Women in Business Q&A: Keli Dailey, Creator, News Hangover

05/31/2015 06:12 am ET | Updated May 31, 2016

Keli Dailey is creator and frontwoman of NEWS HANGOVER, a comedy news web series for young women. Dailey plays the lead personality, tying the broadcast to conversations around world events and news. Dailey is team lead and seen in the public roles of producer, lead writer and lead host.

Some notable stops on Keli's journalism path include the Los Angeles Times, the TIME Asia bureau, and the Graduate School of Journalism at the University of California, Berkeley. She's also former food critic for U-T San Diego, the county's lead daily. Most recently, Dailey was a John S. Knight Fellow at Stanford University, where she developed a small news-agency prototype. She is grounded in the entertainment beat, social and political issues, audio production and documentary photography.

How has your life experience made you the leader you are today?
Growing up, I was more like Mao, less like Gandhi. I don't have siblings - this excuses a selfish period in 1980s Texas, when I ruled a tree house and beat up kid-trespassers.

Managing adults came about a decade ago. I oversaw just one journalist, and after a short season of dictatorial boss behavior, I learned to be respectful, and, eventually, kind to him. I discovered that praise is a kind of psychic income for employees, especially those in the creative fields.
Now I oversee media projects. And I'm drawn to a values-based leadership that encourages the head of a project to be a humanist. I just picked up some tips on how to do this from a guy at a San Francisco party: "Authenticity establishes leadership. People want to follow a human being, not a stuffed suit, so they need to see the human side of their leader". (The original source was Michael Fineman, who teaches MBAs at Columbia University. He was not at the party.)

By 2014 when I launched NEWS HANGOVER, a comedy-news webseries for women, I wondered if I had fully escaped the bossiness of my youth. After months of shooting our show, I threw a staff brunch/wrap party - to toss high fives to our small group of journalists, filmmakers, comedians and performers. Aside from celebrating our wonderfully weird videos, I wanted us all to recognize the valuable things we'd learned through our show, and the ways we'd grown.

Afterward, the lady who recorded the sound for NEWS HANGOVER emailed to say she appreciated working for "a compassionate, funny and witty boss!"

Me?! Which is to say, it has been a long journey from violent, tree house bouncer to dictator-with-one-subject to compassionate boss.

"I suppose leadership at one time meant muscles," Gandhi is quoted. "But today, it means getting along with people." High five, Gandhi.

Tell us about News Hangover and the concept behind it.
The heady answer I'd give at a media conference is - Young Americans cite comedy-news shows like "Last Week Tonight with John Oliver" and "The Daily Show" and formerly Colbert's as increasingly more relevant than "traditional" news sources. But we saw a diversity hole in this comedy-news universe - with both its male presenters and its male audience. So we tried to re-imagine an irreverent, experimental way of getting news and information to young women -- by making web videos that were funny, educational and inspiring.

The wine-bar answer I'd give is - Comedy news is better. But it skews male. That's why we're doing comedy-news web videos for young women. So they stay engaged with the world around them and have a laugh. That's NEWS HANGOVER. More wine, please. Don't call me Jane Stewart!

What have the highlights and challenges been during your time creating News Hangover?
I'm very proud of the work we did, and also sometimes producing, writing, managing and starring in NEWS HANGOVER felt like the life/jokes/news was being squeezed out of me. There's no handbook for DIY comedy news. And to invent a new show, re-imagining the comedy-news show format, while being consistently entertaining and reasonably insightful about current events? Huge challenge.

But we were really passionate about addressing what we saw as a problem: no one is making educational humor for our target audience - late millennial women. (We love them. And we want to give them so many tools to move into post-college adulthood...a period we call "starter lives.")
I don't ever entertain quitting, and I never let my team, either. I see myself as more of a coach now, and that was the highlight of working on NEWS HANGOVER, bringing out the talents of young people, by being inspiring, motivating, optimistic and transparent - there were many times I had no idea what I was doing, and asked my team to take over some aspect of my role. For example, our video editor Kate Elston moonlighted as the head writer for our "Lady Pep Talk (aka When 'Lean In' Goes Too Far)" episode and it's amazing.

What advice can you offer women who want to embark on a digital project?
A supreme challenge, which most digital media projects face, is revenue diversity. We had the good fortune of being supported by the nonprofit First Look Media. But finding a way to keep your digital project sustainable is just as important as your content and audience engagement. Crowd-fund, throw live events and work on this early and often.

What do you want News Hangover to accomplish in the next year?
For me personally, I got into journalism to have a positive impact in this world; that mission carried me through a ton of journalism schooling (the University of Texas at Austin, then graduate school at the University of California, Berkeley, and later to Stanford for a John S. Knight Fellowship). To continue fighting to expose the truth by using satire is just an extension of my journalism. But I have a lot to learn still about comedy. And I hope that continues beyond NEWS HANGOVER.

Team-wise, we all came together to make NEWS HANGOVER because of our deep commitment to making information more accessible. We tried out ideas - some resonated and others made for cringe-inducing viewing. But through everything, through the commitment of the film crew, the journalists, the comedians, the actors, the musicians and other artists who poured their talents into NEWS HANGOVER -- we created more than 20 videos out of love for helping young women and a passion for making even the most tedious topics interesting. We may continue our video experiment, or go back into the lab and try a different medium or approach. For now, one thing is certain - when we screened some episodes for live audiences, we heard real, actual, non-imaginary laughter...about topics as dry as criminal sentencing and student loan debt! And those audiences left just a little bit more informed about the issues that affect them and their neighbors, thanks to our show.