INCOMING

Jenna Wortham Is Still Processing

The journalist and podcast host has emerged as one of our favorite voices on culture

Shane Paul Neil
Published in
5 min readJan 14, 2020

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Illustration: Olivia Fields

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JJenna Wortham is active. Dishes and pots clang in the background, and she makes no apologies about what will be a noisy chat. “I just process better when I’m moving around,” she says.

It’s hard not to imagine the Virginia native’s kitchen as a culinary counterpart to her geek-chic style: stylish but accessible. Maybe some vintage cookware to go along with her textured curls and funky pastel frames.

Wortham, 37, is a culture writer for the New York Times, where she co-hosts the paper’s podcast Still Processing alongside film critic Wesley Morris, unpacking everything from cancel culture and stand-up comedy to the 20th anniversary of Fight Club. Her approach to both writing and podcasting is singular — she’s approachable and doesn’t take herself or her topics too seriously. Wortham’s comfort with herself, and the world she inhabits, makes her work feel like a dialogue instead of a diatribe. In between clangs and hops, she shared her innermost thoughts on being a member of queer nation, how she splurged on Black Friday, and her biggest flex of 2019 — even if she wasn’t awake when it happened.

Level: You wrote for Wired before going to the New York Times. How do you know when it’s time to disconnect?

Jenna Wortham: When I was a young reporter covering the tech world, it was hard times. I didn’t have a traditional journalism background, so I felt like I had to compensate and overworked myself. I was having a hard time sleeping, started having panic attacks. I didn’t know what was happening. I was overeating and overdrinking. I didn’t really know how to cope. I started taking Lexapro, which is an anti-anxiety medication. It really came out of a place of urgency and emergency. Once I had that solid foundation in place, I started to understand that my body’s relationship to nutrition and exercise fundamentally gave me a baseline for how I was feeling on a day-to-day basis.

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Shane Paul Neil
LEVEL
Writer for

Writer (duh) and photographer. Bylines @levelmag @complex @ebony @huffpo shanepaulneil.com