Clara Jeffery

Clara Jeffery

Editor in Chief

Since taking the editorial helm at Mother Jones in late 2006, Clara and her co-editor, Monika Bauerlein, have won two National Magazine Awards for general excellence, relaunched MotherJones.com, founded a now 13-person Washington bureau, won a PEN award for editing, given birth, and forgotten what it's like to sleep. It probably doesn't help she's on Twitter so much.

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Clara Jeffery is co-editor of Mother Jones, where, together with Monika Bauerlein, she has spearheaded an era of editorial growth and innovation, marked by the addition of now 13-person Washington bureau, an overhaul of the organization's digital strategy and a corresponding 15-fold growth in traffic, and the winning of two National Magazine Awards for general excellence. When Jeffery and Bauerlein received a PEN award for editing in 2012, the judges noted: “With its sharp, compelling blend of investigative long-form journalism, eye-catching infographics and unapologetically confident voice, Mother Jones under Jeffery and Bauerlein has been transformed from what was a respected—if under-the-radar—indie publication to an internationally recognized, powerhouse general-interest periodical influencing everything from the gun-control debate to presidential campaigns. In addition to their success on the print side, Jeffery and Bauerlein’s relentless attention to detail, boundless curiosity and embrace of complex subjects are also reflected on the magazine’s increasingly influential website, whose writers and reporters often put more well-known and deep-pocketed news divisions to shame. Before joining the staff of Mother Jones, Jeffery was a senior editor of Harper's magazine. Fourteen pieces that she personally edited have been finalists for National Magazine Awards, in the categories of essay, profile, reporting, public interest, feature, and fiction. Works she edited have also been selected to appear in various editions of Best American Essays, Best American Travel Writing, Best American Sports Writing, and Best American Science Writing. Clara cut her journalistic teeth at Washington City Paper, where she wrote and edited political, investigative, and narrative features, and was a columnist. Jeffery is a graduate of Carleton College and Northwestern's Medill School of Journalism. She resides in the Mission District of San Francisco with her partner Chris Baum and their son, Milo. Their burrito joint of choice is El Metate.

 

Mother Jones Responds to Fiji Water

| Thu Aug. 13, 2009 1:39 PM EDT

Fiji Water spokesman Rob Six has posted a response to our story at the company’s blog. Writer Anna Lenzer replies:

Six’s key points are the same he and other Fiji executives have repeatedly made, and which are reflected in detail in my story: Donating money for water access projects or kindergartens is laudable, and I discuss Fiji’s charitable projects in Fiji (despite numerous requests, Fiji wouldn’t disclose how much it spends on most of these projects). The piece also makes it clear that Fiji Water accounts for significant economic activity in Fiji, and company executives are quoted to that effect.

Six doesn't address the key questions raised in my Mother Jones story, from the polluting background of Fiji Water’s owners past and present, to the company’s decision to funnel assets through tax havens, to its silence on the human rights abuses of the Fijian government. My piece doesn’t argue that Fiji Water actively props up the regime, but that its silence amounts to acquiescence.

"We cannot and will not speak for the government," Six writes. I didn't ask them to speak for the government, I asked them to comment on it. Though Fiji Water casts itself as a progressive, outspoken company in the US, it has a policy of not discussing Fiji’s regime “unless something really affects us,” as Six was quoted in the story.

The regime clearly benefits from the company's global branding campaign characterizing Fiji as a "paradise" where there is "no word for stress." Fiji's tourism agencies use Fiji Water as props in their promotional campaigns, and the company itself has publicized pictures of President Obama drinking Fiji Water. This is a point repeatedly made by international observers, including a UN official who in a recent commentary (titled "Why Obama should stop drinking Fiji water”) called for sanctions on Fiji, and singled out Fiji Water as the one company with enough leverage to force the junta to budge. Yet the most pointed criticism the company has made of the regime was when it opposed a tax as "draconian;" it has never used language like that to refer to the junta's human rights abuses.

