The Insider is produced by a band of writers and editors who work communally but remotely.
Andrea Sachs tried, but she just couldn’t stop being a journalist.
Sachs, who grew up in Oak Park and received B.A. and J.D. degrees at University of Michigan, tried to go back to her first love, English literature, when she retired from Time magazine in 2014. She was working on her Ph.D. thesis (on the works of Ralph Ellison and Richard Wright) at Hunter College in New York when COVID hit.
“From the beginning of the pandemic, I was drawn to write about that,” said Sachs, founder and editor of The Insider, a weekly online magazine she started in March 2020. The name is a pun of sorts; it’s an inside view of pandemic life for people stuck inside. Its motto, printed on the masthead is “Hands on the heart, six feet apart.”
Sachs aimed her magazine at friends and family, but thanks to word-of-mouth and social media, readership ballooned. In February, The Insider grew 42 percent to reach 10,000 unique viewers.
The Insider — view it at theinsider1.com — is produced by a band of writers and editors who work communally but remotely.
Sachs estimates more than a dozen Jews who live in or formerly lived in Metro Detroit have written for the magazine. They include former Detroit News columnist Laura Berman; well-known Detroit attorney David Fink; Merrill Lynn Hansen, a paralegal from West Bloomfield; industrial psychologist Alan Resnick of Farmington Hills; Tobye S. Stein, a retired human resources officer from Northville; Joel Dzodin, formerly of Oak Park, who now lives in Israel; Bonnie Fishman, well-known chef who recently moved to California and Jessie Seigel, formerly of Oak Park, a lawyer who now lives in Washington, D.C., and files a weekly column called “Washington Whispers.”
“It really surprised me that people were coming to me who wanted to write,” Sachs said. “I think people have a lot on their mind right now because of the pandemic, and I think people want to talk about it.”
The Insider has written about people who survived COVID and run obituaries on those who didn’t. Three writers chronicled their own battles with the virus.
After graduating from college in the mid-1970s, Sachs prepared for a law career. She’d considered getting a graduate degree in English, but colleges weren’t hiring English teachers at the time, so it seemed like a dead end. The legal profession was adding women, and law schools were looking for promising female students. Her father, the late Ted Sachs, was a successful Detroit attorney who loved his work. So, she enrolled in U-M’s law school.
Sachs says she knew it was a mistake almost from Day 1 but stuck with it, graduating and taking a job as a government attorney in Washington, D.C. Her epiphany came, after three unhappy years as a lawyer, on March 30, 1981, the day Ronald Reagan was shot.
“I ran down to the hospital where he was taken because it was history in the making,” she said. “I watched the print reporters do person-on-the-street interviews and was interviewed by three female journalists about my own age. I was AWOL from work all day; I never went back to my office. When I left the hospital grounds, all I could think was, ‘This is what I want to do!’”
She knew that day she was meant to be a journalist.
Career at Time
She moved to New York shortly afterward and got a master’s degree from Columbia University’s Graduate School of Journalism in 1983. After “a nanosecond” working at Glamour and Good Housekeeping, she joined Time magazine in 1984 and stayed for 29 years, covering the legal and book publishing beats.
She left in 2014 after a corporate reorganization. “I got out when the going was good!” she said, adding, “There were other things I wanted to do.”
Sachs has borne the startup costs and ongoing expenses of The Insider, whose contributors are unpaid. “No one’s getting rich working for The Insider, least of all me,” she said. “It’s a labor of love for all of us.”
She is starting to look for ways to bring in paid advertising and plans to pass along any income to her contributors. “As someone who’s made her living as a journalist, the last thing I want to do is exploit writers!” she said.
Sachs says she expects The Insider to continue past the pandemic because the problems and opportunities raised by the disease will last. “I think we’re all in for a change of lifestyles for a while,” she said.
Contact Andrea Sachs at email@example.com.