Erin Donnelly: Yahoo Life Parenting Editor

 

Angela Tuell  00:05

Welcome to Media in Minutes. This is your host Angela Tuell. This podcast features in-depth interviews with those reports on the world around us. They share everything from their favorite stories to what happened behind the lens and give us a glimpse into their world. From our studio here at Communications Redefined, this is Media in Minutes. Today we are talking with Erin Donnelly. Erin is the parenting editor for Yahoo Life and is based in Austin, Texas. Prior to this role, she spent more than 10 years as a London correspondent covering entertainment, fashion, beauty, travel, and lifestyle for outlets such as Refinery 29, Pop Sugar, Playboy, and Elle. Hi, Erin. So nice to talk with you.

 

Erin Donnelly  00:51

Hi, Angela. Great to be here.

 

Angela Tuell  00:53

Yeah. So how is Texas? And do you miss London?

 

Erin Donnelly  00:57

Texas is very, very hot right now. Um, kind of unbearable to go outside. And I do miss London. We just went a few weeks ago, I guess a couple of weeks ago just to visit friends. And you know, I’m always trying to like, figure out how I could you know…what if I was like, you know, not bicoastal, but like what if I was Jason Bourne, and I just lived internationally with a young child, and…

 

Angela Tuell  01:27

Wouldn’t it be great? We’ll talk some more about London. Definitely. But I would love it if you could start by walking us through your career. You know, how you ended up in London, and then came back to the US? Have you always been covering lifestyle journalism, too?

 

Erin Donnelly  01:43

Yes. So just to go way, way back. I majored in Journalism at the University of Texas and my most significant internship was at Texas Monthly, which I still subscribe to and will always on, it was the most, you know, the proudest, like, I’m so proud of the work that I got to do there, and the team. So many of those editors are still there 20 years later, but I just have so much respect for that publication. And they really advocated for me to take that next step. As I was graduating, I stayed on, I think, after graduation and continued to intern for a few months. And they connected me to a former intern, who had never been on a plane until she moved to New York and worked for, you know, at that time was working for Marie Claire. And she literally said, Get your butt up to New York. And so I did and I moved to New York with no – Like I found an apartment and then had three weeks to like actually move there. So I didn’t have time to do a job hunt or anything. And so I just went up there and then kind of had a couple of random jobs, one of which was like publishing company that did like a guide to like movie and TV locations in New York. It was a lot of watching Sex & The City Will Run and then making notes of where they went.

 

Angela Tuell  03:16

Sounds like a bad job.

 

Erin Donnelly  03:18

And then that allowed – I had the freedom to freelance on the side. So I did some guidebook writing for a company called Check Ease, which at the time was known for doing bar guides, and in New York, and then when they were looking to hire someone full-time, someone recommended me and I got that job. And then suddenly, I was the editor of these guidebooks, and I think I was 25.

 

Angela Tuell  03:46

Wow.

 

Erin Donnelly  03:47

It was a good crash course because it was very fast-paced, and very, like people looking over your shoulder what you’re typing. And I did that I worked there for maybe three years and then was fortunate not my grandfather was Irish, who was able to get Irish citizenship through descendancy and I think it was just kind of burnt out at that fast-paced New York lifestyle. I was working all the time. And so I wanted to freelance and so then I you know, it was a long process of getting my citizenship, but that really like moving abroad coincided with my freelance career. And, you know, as a freelance –

 

Angela Tuell  04:29

But then you went to London instead of Ireland?

 

Erin Donnelly  04:32

Yes. So I had to study abroad in a school in England, in Leicester, which nobody has heard of, but unless you’re a football fan I guess. So I still had friends there and I always you know, I do love big cities. So moving to London just seemed like the next move for me and there was a lot of opportunities because some of my freelance clients were like, Oh, well, you, you know, you could cover this. So I’d started covering London Fashion Week or press junkets or even things that were in, you know, Paris or Berlin, things like that.

 

Angela Tuell  05:14

Wow.

 

Erin Donnelly  05:15

Did some press trips. So it was a good spot. And I think, covering have I always covered lifestyle? Yes, but what that has looked like has ranged from fashion to dating to travel to entertainment to parenting. So I feel like as a freelancer, you’re always like, Yes, I, I know all about that. So I will do that. And that’s, you know, I’ve kind of fallen into these different niches. But I think I’ve always been where I need to be. So now I’m a mom. And I never sought out parenting jobs, but it just fell, you know, it just happened around the same time that I, you know, started covering parenting for Yahoo. I moved back to the States in 2019. A few months before the pandemic, thankfully, and I’ve been full-time with Yahoo since then.

