Goodbye to Anna Merlan, Finally Skulking Into the Night Where She Belongs

Photo: Tod Seelie (Instagram)

After five years at Jezebel, Special Projects, and Jezebel, our most beloved conspiracy theory-deflater and receiver of terrible emails Anna Merlan leaves us today. You know what that means: It’s time for a motherfucking roast.

Emma Carmichael, Unemployed Writer in Los Angeles/Former Editor-in-Chief, Jezebel

It was a major coup to hire Anna away from Witches Quarterly back in 2014, and I can’t imagine Jezebel without her contributions over the past five years. She is a fearless, dogged reporter, and her work has made the G/O/Univision/Gawker sites consistently better. Her 2016 Tr*mp descriptors alone should earn her a spot in the blog hall of fame.

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I’m probably not the only person who suspects that Anna moved to Los Angeles so that she wouldn’t have to attend her own Jezebel goodbye party, but I’m very glad she’s here, because it means I’m not the only person in this cheery city wearing all black at any given moment. And I think she’s really going to thrive as the newest cast member of Vanderpump Rules.

Stassa Edwards, Features Editor, Jezebel

Though I’ve had the pleasure of working with Anna for years, I think I’ve only ever seen her in person two or three times. She has an amazing ability to be absent from every single celebratory event, but she manages to appear—like an apparition in all black—at some of the worst moments in history, like the 2016 Republican National Convention and the inauguration of Donald Trump. Can’t quite say why that is—it could be that I work remotely, but it could be that Anna is a harbinger of doom.

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But, to be painfully earnest, even if she is a harbinger of doom (quite likely) there is truly no one at Jezebel who I would have rather spent a week with at the RNC or reporting on anti-abortion activists at the Women’s March. She’s one of the most talented, smartest writers I’ve ever worked with, and I hate that she’s leaving. I’ll miss her droll humor and especially miss her fearlessness. Even worse, now I’ll have to read Vice.

Ellie Shechet, Grad Student/Former Senior Writer, Jezebel

At a going-away party Anna hosted recently before moving, somehow, to a sunny location, she bought sorbet and non-dairy whipped cream to accommodate my many humiliating food allergies. I almost cried. A dessert? For me? Anna was firm. “You should demand this from people,” she told me. While that is objectively not good advice, it is reflective of the great spirit of Anna, who is the most generous person I have ever met. She is also a fantastic reporter who does, in every other imaginable scenario, give really good advice.

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Alexis Sobel Fitts, Deputy Editor, Jezebel

I read Anna Merlan before I ever knew her, so I can accurately testify that she’s intimidating on the page. She is unmoved by fame or power; she once confronted Alex Jones in a fucking Mexican restaurant. Her prose is sparing and incisive, but secretes active glee in those (frequent) moments when Anna has dug up secrets that impugn some unsuspecting fool for active bullshit or lies.

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But Anna, as all who know her have begun to notice, has changed in recent months, after moving to Los Angeles “for” her relationship. In hindsight, the signs were there all along. The “photographer” boyfriend; the adherence to visual ephemera; the naturally voluminous blonde hair; the sunrise shots; her deep and abiding love for the designs of Rachel Pally. Now, as an influencer for camping goths, Anna has finally found her purpose. Congratulations, Anna! Your calm commitment to self-actualization is an inspiration to us all.

Kate Dries, Senior Features Editor, Vice/Former Deputy Editor, Jezebel

What do you say to the woman who either skips or Irish goodbyes every event, whether it’s a low-key hang or a party? YOU CAN’T ESCAPE ME NOW BITCH BECAUSE WE WORK TOGETHER AGAIN.

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Clover Hope, Culture Editor, Jezebel

The first time I met Anna Merlan was in a secret chamber in the Gawker Media office, where she was casting a spell while wearing a lizard mask and muttering something about the moon landing. What a cliche, I thought... I figured it was strange, but we exchanged pleasantries and I tucked that moment away for years. So when she released a book about conspiracy theories I found it, let’s say interesting. Still then, I didn’t find it necessary to reveal her secret. But now that she’s leaving Jezebel, after years of the smartest reporting on the toughest topics and a resilience I envy, one that actually seems... alien... it seems like the right time. Anna Merlan has scammed us all and it’s time the world knew. I love her anyway.

