Virginia Heffernan

Virginia Heffernan (born August 8, 1969) is an American journalist and cultural critic. Since 2015, she has been a political columnist at the Los Angeles Times and a cultural columnist at Wired. From 2003 to 2011, she worked as a staff writer for The New York Times, first as a television critic, then as a magazine columnist, and then as an opinion writer. She has also worked as a senior editor for Harper's, as a founding editor of Talk, and as a TV critic for Slate. Her 2016 book Magic and Loss: The Internet as Art argued that the Internet is a "massive and collective work of art", one that is a "work in progress",[1] and that the suggested deterioration of attention spans in response to it is a myth.

Virginia Heffernan
Virginia Heffernan in 2016
Virginia Heffernan in 2016
BornVirginia Page Heffernan
(1969-08-08) August 8, 1969 (age 53)
Hanover, New Hampshire, U.S.
OccupationAuthor, columnist
Alma mater
Pop culture

Early life and educationEdit

Virginia Heffernan was born in Hanover, New Hampshire. She graduated summa cum laude from the University of Virginia (1991). She also received an English Literature Master's Degree (1993) and Ph.D (2002) from Harvard University.[2]



Heffernan began her career as a fact checker with The New Yorker magazine.[3] She served as a senior editor at Harper's and founding editor of Talk magazines,[4] and as television critic for the online magazine Slate.[citation needed]

In June 2002, the Columbia Journalism Review named Heffernan one of its "Ten Young Editors to Watch".[5] In September of the following year, Heffernan departed Slate to join The New York Times. While there, she started the blog "Screens" for the New York Times website, which eventually became "The Medium" blog (named after her column).[6]

In February 2012, she became a national correspondent for Yahoo News,[7] where she covered the 2012 presidential election and wrote about subjects related to media, technology, politics and culture. In June 2013, Heffernan began a series of articles for Yahoo News, entitled "Glass Menagerie", on her experiences using Google Glass OHMD.[8]

Heffernan is a regular contributor to The New York Times, as well as The Wall Street Journal, Wired, Mother Jones, Politico, and many other publications.

In her journalism, Heffernan writes about culture and technology using methods of literary criticism.[2] Her work often centers on the human side of technology, and culture in general, and she advocates broader and more critical thinking with regard to newer technologies.[9]

In parallel to writing on the subject, Heffernan also participates actively in social media. She openly befriends her readers on Facebook, tweets frequently[10] and maintains an active Tumblr.[11]

In July 2013, Heffernan published an article entitled "Why I'm a creationist",[12] saying she was "considerably less amused and moved by the character-free Big Bang story ("something exploded") than by the twisted and picturesque misadventures of Eve and Adam". She concluded by quoting author Yann Martel's summation of his novel, Life of Pi: "1) Life is a story, 2) You can choose your story, 3) A story with God is the better story".[12][13] In a subsequent discussion on Twitter with the popular science writer Carl Zimmer, Heffernan clarified her stance — "I'm a creationist on aesthetic grounds".[14] Heffernan received much criticism for her column.[14][15][16][17][18][19][20] Critics responded to her postmodern stance,[19][21] several quoting Daniel Patrick Moynihan: "Everyone is entitled to his own opinion, but not to his own facts".[14][17] However, writing in The Guardian, Andrew Brown dismissed Heffernan's critique of evolution, but noted that: "[s]he is certainly not a young-earth creationist ... [b]ut she wants stories where people find hope and courage in the events of the world around them, and she finds them in religion, not in science".

In 2014 Ben Yagoda in the Chronicle of Higher Education named her among his top candidates for "best living writer of English prose".[22]

On February 5, 2021, Heffernan published an opinion piece in the Los Angeles Times entitled "What can you do about the Trumpites next door?" in which she wondered, self-critically, how to respond to kindness from rightwing neighbors.[23] Heffernan received criticism from right-wing pundits like Tucker Carlson and Megyn Kelley.