 

Angela Tuell  06:11

Okay, so before we talk about that, what are some of your most memorable stories or experiences in Europe?

 

Erin Donnelly  06:17

I would say number one is the, getting to ride on the Orient Express, which was a press trip for the movie Murder on the Orient Express. At the time, I was doing a lot of entertainment writing for Refinery 29, and a few other publications. And so this particular trip, I was living in London, and they flew us to Venice, which is the most magical city in the world.

 

Angela Tuell  06:44

Yes, it is.

 

Erin Donnelly  06:46

Yeah, so it’s like that enough would have been fine. And then we took the train. And that’s just something that I never in a million years, it just seems so pie in the sky and a million years, would I, I would never think that I would get to do that on my own. It was such a great opportunity. And I think like with freelancing, you get to like seize those opportunities. I don’t know how the pandemic has changed that because I haven’t freelanced since before the pandemic, but were getting to interview Valentino for London Fashion Week go to Paris for a Karl Lagerfeld event, or go into the setup of Wonder Woman, those things that are just, you know, pinch me moments. Things that are like, Is this really my job? I’m getting paid for this, right?  Yes, yes.

 

Angela Tuell  07:40

So did you start working for Yahoo in London, then, when you were in London,

 

Erin Donnelly  07:45

So I started, I think, in 2018, and they were looking for someone – again, being in London was an advantage. I had done this previously working for Refinery 29. But because you are working, waking earlier, it’s kind of like for them great to have, like someone who can start the day, start writing, everybody else wakes up. And there’s, you know, four articles up already. Just to kind of like cover, you know, part of that 24/7 news coverage. So I did that for them, where it was like a daily kind of just mostly covering, like, breaking or trending news in the lifestyle space. And then I had my son that October. And at a certain point, I was like, Wow, it’s really hard to have a baby.

 

Angela Tuell  08:40

At first, you think your life’s going to be just the same, right? And then you’re like, Oh.

 

Erin Donnelly  08:44

Yeah. And then, so when I said, you know, I think I need to move back to the States, I was able to work it out with them that I could come on full-time time, of course, moving back to the States means needing health insurance and being that responsible mom and so it just worked. I think it was very good timing that it came when I did pre-pandemic, you know, and then I was able to transition to a full-time role. And yeah, it’s been great ever since.

 

Angela Tuell  09:16

So you ended up as a parenting editor. And you were learning to parent at the same time. Probably.

 

Erin Donnelly  09:23

Yeah, so for a couple of years, I was kind of doing what I would call a generalist covering different topics, a lot of mental health. During the pandemic, I launched this series that we’re still doing called The Unwind where we interview high-profile people, mostly celebrities about their mental health practices and what that looks like as we’re all you know, going through it. And then a companion series called So Mini Ways, which is also still ongoing and we’ve gotten you know, some really great names. Oh, So Mini Ways is like parenting, talking to celebrity parents or parenting experts.

 

Angela Tuell  10:05

So obviously everyone knows what Yahoo is, but can you tell us a little bit more about Yahoo Life and the media department for the company?

 

Erin Donnelly  10:13

Sure. So Yahoo broadly, we see it as a guide to everything that’s happening in the world, whether that’s entertainment, wellness, or culture. We have original, original content that we write in-house. And we also have like such a huge network of partners like Time, NBC News, Washington Post, New York Times, um, People Magazine. We also have live blogs for breaking news, videos, newsletters, and podcasts. Within that ecosystem, Yahoo Life is the destination for wellness enthusiasts, and more health, style, and parenting. So those are big news buckets.

 

Angela Tuell  10:55

What do you feel sets Yahoo apart from other outlets?