It’s worth remembering that there aren’t very many countries ruled by military juntas today, and Americans prefer not to do business with those that are. We don't import Burma Water or Libya Water.

As to Six’ point that the company didn’t know I was in Fiji: I did contact Fiji Water before my trip, and Six mentioned that the company was "thinking about taking a group of journalists to Fiji"; I didn't follow up about joining such a trip. Despite news reports showing that Fiji wouldn’t cooperate with journalists who went there independently, I chose to do so and visited the factory on a public tour. I had planned to speak to Fiji Water’s local representatives, and to visit the surrounding villages, afterward. But it was at that point that I was arrested by Fijian police, interrogated about my plans to write about Fiji Water, and threatened with imprisonment and rape. After that incident, personnel at the US embassy strongly encouraged me not to visit the villages. I did discuss my trip to the islands with Six after I returned, and had extensive correspondence with him on numerous questions, many of which he has not addressed to this day. Here are some issues Fiji Water could address in public:

- Why won't the company disclose the total amount of money that Fiji Water spends on its charity work? Do its charitable contributions come close to matching the 30 percent corporate tax rate it would be paying had it not been granted a tax holiday in Fiji since 1995? 

- Will Fiji Water owners Lynda and Stewart Resnick, who in the company’s PR materials contrast our tap water supply with the “living water” found in their bottles, disclose the full volume of pesticides that their farming and flower companies use every year? Could limiting those inputs create better water here at home?

- Fiji touts its commitments to lighten its plastic bottle (which is twice as heavy as many competitors’) by 20 percent next year, to offset its carbon emissions by 120 percent, and to restore environmentally sensitive areas in Fiji, but its public statements never acknowledge that these projects are, in many cases, still on the drawing board or in the negotiating stages. Why?

Read Six' post after the jump.

Monika Bauerlein and Clara Jeffery are the Co-Editors of Mother Jones. You can follow them on Twitter here and here.
 

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Condé Nast, Fiji Water, and the Age of Consumption

| Wed Aug. 12, 2009 11:50 AM EDT

The same day that we put up our exposé of Fiji Water—produced under a military dictatorship, processed in a diesel-fueled plant, and shipped across thousands of miles of ocean in bottles that use twice as much plastic as many competitorsthe New York Observer's John Koblin served up a fab look into the Condé Nast empire, where folks are running scared that the consultants from McKinsey are going to put an end to their gilded way of life (Nobu, town cars, spa treatments--all on the company dime.) 

How bad is it at 4 Times Square? Not only has Graydon Carter been, gasp!, spotted in the (Frank Gehry designed) company cafeteria but:

“When I started, there was this little refrigerator, and it was stocked with amazing drinks,” said one ad-sales source. “Pellegrino, Orangina, Red Bull. And like the water wasn’t Poland Spring, it was like Fiji. I remember when I started working here, I emailed everyone I know and I was like, ‘I have to tell you about the drinks!’”

But then in December, a few months after Condé Nast ordered publishers and editors to cut 5 percent from their budgets, the drink supply emptied out. That Fiji water turned into Poland Spring. Worse, instead of the fridge, the water bottles were stowed in a warm closet.

And then: “I just found out today that we are on our last batch of Poland Spring,” said the source. “We won’t have any more after this. We have to start drinking tap water.”

The horror, the horror!

Substantive cuts (when and if they come) to the actual great journalism that Condé Nast, particularly the New Yorker, can produce would be no joke. But Jeez, if the company hadn't encouraged editors to act as if ridiculous, over-the-top consumption on every level wasn't just a matter of course, but de riguer, not only for themselves, but the rest of us, then maybe we all wouldn't find ourselves underwater at every turn. Just saying.

Clara Jeffery is Co-Editor of Mother Jones. You can follow her on Twitter here.

