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“It was scary to write about something so personal on a 24-hour deadline,” says Kirsten Schofield, the freelancer who told the story of her sexual assault at UVA.“But I knew this was in the news and there was a small window of opportunity if I wanted anyone to pay attention.” The first-person boom has had one significant benefit: There’s more of a market for underrepresented viewpoints than ever.I Could Have Been Rachel Dolezal”); , we’ve published essays with headlines such as “Dating While Mentally Ill” and “I Could Have Been Elliot Rodger.” But for all the different house styles these pieces accommodate, it’s striking how many of them read like reverse-engineered headlines, buzzy premises fleshed out with the gritty details of firsthand experience.’s “Cheating on My Boyfriend When He Died” ultimately declares, “I hope someone can learn from my mistakes.” A Post Everything essay about one man’s descent into, and emergence from, white supremacy is framed as a kind of how-to manual: “This Is How You Become a White Supremacist.” As for Chenier, the original ending of her essay was: “What I want to say about all the women out there who have ever been victimized is you are beautiful and it’s not your fault.” Tolentino tweaked it in the edit to read, “To the victims of their abuse, I want to say what I have finally been able to understand myself: that my attraction, and what it led to, was not my fault.” As Tolentino explains, she “tried to cut everything that would trigger a ‘YEA girl!
Ask Nona Willis Aronowitz, who edits ’s The Slice, for a few examples of her section’s greatest successes, and she cites an essay by the child of Cuban exiles that ran around the time of the Cuban-American detente and a piece by a young woman who was sexually assaulted at the University of Virginia that was published in the wake of the typically considers an article to be a hit when it reaches 25,000 unique views, but these essays racked up about 100,000 each.
So many of these new iterations, by contrast, feel like one-offs—solo acts of sensational disclosure that bubble up and just as quickly vaporize.
Rather than feats of self-branding, they seem to be—like, say, the gruesome recent viral sensation “My Gynecologist Found a Ball of Cat Hair in My Vagina”— professional dead ends, journalistically speaking. “What’s hard to believe now is how upset people got about that piece,” Gould says.
But she tried to explain to Chenier just what airing this story could mean for her life: “Since she was new to writing, I just wanted to confirm—was she ready for this to be on her Google results forever?
” Tolentino gave her the option of publishing under a pseudonym.