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You would think that Lori Leibovich, editor of the New York Times Well Bureau, has an ultra-rigorous wellness regimen. In fact, Ms. Leibovich approaches her health as most Times readers do. “I don’t have a crazy fitness routine and I don’t take handfuls of supplements,” she said in a recent interview. “I just feel worse when I don’t take good care of myself.” For Ms Leibovich, that means going for walks and meditating for 10 minutes a day – what she calls her “non-negotiables”.
Longtime health and lifestyle journalist, Ms Leibovich joined The Times in 2021 after holding senior positions at outlets including Time Inc., The Huffington Post and The Skimm. Below, Ms. Leibovich explains how she approaches an ever-changing and ever-expanding pace. His responses have been edited and condensed.
How did you learn to cover the rhythm of lifestyle, health and well-being?
I have always applied the same reporting rigor to lifestyle topics that my colleagues have in news, business and sports. At a time when health misinformation is rampant, we offer something unique to The Times because of the rigor with which we publish our reporting. I want to make sure that the information we give readers will help them lead safer and healthier lives.
Why is a reader-centric approach so important to the Well office?
Whether the topic is mental health, physical health, families or relationships, takeout really matters to people. We don’t just entertain them. We don’t always provide clear news. We provide advice on the topics that people care about most, so getting it right is really important. Of course, it’s always important to get it right, but it seems like the impact here is immediate.
What is the editorial strategy behind the cover of Well?
It’s a combination of the surprising and the universal. Or, when we cover something like Covid-19, we try to anticipate and report on the questions readers have. We also cover different rhythms, such as mental health, relationships, and fitness. We try to stay ahead of the curve and report on trends in these areas. We listen to our readers and speak to issues that are important to them. We did it last year for a great story about sleep and got thousands of responses.
Are there any types of stories or projects you want to see more of or feature?
Right from the start of The Times, I really wanted the mental health section to double. It was clear for years before the pandemic that we were dealing with a mental health crisis in this country. Now the pandemic has made the situation worse for people of all ages, backgrounds and genders. I assigned a reporter and an editor to cover that beat, and we did an outstanding job of that. We also continue to cover the virus and look at more aspects of functional medicine like psychedelics.
We are also trying to have more fun with fitness. We have just launched a section called Why not try, which provides users with an accessible way to try out exciting new activities such as biking and kayaking. We also launched a few months ago a video called The workout of joy, which provides fitness coverage less focused on calories burned and more focused on the joy of moving. A big part of what keeps people healthy is their relationships, so I hired a reporter to cover that beat too.
Do you have a dream well project?
This question reminds me of one of my favorite movies of all time, “Boyhood”. Richard Linklater, the director, followed a mother, father and their children for 12 years and captured the family at different times. I have always thought about this film and I wished that, on a journalistic level, I could launch a project like this. Illness and the art of healing are long, complicated and bumpy. Relationships are complicated and bumpy. Sometimes a snapshot doesn’t tell the whole story, and things can change very quickly. It would be really nice to have a longer story arc.
What is your approach to editing?
I have two hats: that of publisher and that of reader. I’m a voracious consumer of media, so I know when an article gets me down. Sometimes it’s because of the length, but sometimes it’s because the writer got too confused and I lost track. I try to be a stand-in for the reader when I edit. I hope we’re the one-stop-shop for reliable advice, and we cut through the noise to give readers the answers they’re looking for.
You’ve been covering this beat for a long time. Where does your personal passion for this type of journalism come from?
If I hadn’t become a journalist, I would have become a therapist. I come from a family of therapists; my father was a psychiatrist and my mother is a psychiatric social worker. A big part of what drives me is understanding the things that shape our lives. I’m curious about many things, but what really fascinates me is human behavior and how our minds and bodies work.
What I hope to shine through in our coverage is empathy – the idea that we are all doing our best and that we are all in this human experience together. We are all trying to figure out how to be as healthy and happy as possible. If we can give people the tools to take care of themselves and their families, to be a better friend, partner or parent, that’s what we want to do.