On August 6, Mandy Stadtmiller started as a deputy editor at Jane Pratt’s women’s-interest site xoJane—the date was marked “Job Starts” in her iCal—but that wasn’t the biggest thing that happened to her that day. XoJane had just lost one of its main attractions in beauty bloggger trainwreck Cat Marnell, but happily Ms. Stadtmiller was able to generate considerable attention of her own. In the morning, she published a piece entitled “I Inspired a ‘Bad’ Version of Myself on Aaron Sorkin’s The Newsroom.” The SEO-enabled headline was no joke; the piece detailed Ms. Stadtmiller’s brief romantic relationship with Mr. Sorkin. The movie and television writer had written into the show a hard-charging gossip reporter character he told Ms. Stadtmiller he was calling “Bad Mandy.”
The emails between the pair are included in the piece—Ms. Stadtmiller published screenshots. “It was a choice that changed that relationship forever,” she told Off the Record over calamari and Diet Cokes at a steakhouse near xoJane’s NoMad offices. “And it was the right choice to make … I obviously recognized that he’s not going to like it. But I chose to crucify myself and paint him as kindly as possible.”
“I heard from him two times after the piece,” she went on. “The first time, he was very nice. The second time, he was very pissed.”
The former New York Post scribe knows how to play a story for all it’s worth—especially when it’s about her own experience. She published stories at the tabloid about a night with America’s first legal male prostitute and undergoing the New York Jets cheerleaders’ training regimen, as well as a dating column, “About Last Night” (“We kiss a little, but it’s the holding that sends shivers down my spine.”).
This first-person, self-as-news approach is perfect for xoJane: the site’s exclusives are derived from the fact that they happened to the staff. With her first-day story of ending up on the small screen thanks to an Oscar-winning cad of an ex, Ms. Stadtmiller fit in immediately; she’s since written about masturbating to Paul Ryan and worrying that all her friendships are “transactional.”
Ms. Stadtmiller’s tenure at the Post began in 2005 and ended this February, when the writer chose to leave and announced plans to publish a roman á clef, entitled News Whore, which she works on over the weekends. She insisted that she will not burn any bridges—“I do not enjoy ruining lives … If I’m writing about doing a line of blow at my desk with a Fox News reporter, not naming him is a classier way to do it!” Even the title, News Whore, isn’t meant to be taken at face value. “I’m positioning it the way the Post would position it. ‘Slutty, Crazy Girl Tells All!’”
The Post was ultimately not for her, due to its reliance on the sort of easily digested narrative that makes the morning commute pass quickly. “It’s this black-white, hero-villain, News Corp. storyline.” Those looking for dirt on Rupert Murdoch may be disappointed: Ms. Stadtmiller never tapped a phone or anything of the sort. The misdeeds here are subtler. “Did I feel like I had to crucify people just to have an angle? I did.” (On that note, she counts The Journalist and the Murderer by Janet Malcolm among her favorite books.)
As a character in the xoJane cast, Ms. Stadtmiller may soon get the chance to appear on television; Ms. Pratt is mulling the possibility of an xoJane reality show. The editor published a screenshot of her inbox depicting an email from an executive assistant with the truncated headline “Context for Tomorrow’s Reality Sh …”
“There’s been a lot of different interest, explained Ms. Stadtmiller, “and there’s a likelihood that it’ll happen. For Jane, if it was done the right way, it’s clear that it would make a fun reality show. It’s in progress, and it’s been fun to come on board with that in the works.”
As Jane Pratt told Buzzfeed’s Amy Odell, she’d been taking meetings and saw her newsroom as a good fit. “In hiring, I did feel like I was casting a soap opera or reality show.”
Ms. Stadtmiller, who read Ms. Pratt’s Sassy as a young woman, showed us a text on her own phone. It was from a childhood friend from San Diego, about working with the provocative editor: “I can’t believe you are living our dream.”
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