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A recent grad wanted to stay busy and get experience. So she launched a Tumblr dedicated to interviewing 100 people. Not only did she finish, but it helped launch her career.
It introduced us to an abortion doctor and an abortion clinic picketer, a Buddhist priest and a rocket scientist. And now 100 Interviews, a Tumblr based reporting project, is coming to a close.
In October 2010, Gaby Dunn was a recent Emerson College graduate living and working in New York City when she decided to undertake an ambitious journalistic endeavor. The then 22-year-old decided to interview 100 people that she “knew existed in the world but had never met” all in the course of a single year. She set (and met) her deadline: October 1, 2011.
The Village Voice named Dunn’s project the Best Blog on Tumblr in 2010. Dunn said the feeling is mutual: she told the Daily Dot she credits Tumblr with helping her find a lot of her interview subjects.
“The people using Tumblr understand the Internet,” she said. “They were quick and efficient in terms of hooking me up with people who also understand the Internet.”
One of Dunn’s rules for the project was that she wanted to meet 100 “entirely new” people, not friends or acquaintances that happened to fit one of her hundred categories. Tumblr, along with a reporter-specific online service called Help A Reporter Out, aided her in finding “quite a few” of her subjects.
“Tumblr lets you see how many people are following you so I could use it to advertise for the people I needed to interview,” she said.
For those keeping score, that would be 2,500 followers by the end of the project. And that’s just the portion that uses Tumblr — Dunn uses Google Analytics to know that she has 25,000 readers total.
With an audience that large, Dunn was constantly reminded that she wasn’t writing into a vacuum.
“I have an older audience who likes the more feel-good pieces,” she said. “I know Tumblr likes LGBT issues and human sexuality and love stories, or stories about relationships. But the majority of my audience doesn’t have Tumblr and I have to keep that in mind.”
If the majority of her audience doesn’t have Tumblr, how do they read her interviews? The stories are accessible to anyone with a link. In addition, many have seen her stories elsewhere. A number of publications, including the Village Voice, Salon, the Huffington Post and more, have published her stories after they ran on her Tumblr.
It’s easy to believe Dunn when she said 100 Interviews changed her life. She was able to quit her job in another field and pursue the work she really loves: journalism. Eleven months into the project, she began freelance writing full time.
“Last year, I was pretty anonymous. I’d graduated from a small liberal arts college in Boston with a degree in journalism,” she said.
“There are so many people graduating with degrees and internships just like mine, and I really didn’t stand a chance of standing out. So I did something to pass the time, and keep my skills sharp and people just happened to like it. I really lucked out.”
The project is over but Dunn said it isn’t the end of 100 Interviews. She’s spent the first few days of October putting together a book proposal. On November 4, she’s hosting 100 Interviews Live in New York City. And the Tumblr will continue to remain the core.
“I’m going to turn 100 Interviews into a submission site, so I’ll be writing and editing but there will be pieces by other people up there,” she said. “The focus will continue to be ‘people.’”
Lauren Rae Orsini is a web culture reporter who specializes in anime and the business of fandom. Her work has been published by Forbes and Business Insider.