From October 2018, Heffernan was the host of Slate's Trumpcast podcast. In it, she evaluated and critiqued the presidency of Donald Trump, interviewing guests like Yascha Mounk, Fareed Zakaria, David Corn and more.[24] On January 30, 2021, the final episode was released.[25]

In April 2021, Heffernan began a new podcast, After Trump with Lawfare (blog) following on from her work on Trumpcast.[26]

Books and TVEdit

Heffernan has contributed to a number of books, covering topics that include depression, TV series and the impact of the internet.[citation needed]

In 2005, Heffernan (with co-writer Mike Albo) published the comic novel, The Underminer. The MTV documentary on the murder of Matthew Shepard, Matthew's Murder—for which Heffernan wrote the script—was nominated for an Emmy award.[27]

Magic and LossEdit

Heffernan has been online since the age of ten, when she used a Zenith computer terminal and dial-up modem at home to play a MUD at Dartmouth College.[28] Her book about digital culture, Magic and Loss: The Internet As Art (Simon & Schuster) was published in June 2016.[1][29] In this, Heffernan argued that the Internet is "the great masterpiece of civilization, a massive and collective work of art".[30] The book was well-received, earning a starred Kirkus review,[31] and showing up on summer reading lists, including those of Gwyneth Paltrow and Lenny Letter.[32] Paltrow called Heffernan, "One of the writers I most admire",[33] The New York Review of Books called it "an ecstatic narrative of submission",[34] and The Wall Street Journal described it as "An illuminating guide to the internet".[35] Writing in The New Yorker, Louis Menand wrote that "Heffernan is smart, her writing has flair, she can refer intelligently to Barthes, Derrida, and Benjamin—also to Aquinas, Dante, and Proust—and she knows a lot about the Internet and its history. She is good company."[36]



  • Heffernan, Virginia (1999). Bonney, Jo (ed.). Extreme Exposure: An Anthology of Solo Performance Texts from the Twentieth Century. Theatre Communications Group. ISBN 1559361557.
  • Heffernan, Virginia (2002). Casey, Nell (ed.). Unholy Ghost: Writers on Depression. William Morrow Paperback. ISBN 0060007826.
  • Heffernan, Virginia (2004). Bauer, Douglas (ed.). Prime Times: Writers on their Favorite TV Shows. Harper Perennial. ISBN 1400081149.
  • Albo, Mike; Heffernan, Virginia (2005). The Underminer: The Best Friend Who Casually Destroys Your Life. Bloomsbury USA. ISBN 1582344841.
  • Heffernan, Virginia (2011). Brockman, John (ed.). Is the Internet Changing the Way You Think?: The Net's Impact on Our Minds and Future. Harper Perennial. ISBN 978-0062020444.
  • Heffernan, Virginia (2014). Brockman, John (ed.). What Should We Be Worried About?: Real Scenarios That Keep Scientists Up at Night. Harper Perennial. ISBN 978-0062296238.
  • Heffernan, Virginia (2016). Magic and Loss: The Internet as Art. ISBN 9781439191705.

Essays and reportingEdit

  • Heffernan, Virginia (November 2021). "Romancing the stones : [...] thinking about Pangaea Proxima [...]". Wired. 29.11: 9–10, 12.


  • Heffernan, Virginia (2002). The Threat of American Life: Literary Defensiveness at the Turn of the Nineteenth Century (Ph.D.). Harvard University.