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Katie McDonough, Senior Editor, Jezebel

If I ever have a child, I will vaccinate that child, and I will dedicate that vaccination to Anna.

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Julianne Escobedo Shepherd, Editor-in-Chief, Jezebel

I come here to lob not a roast but a confession: Sometime in 2015, a distant blip in the five years Anna and I have worked together, I giddily Slacked her to tell her I’d seen Nick Cave on the street in Soho, near our old office on Elizabeth Street, one thousand years and maybe six or seven companies ago. Before I made it to the office, I realized I had not seen Nick Cave, but in fact, had seen Jim Jarmusch.

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I never told Anna, because I feared it would devastate her. I know there are a lot of people who love Nick Cave, but Anna is the Nick Cave lover with the most gumption, the fiercest passion, and is certainly the only one who’s written such an awesome book about conspiracies. She has a tough exoskeleton and is probably the most fearless reporter I will ever know, but the Nick Cave thing is something to cherish—one clue that beneath her steely visage lies a tender heart. Yes, it’s in a stage of decomposition and will continue to deteriorate until someone finally buys her a Vampires Wife gown and she can retire to the devan—but it’s a tender heart nonetheless.

Also, a warning to her new coworkers (you lucky shits): Watch out for her weed gummies.

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Joanna Rothkopf, Staff Writer and Emmy Winner, Last Week Tonight With John Oliver/Former Senior Editor, Jezebel

Anna is as spooky as she is brilliant, and, by moving to Los Angeles, played herself more than anyone else ever could. I love her very much, and, more meaningfully, so does my mother.

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Ashley Reese, Staff Writer, Jezebel

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Molly Osberg, Senior Writer, Special Projects? and Jezebel Blogger

Anna is so committed to her personal brand that when she went to run through the canyons of Los Angeles or whatever she “accidentally” left me a bottle of holy water and an upside-down cross. More troublingly, she believes that all dogs should wear shoes. Sad to hear she’s joining Blink 182.

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Hamilton Nolan, Senior Writer, Splinter

One of the last times I saw Anna Merlan on the street in NYC was outside of some seedy Coney Island tattoo parlor, which is very much her “natural” environment. Shortly after that she was forced to move to sunny Los Angeles, which is very funny to imagine. When we started the Gawker Media union, Anna was one of the few people who had actually been in a union before, and was one of the people most responsible for convincing a bunch of neurotic media people that a union was a good idea. Later, Glenn Greenwald yelled at her for not being “left” enough to support unions, which was also extremely funny. And now, in the cruelest blow of all, Anna is leaving the highly respected confines of GOING! Media to work with the untested and amateurish editors at VICE. It is almost enough to make you think that shadowy, powerful forces are working behind the scenes to make Anna suffer for all of our sins.

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But I won’t get into that. Only crazy people care about conspiracy theories.

Kelly Faircloth, Senior Writer, Jezebel

If they rebooted The X-Files tomorrow, Anna Merlan could easily play the part of all three of the Lone Gunmen rolled into one. I am confident that she is, in fact, a witch who can sense the presence of skeleton and/or bone-related art from as far as eleven miles away, depending on the weather.

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Something you might not know about Anna: She is in fact the inspiration for Morticia Addams. I say this partly as a roast, but also partly because she is genuinely a warm, wonderful person who would and in fact could come break you out of Area 51 and/or some sort of Haunting of Hill House adjacent demonic possession type situation if you asked her. She would, as you made your escape, quickly get everyone she saw on the record and, once you were both safely ensconced in a nearby Motel 6, file an incredibly smart, thoughtful, humane piece of longform investigative journalism about the experience. I know this because I have lived through five years of this company’s byzantine bullshit with her, and I will miss her immensely.

Brendan O’Connor, Writer/Former Jezebel Writer

The cruelest thing that I could do to Anna would be to describe, in public, with all sincerity, how much I admire her.

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For as long as I have been working as a professional journalist, I have looked up to Anna as an example of the kind of writer I want to be: unshakeable in her commitment to her principles without being blinded by them; unafraid to tell the truth no matter how many death threats she might receive or job prospects she might torch; empathetic to the individual without losing sight of the structural. And, above all, funny.

