Feeling the love

May 16, 2007, 6:53 PM UTC
Fortune

Well, I think it’s safe to say we hit a nerve. I knew there was a void when it came to content for “us,” but judging from the comments over the last day and the flood of letters to my inbox, I obviously had no idea how serious a situation it was. If you’re one of the starved and you haven’t seen the rest of our Gen Y Web package yet—including a round-up of some very cool employers, ahem—check it out. And in the longer term, let’s hope The Gig can live up to all the excitement, and, of course, that you’re going to help me make that happen.

That said, now that many of you have read my Gen Y story, I am so excited to finally talk about it. (You might think seven pages and 5,000 words would be enough talking for me, but that’s only because you just met me :o). So I’m going to indulge a bit, get it out of the way, and ask your forgiveness in advance. A little backstory to begin: I never thought this story would run the way it did, which is why I’ve been so glad to hear that readers (for the most part) appreciated it. When I finished the seemingly endless reporting for the piece and began the even more herculean task of thinking about how to write it, my awesome (boomer) editor Tim Smith said, “Think laff riot.”

Now, as any Stanley Bing devotee will tell you, we at Fortune do have our hilarious moments, but “laff riot”? Not so much. Tim told me to go crazy, though, and got me hyped, so I decided to roll with it. Of course, by the time I gave him the dissertation my story had become—with the quirky tone, Audubon Guide structure, and recounting of what would technically have been an off-the-record conversation with Time Inc. Editor-in-Chief John Huey (i.e. the boss of everyone)—I was pretty much certain it would only take Tim one read-through to send me up to medical and start shopping my position.

Glad our leadership has better sense than I do. They got behind this cracked little story right away and—in much the same fashion that our managing editor, Andy Serwer, surprised me with his reaction to the idea for this blog—proved that good bosses can be way cooler than we think. What’s more, sometimes they really do know better than we do, even if that just means they know to have a bit more faith in us than we have in ourselves. And now that I’ve made even myself gag, I think I’ll leave the boss-worship at that for now; the next boss I mention is going to be a jerk.

This also seems like a good time to talk about some of your comments. I have to say, I do think that we’re more like each other (because of the media we consume and how we consume it) and a bit different from previous generations of twentysomethings (because though our demands might be similar, we’re way more willing to air them, and loudly). But still, if I’d read this story for the first time, my reaction would probably have been some unflattering and unprintable tirade starting with, “Elitist jerks!” And that’s precisely why I labored over the following disclaimer, which appears in both the print and Web editions: “This collective portrait does not represent all Gen Yers, some of whom are complicated enough to choose the road less selfish—getting married, starting nonprofits—and some of whom can’t afford to be this entitled. While parents were consulted, they spoke strictly on background, in the interest of their mental health.” Though I wouldn’t say that the young people in my story have had it easy either, I wouldn’t dream of short-changing the many Gen Yers who have struggled even more to succeed.

And for those of you who rightly pointed out that I grew up in Connecticut, went to Stanford, and have a sweet gig writing for Fortune, boy are you going to feel bad in a second! Kidding, kidding. But really, I’m the eldest daughter of a single mother of four who came to this country from Guyana after she became a widow at the tender age of 30. Read: I paid my own tuition. More on that sob story (or not) some other time, but regardless, I appreciate your point. If there’s one thing I always try to do in my work, it’s to remember and honor our readers’ diversity of perspectives. And if I’m not doing that, I’ll trust you to tell me. (Though, Sebastian, my bruised writer’s ego tells me you just need to see the story with the formatting fixed. Send an address; your print edition’s on me!)

Last but not least, for all the people who wrote to say “thank you” and “this is sooo my life,” thank you! I’ll be expecting brilliant suggestions on what to write about next…