Obama Sips It, Celebs Love It--How Did Water From a Junta-Ruled Country Go Eco-Chic?

| Wed Aug. 12, 2009 4:00 AM EDT

Just a few days into her reporting trip to Fiji to check out the source of America’s No. 1 imported bottled water, MoJo freelancer Anna Lenzer was arrested, hauled to police headquarters, and threatened with imprisonment... or worse. She stuck it out, and the results of her investigation cast a sharp light on a celebrity-beloved brand. Fiji Water,  her MoJo cover story points out, is produced under a military dictatorship, processed in a diesel-fueled plant and shipped across thousands of miles of ocean in bottles that use twice as much plastic as many competitors (yes, our intrepid factcheckers weighed them--and calculated how far some other brands travel to US store shelves. And then they sacrificed themselves and did a bottled water taste test.). Yet it’s focused its marketing on winning huge credibility with eco-conscious consumers, even claiming that to drink Fiji Water is to fight global warming. Lenzer’s story, “Spin the Bottle,” captures the contradictions and dilemmas of a “green” business. Check it out and let us know what you think in the comments!

Speaking of comments, we suspect this piece will kick off plenty of discussion, so we're pulling together bottled water experts, industry reps, and critics, together for a live discussion/online forum, likely August 17. Stay tuned for the details--we'll promote it on the home page and also post the info here in the blog.

Jezebel Takes On Self's Self-Hating Photoshop Policies

| Tue Aug. 11, 2009 7:38 PM EDT

For their latest cover—sell line: Slim Down *Your* Way—the editors of Self basically created a new (and of course, much thinner) body for Kelly Clarkson. (That was their way.) Called to the carpet by Jezebel (and for god's sake, Entertainment Tonight), the Self editors then issued the most disgusting, enraging explanation possible, namely that covers shouldn't reflect reality, but "inspire women to want to be their best." At which point, Jezebel issued a seriously awesome and funny takedown. Read it.

 

Detained Hikers' Families Make Statement

| Tue Aug. 11, 2009 1:12 PM EDT

Today, the families of three hikers who've been detained by Iran since July 31st—including Mother Jones contributor Shane Bauer (whose piece we just posted today), Sarah Shourd, and Josh Fattal—have made a statement:
 

“It is now twelve days since our children were detained in Iran, when they strayed across the border while on a brief hiking vacation in Iraqi Kurdistan.  As loving parents, nothing causes us more heartache than not knowing how our children are, and not being able to talk to them and learn when we will hold them in our arms again.  Shane, Sarah and Josh are young travelers who share a great love of the world and a deep respect for different cultures, societies and religions. We believe that when the Iranian authorities speak to our children, they will realize that Shane, Sarah and Josh had no intention of entering Iran and will allow them to leave the country and reunite with their families.  We continue to hope that this misunderstanding will be resolved as quickly as possible.”
 
Shane Bauer, 27, Sarah Shourd, 31, and Josh Fattal, 27, are graduates of the University of California, Berkeley. 
 
Bauer has been living in Damascus, Syria since the Fall of 2008 and is a student of Arabic.  He is a freelance journalist and photographer who has written from the Middle East.  He has never reported from Iran.
 
Shourd lives with Bauer in Damascus, where she teaches English and had been studying for the Graduate Record Examination in preparation for graduate school.  She has written occasional travel pieces from the region.
 
Fattal is an environmentalist who worked at the Aprovecho Research Center in Cottage Grove, Oregon, which teaches sustainable living skills.  Fattal had a Teaching Fellowship with the International Honors Program’s “Health and Community” study abroad program in the spring semester of 2009. Fattal was visiting Bauer and Shourd in Damascus prior to their hiking trip in Iraqi Kurdistan.
 
For media inquiries please contact: familiesofhikers@gmail.com
 

We'll keep you posted as to the status of Shane, Sarah, and Josh. Please keep them in your thoughts.

Clara Jeffery and Monika Bauerlein are Co-Editors of Mother Jones. You can follow Clara on Twitter here and Monika here.

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