In time, I was lucky enough to work directly with Anna and to learn from her, at first just by virtue of proximity, although eventually, thanks to a series of shared traumatic and destabilizing events—the explosion of Gawker, the election of Donald Trump, the arbitrary and irrational management of Univision—we became friends. I’ve never stopped looking up to her, though, and I can only hope that I have been as good a friend to her as she has been to me.

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They say that you should never meet your sheroes, but if I’d never met Anna my life would be much poorer for it.

Kelly Stout, Senior Editor, Longreads/Former Features Editor, Jezebel

I love Anna so much as a friend and a colleague, and although I respect the hell out of her, I am not afraid of her because I know her insides are soft and full of gummies. Congratulations to her on her new job as executive director of Generation Rescue!

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Gita Jackson, Staff Writer, Kotaku

I have spent my entire time at FMG/GMG/G/O terrified of saying hello to Anna Merlan because she always looks like she’s about to start a knife fight.

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Raphael Orlove, Features Editor, Jalopnik

I was always happy to see Anna in the office, though never hear her (her feet never touched the ground, she hovers half an inch above the floor) but am glad that she will be returning to her old job hosting Movie Macabre.

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Mike Ballaban, Deputy Editor, Jalopnik

Anna would sometimes approach, and dark clouds would gather, a glowing skull clutched in her hands. “A blog, a bloooooog,” she would wail. That blog was invariably brilliant, written and reported with ten times the skill of most pretenders. Kind, sharp, and incredibly down-to-earth, Anna’s the sort of person most journalists dream of working with. Don’t know what was up with the skull.

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Sam Woolley, Ex-GMG Employee and Ex-Neighbor of Anna Merlan

If Anna leaving GMG to go to Vice doesn’t show you how fucked up this place is, what will?

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Cecilia D’Anastasio, Senior Reporter, Kotaku

Anna is known for her incisive and critical approach to writing and interviewing (and for being office goth) so I was shocked when she responded quite gracefully the one time I accidentally referred to her as “Ashley.” I’d gone and seen Anna give a talk before I was hired here and generally worshipped everything she wrote, so being that this was our first conversation IRL, it was mortifying for me. She played it cool. When I attempted to explain that, in fact, I knew the difference between Anna Merlan and Ashley Feinberg and, actually, I actually worship Anna Merlan, Anna too became mortified and quiet and the remaining conversation was extremely painful.

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Since that interaction, I got to work alongside Anna on the Special Projects Desk (RIP). There, I had the chance to confirm up-close that she is a genius. Because of that, it was a big surprise to learn that Anna is adamant that that low-effort technology like the Lifesize machines are too complicated for her. Every Special Projects meeting, Anna (always first in the room) would groan and mope and whine until someone else came into the room and set up the conference call. Several times, I asked Anna if she’d just sit there for two minutes so I could show her how to use the damn thing and, every time, she refused, citing how uninteresting and how unfair it all was while admiring her manicure.

It is unfair that Anna is leaving us to go to Vice, a company neither of us has any feelings about. Anna provided crucial newsroom training on how to cover sensitive issues gracefully and rigorously. She was always up for giving reporting advice and her advice was always good. Her blogs ripped. It’s a devastating loss for whatever the company’s called now and there’s no bright side to it!

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Madeleine Davies, Daily Editor, Eater/Former Managing Editor, Jezebel

Of the talented people I’ve worked with, Anna is definitely in the top five, maybe even top three. She is an intimidatingly good reporter and I’ve learned so much from her brave and bold style which values the truth over all else. I was honored to work with her always, but especially when we were forming our union, the first of its kind in digital media, and whatever stories we got to collaborate on. She will stand up to anyone—a subject, her bosses, the endless conspiracy accounts that fill her Twitter mentions — if they get in the way of her principles. She also wakes up everyday at something like 5:30 a.m., which is as deranged as it is admirable.

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Anna already shared my best memory of her when I left Jezebel, but guess what, I will tell it again. At the office, she once mentioned to me that a relative of hers died in the particularly horrifying way of having their cereal poisoned. I was so taken aback that I burst out laughing. Anyone else would have rightfully slapped me, but Anna, like me, is a freak so she started laughing, too, leading us both into a state of near hysteria (classic Jezebel!), which was really unsettling for everyone who witnessed us both cry-laughing over a murdered person.

