It's difficult to pick a "best" part of The New York Times, but for many, it's the Sunday Styles. For a smaller subset of people, the "Modern Love" column within the Sunday Styles is the super best part of the paper. And for that group, an interview with the man who makes the Modern Loves happen is like a relationship deemed interesting enough to be featured in the Grey Lady.
The Cut spoke with Daniel Jones, the editor of the column, before his book Love Illuminated comes out next month. That book will do a deep dive into what he's learned editing the column, but Jones revealed a few secrets in the interview. Here are some highlights:
Between the first college essay contest in 2008 and the second in 2011, a lot changed.
It was striking that the first time, the winner of the contest — which is representative of what was most on college students' minds — was writing about hooking up, having one sexual relationship after another, and either not caring or trying not to care. How it's all about the physical, with no emotion. Within three years, by the 2011 contest, people weren't really writing about that anymore. They were writing about emotional relationships that were all online that had no physical aspect to them. That's not to say they weren't still hooking up all over the place, but what [they] would try to figure out were these relationships that are about having a bond with someone that maybe they met once — and in many cases, not at all — yet they spend all this time obsessing over them and never having sex with them.
The stories he gets pitched the most consistently are about "Facebook during midlife marriage stress."
People in their thirties, forties, fifties, experiencing a lack of passion, claustrophobia, kids taking all your attention, and the kind of fantasizing that Facebook brings out in them.
A lot of people have been propositioned after their "Modern Love" columns were published.
Jones says that when the column first started, the Times would get emails and letters, but now, most people are so easily Googleable they get contacted personally.
Maria Bello's much-loved column was pitched by her public relations person and didn't require much revision.
Even more props to Maria.
Screenshots via The New York Times