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2011 May 31

The Assistant Files, Vol. 13: Alainna Lexie Beddie, WSJ.'s Deborah Needleman

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WSJ.'s Alainna Lexie Beddie WSJ.'s Alainna Lexie Beddie
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What did you expect when you snagged the job? 
The Devil Wears Prada. Honestly, my life is like Andy's in a lot of ways. Deborah has kids, and sometimes I need to be there for them in order to really be there for Deborah. There is a "book," and sometimes that book needs to find its way to Deborah's apartment. Sometimes my boyfriend doesn’t get to see me because I’m working late unexpectedly. And I have to keep up with, and remember, very important people for Deborah's contacts. There are fashion shows, and there is a fashion closet. There are meals to fetch and seemingly impossible tasks to do. But I don't think Deborah is the devil—and when she wears Prada, she’s still very approachable. It’s not her. It’s the job.  

What’s your daily grind at the gig?
I get in around 10 a.m., unless Deborah has a morning meeting and I need to be there before her. I’ll print off the day's calendar for Deborah's desk, turn on her computer and lights, and go through the emails inevitably awaiting my attention first thing. When Deborah gets in, we have a powwow, then I check in with the web team, the “Off Duty” food and photo editors, and whoever else may pop up in my or Deborah’s day. Sometimes I leave at six on the dot, sometimes I leave at nine, but I almost never leave before Deborah does. She always graciously lets me go if I have somewhere to be, but it makes me uneasy to leave her first. 

How has the pace shifted as WSJ.’s shipping schedule has changed?
When I first started, we were more of a quarterly magazine—now that we're running ten issues per year, it feels like we're always closing a magazine. When we first begin a two-week close of the next issue, I'm working on a different kind of close: the web issue of the magazine about to come out. Right now, for example, our editors are closing the July/August issue, but I’m helping get the June issue ready for wsj.com/magazine, which went up last Thursday. It’s confusing to be on a different issue than Deborah and everyone else, but I love working late to create slideshows and arrange the layout of a story for the web. It lets me see what I'm working on come to fruition, in a way that managing someone's schedule and accomplishing administrative tasks do not.

What’s your system for organizing Deborah’s life?
She has to cc- me on all emails—always. And I keep those emails in my Inbox until I've addressed them. My inbox doubles as a ‘To Do’ list. Sometimes I free Deborah’s inbox of press releases by directing them to the appropriate WSJ. and “Off Duty” editors, and I always send her home with a few months’ worth of calendar printouts, the next few months of edit lineups, and anything requiring her immediate attention. If she has a meeting, I send her home with research and notes about the meeting the night before. If she's interviewing job candidates, I send her home with resumes.

What would you be shocked to see on Deborah’s calendar or to-do list?
Nothing! Even if her biggest aspiration for the day is to take her son skateboarding, she writes it on there…or I write it for her.

What does Deborah’s office look like?
She's been dying to decorate it since September, but she's been too busy to leave her mark on the space. And the [News Corp.] building's fun police made her take home her Nespresso machine, so her favorite office supply has been forever removed. But she still has her enviable framed Hugo Guinness art, the "I love you, mama" Post-Its from her 11-year-old daughter, the funny pencil drawing by her 10-year-old son, the various party invitations lining her desk, the chic John Derian lamp and coffee cups, and the constant supply of fresh flowers from various admirers.

How about Deborah’s abode?
I love her apartment. It’s large—although anything is in comparison to my sardine can near Washington Square Park—and spacious, mostly off-white, clean, and inviting. I used to have a key, and I was once very tempted to spend the weekend lounging on her sofas and cooking in her kitchen while she was out of town with her family. But I didn’t. And I haven’t been to her Garrison house yet, but I plan to spend a weekend there when she’s not. She sent me a picture of her Garrison garden a few weeks ago, and I’m dying to just gaze on it in person, with a glass of chilled white wine in hand.

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