigan who didn’t know what to do professionally, so I made the disastrous decision to go to law school at Michigan. I knew from the first day it was a mistake, but I stuck it out for three unhappy years and three years of practice in Washington, D.C. That’s where I had a true epiphany that I should be a journalist. I went to Columbia J-School, spent a nanosecond at the women’s magazines, and then spent 29 years at Time magazine as a reporter. Home at last!


Silurian News:

How did you come upon the idea of a pandemic online publication?


Andrea Sachs:

From the first days of the pandemic, I wanted to cover it. A once in a century opportunity.


Silurian News:

How did you see it? Did you think it would look like the chock-full series of articles that it has become?


Andrea Sachs:

No! I was a total newbie to online publishing. It started out in March 2020 as daily emails to friends and family members. But it soon grew too large for that. The emails were crashing!


Silurian News:

So what new skills do you now have, and how did you come by them?


Andrea Sachs:

By April 2020, I knew I needed some tech help. I was lucky enough to be referred to a web consultant who introduced me to the glories of digital journalism. Matthew Nadelson is 39, half my age — I’m 70 — but it has been a fabulous collaborative effort. He’s a Steve Jobs type — had his own computer company at 15. He is the founder of Computer Camaraderie Corp. (ccc4me.com) in New York City.

A masked Mona Lisa greets readers of the online pandemic magazine, along with its “Emerge Even Stronger” slogan
A masked Mona Lisa greets readers of the online pandemic magazine, along with its “Emerge Even Stronger” slogan

Silurian News:

How did you gather your many contributors, and can you describe a few of them? The range is enormous.


Andrea Sachs:

At the beginning, I happily found many talented people I knew, both journalists and people who just love news, who were eager to write. The pandemic was such a lonely experience that I think a lot of people were eager to make that kind of connection. Later, as the word about The Insider spread, I started getting more inquiries from professional journalists about writing. Also, there have been some newspaper articles about The Insider, and that brought in a lot of new people. There have been dozens and dozens of contributors at this point, and I’m very grateful to all of them for keeping us rolling.


Silurian News:

What have been some of your favorite articles?


Andrea Sachs:

After nearly three years, that’s a tough one! Naturally, I like the stories that do best on the website. As for my own reporting, I’ve been fortunate to interview many people with COVID who have been very forthcoming.


Silurian News:

How many readers do you have now, and how do you see the publication evolving, especially since you have no advertising but are distributing it free?


Andrea Sachs:

We’ve had 30,000 unique visitors nationwide. We are still building momentum — we’re not the New York Times but The Little Engine That Could. We’re at a stage now of hopefully getting some advertising or turning to a subscription model. But we have no intention of stopping anytime soon! I strongly believe that those of us who are weathering the pandemic — I call us “Generation P” — have been unified by the experience and are still eager to ponder the challenges together.


Silurian News:

I admire your persistence. But do you ever think about having a little more free time, or returning to the graduate studies in literature that you were pursuing just as the pandemic hit?


Andrea Sachs:

Not for a second! This is a labor of love. At the beginning of the pandemic, I was working on a graduate degree in English at Hunter and enjoying myself. But what dusty old novel could compare with present-day current events? Once a journalist, always a journalist!


Silurian News:

Do you think there will be an end to COVID? Or at least a taming of it, like the flu?


Andrea Sachs:

The latter is the hope, I’d say, but it sure hasn’t arrived yet. I live on the upper west side of Manhattan, and it’s like Mardi Gras around here — restaurants bursting to the seams with maskless diners. But just because we’re tired of COVID doesn’t mean COVID is tired of us. Every week, I hear about someone else — or a whole family — with COVID. Personally, I’m still being very careful.


Silurian News:

You’ve called The Insider “the world’s oldest pandemic magazine.” Is it also the only, or have others followed in your footsteps?


Andrea Sachs:

I’ve never heard of another publication like ours, but I may be wrong.


Silurian News:

Anything else you’d like an audience of journalists to know about your adventure in online publishing?


Andrea Sachs:

When I started this, I was 100% a print journalist, looking down my nose at digital journalism. I was so wrong! There are so many advantages to doing this — we can break into the news cycle on a moment’s notice if something happens. We can find out in real time how different stories are doing, and what else we should try. And when I was at Time, if you made an error in the magazine, it was to your eternal shame, because it would live on in print forever. Now, we can correct errors with a few keystrokes. I’d encourage other diehard print people to test the water! You might just like it.


Silurian News:

Thanks for the good advice, and best of luck with your brave endeavor!

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