Ellis Jones (B.A. ’07) is editor-in-chief of VICE Magazine
You might expect the first female editor-in-chief of VICE’s print magazine to be a domineering spitfire, full of one-liners, side-eyeing and devil-may-care promenade, but Ellis Jones is anything but. The 32-year-old media mogul sports a flaxen bob and peers out from behind her bangs and eyeglasses with equal parts grace and certainty. More even-keeled and unassuming than flashy, Jones makes kindness and calm look edgy.
Jones was surprised when she was promoted to the helm of the unofficial organ of edge and culture in February 2015, but she’s since settled into the role.
“If I say yes to something, and it’s a disaster, I’ll be taking the blame for it,” she said. But having worked almost every role within the magazine, Jones has every reason to feel confident about running the ship at one of today’s most influential media companies.
She began her career with VICE as an intern in 2008, back when there were only about 100 employees. She worked her way up the ladder, remaining with the company for the entirety of her career, except for her nine months as the U.S. chief of staff for the Daily Mail. That single-mindedness is one of her hallmarks, and the reason she wound up as a journalism major at Georgia State. It’s the only school she applied to.
“I didn’t want to be in a college town,” she said. “That wasn’t the experience I was looking for.”
Nowadays, she walks to VICE’s waterfront office in Brooklyn every morning, manages her team and at any given time has 10 New York Times tabs open on her browser.
What she doesn’t care to bother with? Social media. A print-savant through and through, Jones says she only got a Twitter account because she had to for her job, and she is highly protective of her personal life, preferring to keep her opinions and personality off the internet.
“I’m afraid I’m going to sound weird or say the wrong things or come off a way that I didn’t mean to,” she said.
At the end of the day, she meets up with friends for dinner and drinks or goes home to kick back with a movie and a book. She tries to read for 30 minutes before bed every night from a stack on her bedside table that includes titles by Gloria Steinem, Eileen Myles and Paula Hawkins (author of the recent film-adapted thriller, “The Girl on the Train”).
“Lately I’ve been reading all female writers,” she said. Those influences show in the magazine’s output since Jones took charge. Last August’s annual photo issue featured work by all women photographers, and Vice’s artist profiles, investigative dispatches and personal essays are all featuring more female voices than ever before.
“I like the idea of being able to help females out in their careers,” she said.
At a magazine that once had a reputation for sexism and lewd and shocking content, these shifts, however subtle, matter.
“I think that VICE’s content has changed a lot over the years. If we do something that might be a bit weird or gross, I think there’s a reason for us doing it now,” she said.