 

Erin Donnelly  10:58

I mean, we have an advantage in that we have such a huge partner network, like the ones I just mentioned. So that, in a way, it kind of frees us from – you might read an article from Time, but it’ll have like a Yahoo URL. And so that’s good. Oh, this Yahoo article? And it’s like, no, it’s just carried on Yahoo. So that kind of covers our bases a lot. Because we don’t have to reinvent the wheel in terms of like, say, if USA Today has done an explainer on? What is a swimmer’s ear for some, for some reason, or what is this thing? We don’t need to write that article, ourselves. It is already appearing on Yahoo. We can, we can do the next level. So for instance, one big series that I’ve been working on, since signing on as a parenting editor is infertility. And that is just the process of assisted conception, whether that means surrogacy or egg donation, whatever that looks like. And so we can, you know, lean on partners who have covered like the basic, like, what is IVF or write their own stories, and we can kind of do more like, source driven stories. So that might be what we’ve taught, we did a story that actually did really well, on women, over 45, who had babies, even though like a doctor will tell you that that’s extremely rare. But it happens and we see it in pop culture we see like, a Hilary Swank, or Rachel Dice, and just kind of sharing those stories. I was really astonished. Like the comments on that were – we had so many comments from people who said, Oh, yeah, I did. You know, I had my baby at 46. And, you know, so it’s really, that’s probably my favorite part of the job is like, just sharing those sorts of stories.

 

Angela Tuell  13:01

So what do you think are the biggest challenges facing parents today?

 

Erin Donnelly  13:05

Right now? It seems like the childcare system is not sustainable. Yesterday was it yesterday, I sat in on a call with the White House because they are developing new support financial support for people who are in childcare programs, which will be great. But there are so many, it’s only benefiting people on this specific program. And I think states have to approve it. So it’s still like filled with so much red tape. So –

 

Angela Tuell  13:37

I would love to talk a little bit about the PR profession, and how we as PR pros can best help you do your job. And if you have any pet peeves. I’m assuming you get tons of pitches in your email every day.

 

Erin Donnelly  13:51

Yeah, I do get tons, I would say maybe fewer than five per day or stuff that is actually relevant to my work, or, or something that would want to act on. But I will say like I so I’ll get a lot of parenting experts. And I always do if I’m not working on something. If I have a freelancer who’s working on a story, I will forward that to a freelancer. So I may not need to respond to the PR person.

 

Angela Tuell  14:21

Right.

 

Erin Donnelly  14:22

I’ll be like, hey, this might be a good person for your story. And it’s in motion. Or but I always file it so I have like an email folder. So one thing I get a lot is commerce stuff, so like products. But Yahoo has a separate commerce team.

 

Angela Tuell  14:43

Okay.

 

Erin Donnelly  14:44

They, anything, like we don’t do gift guides.

 

Angela Tuell  14:47

Do you not even have to pay attention to affiliate marketing on your site at all either?

 

Erin Donnelly  14:51

No.

 

Angela Tuell  14:52

Okay, right.

 

Erin Donnelly  14:53

So I would say my only big pet peeve with PR is that we do like interviews, often with celebrities. I don’t like will I will not never send you the questions in advance, right? For a celebrity interview, like, and then some PRs. I always question like, is it the celebrity or their PR, but if they push, you know, get really upset about it. But I feel like that’s standard practice with journalism.

 

Angela Tuell  15:32

Completely. Are there a lot that asks for the questions?

 

Erin Donnelly  15:36

It happens. And sometimes you say, I’m sorry, we can’t send questions in advance. But, you know, you can kind of give a sense of like, general –

 

Angela Tuell  15:47

Right, right.

 

Erin Donnelly  15:48

You know, we’re talking about parenting. So I’m not, you know, I never do like a I gotcha. It’s like, usually pretty safe. So the best PR relationships I have, are when it’s, you know, you have like a respect for each other. So, yes, I want to interview this superstar, but their time is not more valuable than mine. Especially when I have a child trying to have some sort of work life balance, but like, sometimes it happens, where they reschedule 300 times in a row, or, Oh, we can’t do it. Now we need to do it at 7 p.m. at night. You like, well, I have to pick up my you know, it’s just not (inaudible)

 

Angela Tuell  16:34

Right.

 

Erin Donnelly  16:34

And, or when, if we’re interviewing a celebrity, and sometimes they are pegged to like a campaign or whatnot, you know, or a movie or, you know, they’re always promoting something.

 

Angela Tuell  16:49

Right.

 

Erin Donnelly  16:49

When PRs want you to, basically, try to turn it into like a marketing advertorial.

 

Angela Tuell  16:59

Like an ad or something. Right, right.

 

Erin Donnelly  17:00

Like, oh, she needs to say fast-acting relief. And it’s like, they didn’t say that. I’m not adding it in and I don’t work for you so, you know, I can’t –

 

Angela Tuell  17:14

You know, we live in such an ever-changing digital landscape with new social channels and AI, have you jumped into using AI tools or exploring that world yet? Or is it Yahoo?

