Jordan G. Teicher is a writer based in Brooklyn. His work has appeared in The New York Times, The Guardian, and The New Republic, among other publications. Learn more at jordangteicher.weebly.com or by following @teicherj on Twitter.
You’re new to ghostwriting and you want to get into thought leadership. Why is that?
I love when I have the opportunity to put words in people’s mouths, which is something you don’t get to do in journalism necessarily. On the side, I write plays, and I think I would enjoy finding the middle ground between totally making something up, inventing characters and doing dialogue, and then the sort of work that happens in journalism where you’re writing about or speaking to timely issues and things that are happening in the real world. I think thought leadership would be an interesting place to be: ghostwriting on behalf of people who want to talk about real things happening in the world who don’t have the words to address it.
I’ve also noticed some throughlines in your work—across mediums. You seem to really get to know the people in your stories, like in your feature on Brooklyn, Mississippi.
Yeah, my favorite stories to do are about other people’s lives, and the interesting things that they do and the perspectives that they have. I think journalism is its most fun when you’re out in the world, actually connecting with people and having experiences that you couldn’t otherwise. You have an excuse to talk to people who you wouldn’t get to talk to in the normal course of your life.
For instance, in the case of that story, I was driving through Mississippi and found an occasion to stop into a little place called Brooklyn. I met some really interesting characters and I ended up being driven around in a pickup truck all day and meeting all sorts of people. That’s just an example of the sorts of experiences that, you know, people who don’t have a recorder or a pen and a pad in their hands wouldn’t get to have.
How did you get into all of this? You have written so much, but do you remember your first-ever writing endeavor?
I grew up loving to read, and the only thing I ever wanted to do in my life was become a writer. I probably initially thought that I would write fiction, but once I joined the newspaper in high school, I found that that writing came easily to me and it was a way to have something to write about. In fiction you face the blank page and that can be very intimidating.
With journalism, you get an assignment and then you go out and do it. I like the instant satisfaction you have with an arrangement like that.
I was always very shy growing up and journalism brought me out of my shell—forced me out of it, in fact. I remember that, when I first started, I was definitely afraid of talking to people, which is not a good quality when you’re trying to do journalism. Over the years journalism actually has changed me and my personality and who I am and what I’m comfortable doing.
Are you still changing and developing?
I think a lot of journalists still get nervous when they’re reaching out to a subject that they haven’t spoken to before, or they might get nervous asking a hard question. I still deal with that, but the thing is that I don’t hesitate to do it.
I think I’m still developing in the sense that I’m still figuring out what kind of writer I want to be, what kinds of topics I want to explore, and the type of writing I want to do. The amazing and exciting thing about being a writer is that you don’t have to decide and stop evolving. You can one day read something interesting and decide, OK, that’s what I want to write about now, follow that thread for a little while, and then change your mind later on.
Do you feel like you have a community of writers around you? Do you have a mentor?
I certainly do have writer friends, in large part because of the jobs that I’ve had. I’ve had great colleagues along the way who I’ve befriended. I think it’s great in life, if you’re a writer, to have friends who are also writers and to have friends who are not. You can learn a lot by speaking with other writers, but you can in many cases learn a lot more by just talking to people who don’t have the same interests as you.
In terms of mentors, I would have to say that my writer role model is an amazing reporter and person named Sheila Anne Feeney, who I worked with at amNewYork. She’s had none of the difficulties that I did, as far as I know, in terms of not feeling comfortable talking to people. She’s incredibly gregarious and interested in whomever she talks to. Among other things that I take from knowing her, she taught me that you can strike up a conversation with pretty much anyone, and you probably should if you’re a reporter.
You’ve written about so many different topics, from monster trucks to the climate apocalypse, but not politics. Do you feel pressure to fit into the regular news cycle, or comment on what’s happening in D.C.?
I don’t think I fit into that at all, actually. I know I just used the term “reporter,” but I’ve never really thought of myself as a reporter in the sense of chasing the latest shiny objects. There are a lot of people who love doing that and are very good at that and we need people to do that, but I’ve never loved it nor have I felt that I was particularly good at it.
I think of myself primarily as a feature writer. As you said, I have very eclectic and often niche interests, and I think that we need people who are pursuing eclectic and niche topics in order to have a broadly informed public, which I guess is sort of what I am in the business of trying to do: inform people about different ideas, people, and scenarios that they might not read about elsewhere.
What’s next for you? … if you will, the next not-shiny object that you’ll be chasing?
I wrote about photography pretty much exclusively for a number of years and I’m still doing that, but I’d say that the topic that’s of most interest to me now is issues of ecology and climate change and humanity’s relationship with the natural world and all of that. I’m still figuring out how exactly to do that in my writing, but I’ve started, and I think that going forward the sort of stories that I produce will be along those lines.
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