The day after her 40th birthday, Rebecca Schoenkopf is tidying up her bohemian loft apartment in Downtown Los Angeles, and pouring herself a glass of wine.
“Look, my reader sent me this – a whole case!” she says. “And the other day my readers organized this thing on my comments. Someone said, ‘you guys, Rebecca’s birthday’s coming up, so we should all send her $40.’ In the end, they sent me $2000! They love me!”
They do. Since Schoenkopf took over Wonkette in March 2012, all the important numbers are up – “traffic’s up 65% on last year, we’re getting a half-million unique visitors a month, and 3.7 million page views.” Such popularity is no surprise to Wonkette’s fans of course - ever since its launch by Gawker Media in 2004 it has been the byword for bawdy political snark from the left. Since founding editor Ana Marie Cox left in 2006, two other editors have taken the helm, steering the brand through something of a rollercoaster – high times during the election of Obama, and then its sale by Gawker, before the financial crisis. But its brand of righteous invective has stayed true.
If anything, Schoenkopf’s Wonkette has been funnier, and more infused with its original sensibility – that of an ardent and scathing liberal woman (the previous two editors were men). Who else, after all, would have such a shameless crush on Joe Biden?
“I love Obama, but Joe I love in a different way,” she grins. “A very sexual way. I don’t like how he calls people ‘mom’, but they don’t seem to mind. They’re too captivated with his gleaming teeth.”
An LA native, and print media veteran, Schoenkopf went from interning at Mad magazine to working at the Orange County Weekly for 12 years. She rose to senior editor there, where she wrote several columns about politics, arts and nightlife, leaving in 2007 when New Times Media bought the Weekly out. She spent just under a year as editor of LA Citybeat, a rival weekly – it wasn’t the smoothest of rides but still.
But the real drama began when she left that job. The markets collapsed, and she spent the next three years unemployed – a single mother of a teenage boy, going rapidly broke in the recession. How she emerged from that funk to becoming not just the editor of Wonkette, but the owner, is an extraordinary story.