A Money-Savvy Editor on Travel & Entrepreneurship

The economy has been tough for every industry, but journalism has been pretty hard hit. Factor a down economy with slashed jobs in with the switch to online journalism and decreased attention spans, and you’ve got a recipe for disaster. Or, do you? When seasoned writer/editor Sara Clemence learned she was about to be laid-off, she and two girlfriends started a site about the economic downturn. The site, Recessionwire, gave Clemence a crash course in another side of the business. Aside from the site’s success, Clemence herself ultimately came out on top, too. She is currently a travel editor for the Wall Street Journal. Here, she shares tips on saving money, the economy and entrepreneurship.

Sara Clemence

Travel Editor

The Wall Street Journal

New York, NY

wsj.com


You were one of the “founding mothers” of Recessionwire. Can you explain how you came up with the idea ?

It was a pretty fast, organic and gut-driven process. In late 2008, my friend Laura Rich and I found out that we were going to be laid-off from our jobs at Conde Nast Portfolio. That week, we ran into a writer we knew, Lynn Parramore, whose freelance work was drying up, and the three of us started talking about what we wanted to do next. Within a couple of weeks, we were mapping out editorial schedules, hunting down design help and researching blog platforms.

You know how you have these conversations at parties and say, “Yeah, we should do that!” And then you never do. We did, because we had a perfect storm of factors driving us forward: It had become incredibly cheap to launch a website, nobody was documenting all the changes that were taking place, we had major journalism skills and we all wanted to create something new. Plus, with the economy imploding, what else were we going to do?

Though you’ve since moved on, how do you think starting your own company has affected you?

Taking a business from concept to completion gives you such a sense of confidence and accomplishment. I know I can do it again if I want to—in fact, when I have an idea the question is no longer, “Can I do this?” It’s: “How would I do this? Do I want to do this?” That’s aside from everything I learned about technology, marketing, strategy, design, online advertising, legal issues…as one of my friends put it, I got the equivalent of an MBA in nine months.

You’re currently a travel editor for the Wall Street Journal. What are the perks?

I get to fly around the world in first class for free, stay in beachfront villas and have my feet exfoliated with crushed diamonds. Just kidding—but that’s what people imagine!

I do write the occasional travel article, but someone has to make sure the travel pages come out every weekend. (And we don’t take freebies at the Journal—you’re getting the real story, not PR spin.) The big perks for me are being involved with a smart, stylish new project—the Journal’s Off Duty section only launched last year—and working with people who are talented and cool. I love creating stories that are intriguing and inspiring. Plus, I get to edit the occasional celebrity. Like John Waters—the nicest guy and a total professional.

You’ve had a string of super-successful writing jobs. Do you think it’s tough to be a woman in the writing field?

I believe the media industry is a relative meritocracy, so I don’t think it’s tougher for women than other fields. But I did work at one company (sadly) that was an old-boy throwback, where I was paid less than a man who reported to me. I still regret not having done anything about that.

Now if I’m ever reluctant to speak my mind, mix it up, negotiate for higher pay, I remind myself that I’m not just doing it for me, but for the women around me and the ones who will come after—to raise salary standards and expectations for all of us. I found Gloria Feldt’s book No Excuses really inspiring on that front.

Do you have any key financial advice during this tough economic time, particularly for women?

Hell, yes. It’s really important to take control of your financial life and make thoughtful choices about your money. You don’t have to become an investing whiz; start by doing some basic (and honest) math. What do you earn? What do you have? What do you owe? Are you living within your means? How can you save more, so you have more choices in life? I’m all for splurging on a new bag—but only after making sure I have a cash cushion. And don’t worry about feeling dumb at first—better dumb than broke.

GIRL TALK TIME: What do you think of Sara’s job? How are you thriving in the down economy? What job would you like to see here next?

14 Comments

Post a Comment
  • kailynicole:

    This is probably one of my dream jobs! Not because I get to fly first class or going to beachy glory, when I like to travel I really like to experience the people and culture. It would be amazing to go around and share it with the world!

    Also, I would like to see a flight attendant.

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  • roxkells:

    I would like to check out her website despite the delay in the last posting. I’m sure that the information can translate to today’s issues. I think trying to strive in today’s economy is difficult for everyone. We need to make smart choices. These guidances are helpful along the way.

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  • jentyree:

    How am I thriving in a down economy? I am going to school. I have turned into a stay at home mom, and am attending an online college. Getting my degree in Accounting and Human Resources Mgmt. Starting on my Assoc in Accounting first. And then HR. One or both will turn into bachelors. Maybe masters, depending on how I feel. I have high ambitions. And I am going to make this work.

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  • Crispy:

    Very inspiring. I want to do a career change, and possible go back to school. But with the economy going, I’m not sure if that is even worth it, esp with English or Journalism.

    {Reply}
  • Gloria Feldt:

    Sarah, thanks for the shout out for No Excuses! You make my heart sing. Very nice profile of you. Your founding of Recessionwire is also a great example of my No Excuses Power Tool #3–use what you’ve got.

    {Reply}
  • Lesley:

    It is so good to read about a woman with such success in life. She really goes for what she wants. That really takes a lot of guts.

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  • Lee:

    Uh, is case you have not noticed, the last postings on this “successful” recessionwire.com are from December 2010.

    {Reply}
    1. Shecky's:

      Thanks for noticing that! While Sara does not spend a lot of her time on recessionwire anymore, we still love the sound financial advice which is still completely applicable right now! Enjoy.

      {Reply}
      1. Sara Clemence:

        Hi Lee- When we started Recessionwire, we decided that it would be a “pop-up site”–around to help while the downturn was still taking place. For about five minutes, it looked like we weren’t needed anymore, and that was one reason we moved on to other projects. But given the state of things today, well…

  • lumeih:

    I’d love to have a job with travel perks.

    {Reply}
  • Joy:

    my company is doing okay. Not too hard hit. We’re a pharma company.

    {Reply}
  • penelope:

    very interesting

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  • avatar
    jenny-o:

    cool.

    {Reply}
  • avatar
    noki22:

    sounds good.

    {Reply}

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