Anyway, I know Anna is going to keep doing great work and better yet, I’m optimistic that she’ll finally start getting credit for it now that she’s out of women’s media and therefore, according to the rest of the news world, worthy of the respect she and the rest of the site have deserved all along.

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Aleks Chan, Editor-in-Chief, Splinter

Frankly, I am infuriated by Anna’s talent—honestly, how dare she be so good? Her work has been formative to what made GMG (R-I—and I cannot stress this enough—P) the most ambitious, exciting, and depraved newsroom in this hell business. But I will always know Anna first and perhaps foremost as Enid Shaw, her indelible pseudonym from her evenings auditioning to work Gawker nights, which feels like centuries ago, and possibly from a different reality entirely. Enid is no more and Anna is leaving, taking her truly groundbreaking reporting with her, but at least we’ll always have the good times we shared about the bad tweets. #badtw33ts forever.

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Kelsey McKinney, Staff Writer, Deadspin

It is very rude of Anna to leave so soon after I arrived here at the Heartbeat of Next, and I am taking it as a personal offense. Just to spite her, I am not going to share with her the FOIA documents I have received pertaining to “aliens” and “unidentified objects” and “Tom DeLonge.”

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Tom Ley, Features Editor, Deadspin

Anna quoted me in her book, which made me feel extremely cool. I knew this before I grabbed a copy of it at her book party, but then spent the whole night fighting back the urge to flip through the pages and find my name. I didn’t want to look like a dweeb! After a while Anna came up to me and asked me if I had found my name yet, and when I started mumbling some reply she just took the book from my hands, immediately opened it to the page where I was quoted, and then handed it back to me. She got a real kick out of showing it to me and watching my reaction.

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I’m telling this story because I think it’s a good example of just how generous and kind Anna is. There she was at her own book party—celebrating the publication of her very first book! A big deal!—and she still went out of her way to do the small kindness of showing me my name in print. It was very nice.

Megan Reynolds, Managing Editor, Jezebel

There are certain days in our Times Square office when the usually-stale air that flows through these halls feels different. You’ll catch it on the way to the bathroom, or passing through the kitchen rummaging for snacks—the faint scent of sage and piñon trees, a hint of earthy lavender. Arid air. A desert breeze. The lights of the billboards in Times Square take on an eerie, otherworldly quality; if you squint and really believe, around every corner, a Santa Fe sunset, bleeding vermilion and crimson and shocking pink against a darkening sky. A roadrunner darts out of a conference room and stares at me, before disappearing down the hallway. In the distance, I see our very own desert bat—my favorite tumbleweed—a vision in black, a string of Hatch chiles around her neck. Anna Merlan, proud New Mexican, is in the office.

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In case you were unfamiliar with Anna’s background, here’s a brief primer: she’s from New Mexico. She talks about it all the time. She tweets about it. She writes about it. It is her identity. The daughter of the Sandia Mountains has other interests, too, of which i have heard about at length: vaccinations; cults; makeup; the big cat she used to live with but no longer does. None of these interests are as interesting to her as being from New Mexico, which, as I now know, is the only thing that matters to Anna. Working with Anna over the years, I have become used to this propaganda, though I have not enjoyed it. I do not care to learn more about adobe, but if you stumble across Anna in the late afternoon, before she turns into an actual tumbleweed and makes her way home, you can learn about it, if you want.

Vice, I wish you the best of luck with this one. And Anna? Hey? Anna?? FUCK YOU!!

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Tod Seelie, Photographer

Anna denies being a vampire, but I have witnesses who will corroborate that she does, in fact, sleep with her arms crossed across her chest (I wish this was a joke). I feel somewhat bad for convincing her to move to Los Angeles, where she shrieks in pain every time direct sunlight hits her skin. But since it’s at a frequency too high for me to hear, it’s been fine. Honestly, it’s very impressive to see how effortlessly she can blog with one hand and apply eyeliner with the other, all while hanging upside down from the ceiling.

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I also devised a way to photograph her true spiritual essence (like an aura photo) and have included it below. 

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This post has been updated to include Tod Seelie’s important response.

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