Journalism and COVID-19: Remembering Alison Schwartz

This journalist profile is part of Journalism and COVID-19: The Toll of a Pandemic, PEN America’s project covering the toll of the coronavirus crisis on the journalism industry in the United States. Our hearts go out to the family members and friends of the journalists lost during the pandemic.

Alison Schwartz photo

Photo from Instagram

Name: Alison “Ali” Schwartz
Age: 29
Died: April 28, 2020
Location: New York, NY
Work History:1PEOPLE Staff, “Remembering One of Our Own: PEOPLE’s Alison Schwartz, Lost to Coronavirus at 29PEOPLE, May 1, 2020.

  • Director of Digital Platforms, PEOPLE
  • Editorial Intern, PEOPLE

Selected Remembrances:
“If you’ve ever laughed at anything on, chances are high Ali wrote it. She was a one-of-a-kind PEOPLE person, with an encyclopedic knowledge of everything pop culture and an incredibly unique prism through which to view it, but she was also just a spectacular human, a generous friend and a bright light to everyone, even strangers. Somehow she was always the last person at work (especially on awards show nights) and at your party; she balanced a wickedly sharp wit with genuine kindness and caring; she was the best writer in the room but always willing to pitch in on the smallest tasks. Anyone who knew her would agree: She was the best.”
—Alex Apatoff, Lifestyle Director, PEOPLE [PEOPLE]

“It didn’t matter what it was. It could have been that you thought your lede was terrible, or it could have been ‘I’m having trouble with my girlfriend.’ It could have been, ‘You know I can’t make it out to the bar tonight because I’m broke.’ It could have been anything, and she just found a way to cheer you up.”
—Joey Flechas, Reporter, Miami Herald [The Alligator]

“Outside of work, she was the truest of friends. The first to arrive and last to leave at your after-work birthday drinks. The most excited about your big life news (or boring life updates). When I moved to Chicago, she sent me cupcakes from my favorite N.Y.C. bakery on my first birthday away because she knew I missed them. When my kids were born, she surprised them with the cutest personalized gifts (turns out my son is the future Sexiest Man Alive, according to the bib Ali commissioned). She scooped up goodies from the annual beauty sale and dropped them in the mail for me. She was the definition of a warm person.”
—Kate Hogan, Digital Specials Director, PEOPLE [PEOPLE]

“She always knew how to make you feel better. She always knew how to make you laugh. She was incredibly talented. And it’s one thing to be a nice person, but it’s another thing to actually be very talented.”
—Chelsea Keenan, former editor-in-chief, The Alligator [The Alligator]

“I keep telling people that unless you knew Ali, it’s tough to explain what made her so beloved by everyone. She was a light. She had a big heart. She was thoughtful. She was generous. You just felt happier in her presence. Mainly because she was hilariously funny, with a sharp wit and great sense of humor. She made me laugh harder than anyone else, whether she was sharing her weird encounter with Grumpy Cat, boasting about her Pinterest-fail baking or accidentally insulting the Rapid Ramen Cooker rep by telling him his product was pointless.”
—Mark Marino, former homepage and content director, PEOPLE [PEOPLE]

“Back in July 2015, we had gone out to New Jersey to work a Taylor Swift show — she was always Ali’s celebrity of choice. Unbeknownst to her, our friend Katie had snagged a few meet and greet passes and we decided to surprise Ali shortly before we were due in the dressing room. Yelling that we ‘hadn’t given her enough time to prepare,’ Ali frantically swiped on lipstick on the elevator ride, laughing all the way down. Taylor adored her, of course. Everyone did.”
—Sarah Michaud, News Editor, PEOPLE [PEOPLE]

“That’s who she was—more thoughtful than anyone I’ve ever known. I called her ‘a professional Secret Santa.’ Here are a few of the things ‘Santa’ brought me in the 12 years I knew her: Chinese food delivered to the door of my $800-per-month apartment when I was [a]n intern in Washington, D.C., and making $400 a week before taxes. For my wedding, a custom-designed, 42-square-foot quilt with all 1,450 words from my and my husband’s vows sewn into it—which she had twice sent back to the quilter to correct typos. A framed piece of word art, gold, block capital letters against a white background within a white frame: ‘GET THE NAME OF THE DOG.’”
—Jared Misner, writer and best friend of Alison Schwartz [Charlotte Magazine]

“Alison was much more than a writer. She was a ray of sunshine to her co-workers, her friends and her family, even during challenging times. She made everyone she met dissolve into giggles at her irreverent sense of humor.”

“I’m not embarrassed to admit I leaned on Ali whenever I needed a brilliant idea or a creative solution to a problem that seemed unsolvable. She may have been younger than me and reported into me, but she was better than me, plain and simple. She was better than all of us on the PEOPLE staff, and believe me, it’s a staff of the quickest, smartest, most creative people in the industry. Ali was the first person I went to when I needed someone to take on a project, which is how she came to run Snapchat for this brand. She began here as an intern, and just a few years later, she was holding a director title, managing a team and presenting to the C-suite.”
—Zoë Ruderman, Editor, PEOPLE Digital [PEOPLE]

“Ali was the best kind of person, not just for continuously making us smile, laugh and feel special, and not just because she’d help anyone and everyone (including every animal), but because she inspired us all to be better people to ourselves, to each other, and to the world, and to live our lives to the fullest. . . Before Alison got sick, she sent a gift card to one of her friends, a nurse, to thank her for what she does, especially during these challenging times. Her friend, in turn, used the gift card to buy masks for her team. Alison’s warmth, generosity and love were contagious and made this world a better place.”
—Dr. Adam Schwartz, brother of Alison Schwartz [New York Post]

Selected Work:
Review: Why You Might Not Understand the Importance of Taylor Swift’s New SongPEOPLE, August 25, 2017.

“So if Taylor Swift is reclaiming the snake — a fan-fueled theory that draws a correlation between the emoji-laden comments that spammed her social media accounts at the height of last year’s Kimye drama vs. the cryptic serpent videos she used to tease her new music — her new single, an anti-haters anthem pointedly titled ‘Look What You Made Me Do,’ is precisely the type of warning that would stop you in your tracks, like an 18-foot-long king cobra slithering past your feet.”

What It’s Like Meeting Taylor SwiftPEOPLE, December 11, 2015.

“At some point between the first and the 1,593rd time I asked a stranger if I had red lipstick on my teeth, something chill and casual and so-normal-why-am-I-even-telling-you-about-it happened: I met Taylor Swift.”

Tributes, Tears: Pictures from a Paris in MourningPEOPLE, November 14, 2015.

“The city’s best-known landmark, the Eiffel Tower, makes a switch from its typical warm yellow lights to shine the colors of the French flag.”

This Impossibly Polite Dog Does Not Get How We Feel About DinnerPEOPLE, June 16, 2015.

“Most days, we feel like our dogs understand us, be it their mutual respect for nap time or insistence upon singing along to ‘Eternal Flame.’

“Then we watched this video of a dog politely, even gallantly, waiting to eat her dinner. Said dog, named Indiana, hears her human rumbling through the food bin and measuring out a perfect scoop of kibble.”

The Sexiest Manatees Alive!PEOPLE, November 10, 2014.

“Channing Tatum and Brad Pitt simply can’t compete with these sexy beasts”