On March 2, Kelly Fisher Butler, a former Eagle and staff member on the Eagle’s Eyrie, dropped in on Godwin’s journalism class to talk about her current job.
Butler works at Vanity Fair as their Digital Managing Editor and has held this position for the past seven years.
Before being hired by Vanity Fair, Butler graduated from James Madison University’s School of Media Arts and Design with a concentration in print journalism.
Her first job was working as an editorial assistant at the magazine Washington Life. After working at this magazine for about two years, Butler decided to move up to New York City.
“I was doing too many things at once, I didn’t really have the time to focus on applying for jobs, and I sort of just took a leap of faith and I went up [to New York] and applied for kind of anything.”
In New York, Butler got a part-time job as a freelance writer for America Online, Inc. (AOL). Her responsibilities at this job included writing entertainment stories for AOL’s homescreen. AOL then merged with the Huffington Post, and Butler got a full-time job with the Huffington Post’s entertainment and celebrity section.
When her boss decided to move to Vanity Fair from Huffington Post, he took Butler with him.
Butler became the magazine’s Digital Managing Editor. She is responsible for the online stories and projects that Vanity Fair runs.
As a digital managing editor, Butler often gets the opportunity to work on special projects.
“We have our Hollywood Issue, so I work on the digital presentation of that, or I’ll work on the digital experience we have at our Oscar party every year, which is so much work but so much fun,” said Butler.
The Oscar Party is one of Vanity Fair’s largest projects that they work on. Vanity Fair invites athletes, movie stars, fashion icons, influencers, musicians, and others to “rub shoulders, share secrets, and toast to the cinema, generating enough star wattage to light up Sunset Boulevard,” according to vanityfair.com.
Butler has had the opportunity to meet several stars including Taylor Swift, Lady Gaga, Robert Pattinson, and even made eye contact with Beyonce.
“It’s the coolest experience…you see Reese Witherspoon at the bar with Robert Pattinson. I was on the dance floor with the Jonas Brothers,” said Butler. “It’s a fever dream of celebrities.”
One of the biggest stories and projects Butler has been involved in was when Caitlyn Jenner was on the cover of Vanity Fair in 2015. This was the first time Jenner came out as transgender publicly.
Photo Vanity Fair – Annie Leibovitz
Butler described it as being the most top-secret project Vanity Fair has worked on so far.
“We used code words, there was a very small circle of people who knew who what was going to be on the cover, and anybody who was working on this story had to turn off their WiFi, turn off any connection to the internet because we were incredibly concerned someone was going to hack in and leak the story,” said Butler.
When the story was launched, there was record-breaking traffic on the site.
“It was obviously a huge cultural moment, and it was really an honor to be a part of that issue,” said Butler.
When controversial and top secret projects are taking place, Butler emphasized the importance of fact checking and accuracy.
“[There’s] a fine line between entertainment and being factual. Our number one goal [is being] factual,” said Butler.
In Butler’s day-to-day life during the pandemic, she typically has many Zoom meetings with other editors and writers for the magazine and digital site.
Some of the meetings include a newsletter check in, what’s on the magazine line up, and communicating with consultants to find out the analytics of the site.
For any aspiring writer, Butler offers advice.
“Figure out something you’re interested in and become an expert in that, and then you can weave that into the kind of journalism that you’re doing,” said Butler.