Allegra Kirkland, OC ’12, is the Political Director at Teen Vogue. During her time at Oberlin, Kirkland served as news editor and editor-in-chief of the review. Before joining Teen Vogue, Kirkland worked as a reporter and managing editor for Talking points memoan independent news organization dedicated to reporting on politics and public policy.
This interview has been edited for length and clarity.
Can you tell me about your role on? Teen Vogue and how did you get into it?
I started at Teen Vogue in the summer of 2019 as Senior Politics Editor. Basically, in this role and this, I oversee everything that comes into the political arena – everything from commentary to breaking news and daily news to longer coverage and all our franchises and columns. It’s a lot and we’re a really small team, so it’s pretty busy. Since leaving Oberlin I’ve mostly worked in political journalism, with a short stint trying to figure out what the hell I was supposed to be doing and working as a receptionist and not getting the journalism jobs I was hoping for. Then I just went through a series of internships and junior journalism jobs. And then I was with Talking points memo five years in a variety of roles, from breaking news writer on the 6 o’clock shift to senior editor. And then I went from there to Teen Vogue.
What is your everyday life like? Teen Vogue as policy director?
You know, I feel like nobody’s ever told me how much it means to be an editor to answering emails, which isn’t a really sexy answer, but it’s true. It’s a lot of moving parts – especially where we no longer have a print edition and we’re still mostly remote. We mainly work with a team of freelancers. We don’t have full-time writers, so we only need to coordinate with our fact-checking and copying teams, and then with the writers. It’s often just about working on drafts and making sure other drafts are progressing. Again, because we’re such a small team, I have to enter all the stories into our content management system, write headlines, and select art. It’s about everything from the core to planning what we want for the policy cover in three months. Lots of zoom meetings. Yes, just a lot of small details.
I would like to hear about your time with the review also.
I think I started working there in my second year. I just walked in and I was like, “Can I start writing for you?” John Light, OC ’11, who was the editor-in-chief at the time, became a very close friend of mine – we actually worked on together Talking points memo. I helped him get his job there because the Oberlin network is small and very dense. I think my first assignment with the review should about the Dr. Seuss Day at the Oberlin Public Library or something very cheesy, but I loved it anyway. I just said, “This is so much fun and such a fun way to learn about the community — not just the school, but Oberlin as a city.” Then I was a newswriter there for a while, and eventually, maybe a year later, became I news editor. Then, in my last year, I was editor-in-chief at Oberlin.
Are you interested in your work at the review ready for your role now?
Yes, I definitely do. I always say something like, “Write for your school paper,” to writers who come to me. It’s a good way to just get a feel for what it’s like working in a newsroom and collaborating with other journalists.” Just practice, “Okay, I can turn things around by the deadline. I can find good angles, find good story ideas.” And again, my friend John was a great editor who made my job so much better.
I think the Review has a lot of really great journalists working there. I learned a lot from my colleagues and stayed in contact with many of them. Many of them have pursued journalism careers, and I’ve encountered them either at social events or at jobs I’ve had. So, definitely really, really helpful. It also really clicked for me when I was with her review like, “Oh shit, that’s a career. I can do that after college and I love that.” And it just made it seem like a real possibility.
In general, how was your time at Oberlin?
My time at Oberlin was good. Growing up in Manhattan, I went to Oberlin partly because I was like, ‘Oh, I’ll probably end up in New York again, so I should try something new.’ Then I was like, ‘Oh wait, there are so many students coming here from New York and the Bay Area.” But most of my best friends ended up being from the Midwest. I loved spending the fall and spring breaks traveling to different places in the Midwest like Missouri, Detroit and Chicago.
I had great teachers – I majored in history and minored in art history – and just had a really good relationship with them. They were incredibly smart and I learned a lot. Steve Volk – he was my advisor – was great. Yes, I loved my time at the review. Oh, and study abroad. Everyone should study abroad and get off campus because it’s just too small to be there all the time. I was in Chile for six months and it was excellent.
What advice would you give students at Oberlin or at the review how they want to leave Oberlin?
I think you just don’t feel like you have to figure everything out when you graduate. I mean, I majored in history, and I ended up not doing anything special with it. But I guess once you get out of that college bubble, no one cares what you majored in. You don’t have to tick every little box. It’s more like you went to Oberlin, you got everything you got from that experience and no decision you make is wrong. It’s just a choice. Whatever job you have, you are only building the story of your life. It doesn’t have to be exactly perfect and exactly what you wanted to do.