  1. ^ a b Magic and Loss, Simon and Schuster.
  2. ^ a b Lambert, Craig (October 2007). "Savant of Screens". Harvard Magazine. Retrieved July 22, 2013.
  3. ^ Skurnick, Lizzie (2003-04-01). "So What Do You Do, Virginia Heffernan?" Media Bistro. Retrieved 2008-04-16.
  4. ^ Heffernan, Virginia. "About Virginia". The Medium. The New York Times. Retrieved August 13, 2013.
  5. ^ Cox, Ana Marie (2002-06-01). "Ten Young Editors To Watch". Columbia Journalism Review. Retrieved 2008-04-16.
  6. ^ Heffernan, Virginia (October 17, 2007). "So Long, Screens; Long Live The Medium". The Medium. The New York Times. Retrieved August 13, 2013.
  7. ^ Byers, Dylan (February 2, 2012). "Yahoo Steals NYTimes' Virginia Heffernan". Politico. Retrieved July 22, 2013.
  8. ^ Heffernan, Virginia (June 4, 2013). "Glass Menagerie: Initiation". Yahoo! News. Retrieved August 14, 2013.
  9. ^ Tebaldi, David (2013). "The Information Sage: An Interview with Virginia Heffernan". The Valley Advocate. Retrieved July 22, 2013.
  10. ^ Heffernan, Virginia. "Virginia Heffernan, @page88". Twitter. Retrieved August 24, 2013.
  11. ^ Heffernan, Virginia. "Page88". Tumblr. Retrieved August 24, 2013.
  12. ^ a b Heffernan, Virginia (July 11, 2013). "Why I'm a Creationist". Yahoo News. Yahoo. Retrieved July 22, 2013.
  13. ^ Renton, Jennie. "Yann Martel Interview". Textualities. Retrieved May 19, 2013.
  14. ^ a b c Heffernan, Virginia; Zimmer, Carl (July 2013). "Conversation with Heffernan and Zimmer". Retrieved August 12, 2013.
  15. ^ Nolan, Hamilton (July 12, 2013). "Yes Virginia, There Is a Darwin". Gawker. Retrieved August 12, 2013.
  16. ^ Helmuth, Laura (July 15, 2013). "Virginia Heffernan's Shameful Confession". Slate. Retrieved August 12, 2013.
  17. ^ a b Chivers, Tom (July 16, 2013). "You don't get to choose your own facts: however 'moving' you find the creation story, evolution is still true". The Telegraph. Archived from the original on July 19, 2013. Retrieved August 14, 2013.
  18. ^ Brown, Andrew (July 18, 2013). "Virginia Heffernan's creationism is wrong but makes good sense". The Guardian. Retrieved August 14, 2013.
  19. ^ a b Schulson, Michael (July 19, 2013). ""I'm a Creationist," Says Former Times Tech Writer, Heffernan". Religion Dispatches. Retrieved August 22, 2013.
  20. ^ Timmer, John (August 3, 2013). "Science education vs. high-profile ignorance". Ars Technica. Retrieved August 27, 2013.
  21. ^ Giberson, Karl; Linder, Douglas O.; Wax, Trevin; Gafney, Wil; Al-Marayati, Salam; Tucker, Mary Evelyn; Redlawsk, David P. (August 15, 2013). "Should Creationism Be Controversial?". The New York Times. Room for Debate. Retrieved August 24, 2013.
  22. ^ Yagoda, Ben (October 30, 2014). "Wordsmith Bingo". The Chronicle of Higher Education – Lingua Franca - Blogs. Archived from the original on November 1, 2014. Retrieved January 4, 2015.
  23. ^ Heffernan, Virginia (February 5, 2021). "What can you do about the Trumpites next door?". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved February 12, 2021.
  24. ^ Weisberg, Jacob (July 23, 2019). "Trumpcast". Slate.
  25. ^ "Time to Turn off the Lights on the Trump Era". January 30, 2021.
  26. ^ "The Lawfare Podcast: After Trump, Episode 1: Follow the Money". April 12, 2021.
  27. ^ Hooper, Joseph (May 14, 2000). "It's Not All Dazzle: MTV Has a Conscience, Too". The New York Times. Retrieved April 16, 2008.
  28. ^ Heffernan, Virginia (October 5, 2016). "Behold the Zenith Z-19". Medium. Retrieved August 13, 2017.
  29. ^ "Virginia Heffernan - Bio - Speaker Profile". Retrieved January 4, 2015.
  30. ^ Staff, Wired (June 3, 2016). "This Summer's 14 Must-Read Books". Wired – via
  31. ^ "MAGIC AND LOSS by Virginia Heffernan | Kirkus Reviews" – via
  32. ^ "".
  33. ^ "Gwyneth Paltrow: By the Book". The New York Times. March 31, 2016.
  34. ^ Mendelson, Edward (June 23, 2016). "In the Depths of the Digital Age" – via {{cite magazine}}: Cite magazine requires |magazine= (help)
  35. ^ VANDERKAM, LAURA. "Through the Looking-Glass". Wall Street Journal. Retrieved June 3, 2016.
  36. ^ Menand, Louis (June 12, 2016). "The New Yorker". Retrieved June 20, 2016.

External linksEdit