Julie Scelfo is a former staff writer at The New York Times where her stories about society and human behavior reframe popular ideas and ask us to rethink our basic assumptions. She has written about transgender pronouns; the intersection of campus suicides with social media and perfectionism; the human health risks from synthetic chemicals in consumer products; homelessness; and how the collapse of Lehman Brothers led to “trickle-down home economics”—thousands of domestics and other low-wage laborers losing their jobs.
Previously, Scelfo was a Correspondent at Newsweek where she covered breaking news and wrote about contemporary American society. She covered the events of September 11, 2001, live from lower Manhattan, and then reported extensively on the attack’s environmental and emotional aftermath. She also uncovered documents showing that prisoners at Abu Ghraib tortured by American military police weren’t suspected terrorists but civilians accused of petty crimes, and published the first-ever interview with Dr. Anna Pou in which the New Orleans surgeon acknowledged administering fatal doses of morphine to patients at Memorial Medical Center after Hurricane Katrina.
Prior to joining Newsweek Scelfo was a staff writer at the now-defunct media watchdog magazine Brill’s Content, where her journalism career began after a brief stint at the Fire Island News.
Before becoming a journalist, Scelfo worked for a consulting firm, waited tables, hawked t-shirts, boxed pastries, and moonlighted as a paralegal and bartender.
Scelfo attended Barnard College, where she designed her own major in Political Communications, and New York University, where she earned a Master’s degree in Media Ecology. One highlight of her time at NYU was working as an assistant to the author and cultural critic Neil Postman, author of the landmark book Amusing Ourselves to Death, who wrote this important observation: “A metaphor is not an ornament. It is an organ of perception.”
In 2017 she received NYU’s Dorothy Height Distinguished Alumni Award, named for the pioneering African-American civil rights and women’s rights activist.
Scelfo lives with her family in New York City, where she rides a push-scooter to ease travel back and forth between neighborhoods. She has spent the last year lecturing on the hidden figures and feminist pioneers of New York City and America. She wrote her book The Women Who Made New York on the same subject. She is a member of PEN America, a supporter of Narrative 4, and believes radical empathy is where it’s at.
Praise for Julie Scelfo
“Julie’s insightful and informed questions produced a dynamic, inspiring, and engaging conversation, and she interacted with our audience with total ease and confidence. I can recommend Julie without hesitation to any organization looking for a very dynamic, well-prepared, and knowledgeable speaker or moderator for their event.” — Frances A. Rosenfeld, Ph.D., Director of Public Programs, Museum of the City of New York