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'Modern Love' On Valentine's Day: Stories Of Love, Loss And Redemption From Readers

(Brian Rea for the New York Times)
(Brian Rea for the New York Times)

With Meghna Chakrabarti

Just in time for Valentine’s Day, we’ll talk with Daniel Jones, editor of the New York Times column “Modern Love.” A lot has changed since it debuted in 2004.


Daniel Jones, editor of the New York Times column “Modern Love.” Author of “Love Illuminated: Exploring Life’s Most Mystifying Subject (with the Help of 50,000 Strangers).” (@danjonesnyt)

From The Reading List

New York Times:The Secret of Modern Love” — “‘She dumped me.’ That’s the first line of the first Modern Love column, published on Oct. 31, 2004, and it’s a tale of heartbreak, obsession and regrettable emails. In the 13 years since, more than 670 columns have followed, and while heartbreak and obsession still dominate, regrettable emails have mostly given way to regrettable texts, Instagram posts and Tinder swipes.

“Our aim with Modern Love was to create a forum that explored love in all of its messy permutations — romantic love, yes, but also joys and strains of friendship and family. After commissioning our first batch of essays, we ran an email address with the column to encourage reader submissions, hoping to find exciting and surprising ideas from beyond our Rolodexes. Within a month, more than enough writing was pouring in to meet our need — to date, some 80,000 essays.”

The Cut: “Q&A: Meet the Man Behind ‘Modern Love’” — “Early in his tenure as editor of the New York Times’s ‘Modern Love’ column, a journalist interviewing Daniel Jones likened him to a ‘male Carrie Bradshaw.’ At the time, that wasn’t exactly right. Then best known for an anthology, The Bastard on the Couch, Jones had never heard of the fictional Sex and the City columnist. He thought he’d been compared to famed Steelers quarterback Terry Bradshaw, whom he idolized — but wasn’t Bradshaw also male?

“Jones got the gig (appropriately enough) through his wife, the novelist and journalist Cathi Hanauer. She edited a 2002 anthology of women’s essays about marriage and feminism called The Bitch in the House; Jones followed that book with a male response, The Bastard on the Couch. The New York Times offered them a personal-essay column to edit as a husband-and-wife team — which they did for about a month, until Hanauer left to work on a novel.

“Next month, HarperCollins will publish Love Illuminated, a survey of love’s big questions based on what Jones has learned from his perch at the country’s foremost platform for mushiness, heartache, and painfully acquired romantic wisdom. Drawing from Times columns and his own life, Love Illuminated has the informal, anthropological approach of early SATC and the barely contained sentimentality of late SATC. Jones spares readers gurulike prescriptions for love, instead offering the kind of natural authority that comes with nearly a decade on any beat, but is unusually reassuring in matters of the heart.”

WBUR: “Modern Love’s Editor Says A Good Submission Has ‘Humility, Openness, Curiosity’” — “For more than 11 years, New York Times editor Daniel Jones has curated Modern Love, a weekly column of reader-submitted essays on love, loss and everything in between. Now with the help of some producers here at WBUR, Modern Love is now also a podcast.

“In anticipation of this season’s episodes, we talked to Jones about what it’s like to edit the immensely popular Times column:

“You’ve been sharing Modern Love submission tips on Facebook for the past few years. If you had to narrow it down to the top three “must read” tips, what would they be?

“1. An editor represents only one column or publication, not an industry. If your work gets rejected, try somewhere else.

“2. Don’t send in your essay when you finish it and feel good about it. Send it in after you’ve stewed over it, reworked it a few times, and feel so-so or even kind of bad about it.

“3. Don’t use lazy descriptors like “amazing” or “handsome” or “incredible” in your first paragraph or anywhere else. It’s an immediate sign that the writer isn’t going to say anything you haven’t heard a thousand times before.”

Brian Hardzinski produced this hour for broadcast.

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