Après-Midi Recap

Erin Zaleski Feb 2020

Adrian Leeds Group Après Midi - Erin Zaleski

Adrian Leeds with Erin ZaleskiYesterday at Après-Midi, Erin Zaleski told her personal story about how she fell in love with Paris and came to fulfill her dream to become a journalist in the City of Light. She interned with me at that time — was willing to do just about anything to gain experience, meet people, find her niche. It didn’t pan out quite like she had planned, left, survived a winter in Chicago, returned and then struck some luck with Newsweek’s Paris bureau as an intern filing papers…which she described as “merde.” She finally hit the jackpot when the attacks happened in Paris November 13th, 2015 and her journalism skills were badly needed in a pinch and she was in the right place at the right time.

Her story yesterday was titled An Overnight Success, That Took 10 Years.

I can relate. There’s no real such thing as an “overnight success.” Every success story takes talent, work, tenacity and…longevity. If you ever read Malcom Gladwell’s book, Outliers: The Story of Success, then you know the 10,000 hour rule: “claiming that the key to achieving world-class expertise in any skill, is, to a large extent, a matter of practicing the correct way, for a total of around 10,000 hours.” Many people have disputed his claim trying to prove Gladwell wrong, but it doesn’t matter. The point is that nothing comes without effort and practice…and a lot of it. It doesn’t happen overnight, even if 10 years seems like a bit much, even in the City of Light.

Becoming a successful journalist in today’s world is particularly challenging. The world of news and information-gathering has changed dramatically in the last twenty years. The Bureau of Labor Statistics reported that “newspaper publishers lost over half their employment from January 2001 to September 2016.” According to Zaleski, the Washington Post has 16 foreign bureaus and 12 of them are comprised of a single correspondent. The LA Times had 24 foreign correspondents in 2003 and had only 13 in 2011. The LA Times also has 10 so-called foreign bureaus, but eight of them consist of just one person. There went investigative reporting right out the window.

Erin was a lucky stiff to have landed even an internship at Newsweek in Paris and luckier still when she was in the right place at the right time. Outliers talks about that, too…timing. On that topic, I’m currently reading another book that talks about timing: Daniel H. Pink’s When: The Scientific Secrets of Perfect Timing. In an interview by ScientificAmerican.com, Pink said, “I realized that I was making all kinds of ‘when’ decisions in my own life, but I was making them in a haphazard, brainless way. I looked around for some guidance on how to make those decisions better. It didn’t exist. So I began digging into the research and found a veritable trove of material. It took me two years to work through the studies, to analyze them and sort them into something comprehensible. But, what I found really changed my own behavior and my own understanding of just how important timing is. In a sense — and this might sound silly — I wrote this book in order to read it.”

I talk to people weekly about timing: if the timing is right to make their move to France, or rent an apartment vs buy one, or start that business of which they’ve been dreaming vs just getting a job. Understanding the scientific aspects of it can be very useful, but my strategies when working with our clients have more to do with 1) the natural path that seems to be placed before them, 2) financial aspects that can govern the reality of fulfilling their dreams, 3) fears and expectations they might have to overcome or eliminate, 4) understanding the “lay of the land” and how to manage a foreign environment, such as France and the French culture.

Erin pointed out that most people who come to Paris and fall in love with the city, see it through “rosy colored glasses.” This is evident, she explained, by the Instagram posts where people have gone to the trouble to colorizing it to look all pink and pretty. Then the reality sets in that the skies are gray, there’s dog poop on the sidewalk, the bureaucracy is overwhelming, learning the language is tough, the French are culturally our opposites and our rosy bubble is burst. Still, the timing is right for some and in spite of the gray, the poop, the bureaucracy, the language and the French…those who put in their 10,000 hours (or less according to others) manage to make it, when they could have broken it instead.

Erin’s tale was a tale of success against the odds. Her bio describes her as a versatile and dynamic Paris-based writer/editor/journalist specializing in France, travel, features, culture, human rights, and international news. She has written for Newsweek, Agence France-Presse, Billboard, Santa Barbara Magazine, Link TV, The Chicago Reader, Bustle.com, and Northstar Travel Media, among other outlets. She is the current Paris correspondent for The Daily Beast, covering everything from terrorism to art expos to features to politics.

Erin received a Bachelor’s degree in Film Studies from the University of California at Santa Barbara and a Certificat de Langue Française from the Sorbonne IV. She completed a Master’s degree in journalism at Northwestern University’s Medill School of Journalism, with a concentration in Magazine Publishing. When not working, Erin likes exploring her adopted city and getting lost in other European capitals, as well as studying languages and photography, reading, savoring a cup of French chocolat chaud, shopping for vintage clothing (1920s-era party dresses and Hermès scarves from the 1970s especially!) embarking on the odd sky diving or paragliding mission, and skiing at Lake Tahoe. Before moving to Paris, she lived in Sweden, Denmark, Greece, and in various U.S. cities. She has also traveled in about 25 countries and hopes to travel to 100 more before she dies or gets too old to move.

Am I proud of her? Of course I am. From intern to successful journalist…in 10 years or less. Yes. I see it and hear the stories time and again. Over the years, I have had the pleasure of helping hundreds of people find the right timing to make their move, invest in their future, take the leap…call it what you will, but it’s the path to a more fulfilling life…in France. I did it. She did it. You can do it, too.


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In attendance:

• Bob Eifling
• Grace Nakata
• E. Lindsay McFarlane
• Pat Le Blanc
• Betty Moore
• Buck Branson
• Patrice Senez
• Lynn Pritchett
• Cathy Mangan
• Leslie Mow
• Jim and Laurel Giarrusso
• Erin Martin
• Alice Houston
• Robert Jenkins
• Katie Jenkins

• Matthan Jackson
• Craig Carlson
• Lisa Anselmo
• Buck Jones
• Nancy Toolan
• Patty Sadauskas
• Kate Miller
• Jean Hardingski
• Paul Druckman
• Genie Freedman
• Anna Hayes
• Monique Tranchevent
• Dorota Jablonski
• Yael Ménassé Friedberg
• Plus others who did not sign in (or whose name was illegible)!


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