Kaarin Vembar is an editor at Retail Dive in Washington, D.C. Vembar has also worked as a fashion consultant, and she is co-host of the podcast Pop Fashion. In this interview, conducted by email, Vembar discusses her job at Retail Dive, including how headline writing works at the site.
Q. Describe your job at Retail Dive. What is your typical day like?
A. My day starts by gorging on news. I read as much as possible first thing every morning (Wall Street Journal, New York Times, Washington Post, Reuters, CNBC, CNN, WWD, Business of Fashion, Tech Crunch, Seeking Alpha, Bloomberg, etc.). I’m also reading the wires, checking news that is emailed to me, reading Twitter and checking in on what other business reporters are chatting about on social media.
Then I move into either writing or straight into editing. I edit for between three to four hours in the morning. In the afternoons, I help decide what stories we are pursuing for the next day, and then I work on editing longer features.
My favorite part is collaborating with reporters and freelancers on large stories ideas. We get together and brainstorm and work through a story’s angle, potential sources and how to build it out. I typically have a couple of longer feature articles that I’m writing as well. That means doing research, calling sources, reading for background, conducting interviews and writing.
Throughout the week, there is a smattering of meetings to work on editorial planning, larger projects and pitching ideas.
At the end of the day, I do a round of reading SEC documents. Then at home I continue to read, read, read business news that happened during the day outside of my industry. Then I go on a walk and usually think of a story idea.
Q. How do story editing and headline writing work at Retail Dive?
A. We go through multiple rounds of edits for each story.
Headline writing is first done by the reporter, but then is refined through the editing process. Many times we workshop headlines with another editor or as a group.
I’m a big advocate for sending headlines into a pun round. That means throwing it out to the group and seeing who can come up with a headline that contains a pun or doing a version that makes everyone laugh. The pun version rarely makes it to final copy. However, it is a fantastic exercise that helps us think creatively and gives us room to play with words. The one-upmanship always gets us to a more interesting place.
After a story is published, I see how other news organizations have worked their headlines and assess ours. Could we have worded it better? Positioned the story in a different way? My objective is to continually sharpen the language, the angle.
Q. You’ve also worked as a merchandising manager and fashion consultant. What is it like covering a profession that you’ve worked in?
A. Oh my goodness, it’s so freaking fun. It’s. So. Fun.
I’ve worked in retail in some form on and off since I was 17, and I’ve always enjoyed it.
As a fashion consultant, I started seriously following industry news, and it slowly became an obsession. Retail news is better than anything you will watch on TV. You see companies rise and fall. You follow audacious c-suite personalities and their decision making.
The stakes are high because there is so much money on the line. We are living through a huge time of change with retail, so following the business of it is all drama all the time.
My time as a fashion consultant and in merchandising directly informs my reporting and continually feeds ideas for pitches. That work gave me a practical understanding of trade relations and tariffs. Of margins. Of supply chain. Of dealing with consumer frustration.
It also gave me discipline. I used to get up at 5:30 a.m. to go merchandise a store and think, “Now why am I doing this?” The grind of being in stores every day gave me a sharp eye for the reality of retail. It was an amazing education.
Q. What advice do you have for journalism students interested in internships and jobs at Dive sites?
A. Oh, dear goodness — apply! Apply!
It never occurred to me when I was in school that business-to-business (B2B) was a type of journalism that I could pursue. But B2B is a blast because you get to go deep on a subject matter. You get to nerd out and are surrounded by people who are just as into it as you are.
Industry Dive has lots of publications including Marketing, BioPharma, Banking, Food, MedTech, Restaurants and Smart Cities. I’m a cheerleader for this company because I’m surrounded by smart, passionate co-workers and leadership that believes in the power of great journalism.