 

Erin Donnelly  17:25

I know, Yahoo, yes, the powers that be at Yahoo. All over it. Because we, you know, I think TechCrunch is also part of Yahoo. And so, yes, they are definitely on top of looking, exploring, like, are there benefits to it in any way? How will this affect the media? All that stuff. Personally, I am probably the only person that hasn’t really played around with it that much. But I, you know, just try to keep my tabs on it. Like, I am always like, I guess my horror story is that, like a writer would send a story that was AI. But I’d like to think that I would know. But I think it is like a concern for parents. So we’ve kind of approached that in some of our parenting articles is like. We’ve done how to talk to your kids about AI and media literacy, which I think is a huge issue. Social media, overall is a huge issue. But kids today are seeing things that we didn’t see –

 

Angela Tuell  18:26

Right.

 

Erin Donnelly  18:27

And taking it for granted. And it’s, it can be dangerous. Also, like ChatGBT and cheating, like talking to your kids about that, how to, what to look for.

 

Angela Tuell  18:40

That’s good to know. We’ll keep watching your articles coming out for some more guidance on that. And looking at your career as a whole, what are you most proud of to this point?

 

Erin Donnelly  18:51

Oh, my gosh, um, I think that you know, that sounds cheesy. I always wanted to be a writer. Always. And, I mean, and an FBI profiler.

 

Angela Tuell  19:06

So are you, are you a True Crime junkie then too?

 

Erin Donnelly  19:10

We actually talked about this in our work today. I’m not a True Crime junkie. I’m a Law & Order junkie. I don’t have actual like real despair or that I don’t find that turns me off, you know?

 

Angela Tuell  19:26

Yeah.

 

Erin Donnelly  19:27

Although I guess Texas Monthly they have a writer, Skip Hollandsworth who I think he’s had some stories option, but he does true crime in Texas, and I do get sucked into those stories. They’re usually like, quite old, you know, like, 25 years this thing happened. But I, um, yeah, but I do like Law and Order, Silence of the Lambs, that kind of stuff. But I think I just felt really grateful. I mean, obviously like working in media if, it can be stressful and chaotic, and but I feel so grateful that you know, I’m 20 years into my career and I’m still a writer and, um –

 

Angela Tuell  20:11

That’s amazing.

 

Erin Donnelly  20:12

I feel like wow, and it worked out.

 

Angela Tuell  20:17

Yes. A testament to your hard work.

 

Erin Donnelly  20:19

Yeah. And I think one thing that I’m also proud of is if people say What’s your advice is like everything that I’ve done has come from one moment, but also like one idea where I was working with Texas Monthly as an intern. And there’s a lot of grunt work, you know, it’s like, color in the restaurant. This is still your address that was $10 for a talk, or whatever. And then – it was, there will be opportunities where sometimes our supervisor would be like, do you want to fact check restaurant listings or transcribe or whatever, you know, tasks there was? Or do you want to – so and so might have a project, I don’t know what it is. And just always saying, I’ll do that. Without even knowing what it was always that’s how I got my first byline, like a reporting byline for a cover story. And then you meet, you know, you work more closely with an editor and then they give you more.

 

Angela Tuell  21:25

Yes.

 

Erin Donnelly  21:26

You know, and then that’s how you stand out.

 

Angela Tuell  21:29

But really taking those risks and being willing to – and developing those relationships.

 

Erin Donnelly  21:35

Yeah, just kind of like sticking your neck out a little bit.

 

Angela Tuell  21:37

Yeah, I love that. Well, how can our listeners connect with you online and follow your work?

 

Erin Donnelly  21:43

Um, I am terrible at social media. But, I – the best way is on Twitter. My handle is just my name @ErinDonnelly. And I do sometimes share articles on Twitter. Yahoo.com/lifestyle, parenting archives are where all the magic, all our original content.

 

Angela Tuell  22:09

Wonderful. Thank you so much. It was great talking with you. Thank you for all the insight.

 

Erin Donnelly  22:14

No, you’re welcome. It was fun to – I have so few adult conversations.

 

Angela Tuell  22:22

That’s all for this episode of Media in Minutes, a podcast by Communications Redefined. Please take a moment to rate, review and subscribe to our show. We’d love to hear what you think. You can find more at CommunicationsRedefined.com/podcast. I’m your host, Angela Tuell. Talk to you next time.

Yahoo Life Parenting editor, Erin Donnelly, talks with Angela about her start in journalism and how her career has followed her own lifestyle changes and needs.  Listen to learn more about The Unwind and So Mini Ways. 

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