Archants' Chief Content Officer and the founder of The New European talks novel-writing (or lack thereof), getting a scoop from Buckingham Palace and finding time to think...
What made you want to work in the magazine industry?
I’ve always wanted to be a novelist. Working in newspaper and magazines seemed like a productive thing to do while I thought of a good plot.
Can you chart your journey from when you started out to your current position?
After leaving school with an E in English at A-Level, my mum got me a week’s work experience on a local paper called the Bootle Times. I graduated to become a district reporter on the Daily Post and was so bad the Editor of the paper called me in to suggest I think of another profession. I got a job soon after as a sub-editor on the Liverpool Echo and found I liked design and layout. I ended up on the Daily Mirror where I eventually became Production Editor, Head of Features and then Publisher of Mirror Online. Quit that in 2012 after 18 years to work for a Barcelona design agency, Cases And Associates and then spent two years in Latin America, mainly Argentina, helping media organisations do digital. Then my wife got pregnant (yes, it was mine) and I had to get a job based in the UK so I joined David Montgomery’s Local World and when that was sold to Trinity Mirror, I joined Archant as Chief Content Officer, where, for the first time in my career, I was responsible for some terrific magazines. I also launched a new newspaper called The New European, but that’s a story for another day.
Do you have a go-to work outfit?
No. I alternate between jeans and trainers and two-piece two-button suits. Depends how I feel that morning. The more anxious I feel, the smarter I dress.
What do you turn to when you’re on deadline – tea/coffee/snacks?
What’s the most unusual situation you’ve found yourself in because of your job?
Being one of four people alive who knew that I had secreted a reporter into Buckingham Palace as the Queen’s butler. It was one of the best tabloid scoops in the last couple of decades.
What would people be surprised to know about your job?
The budget I work to.
Walk me through your typical day.
I don’t really have a typical day, but I do a lot of thinking (people often confuse this with inactivity) and I spend a lot of time working out how I can help the 300 and something journalists I manage be the best they can be. I spend much of the weekend thinking about The New European, but I’m blessed by having a small (and you wouldn’t believe how small) team of journalists who help me make that paper as fun and interesting as it is each week.
How has being a member of the PPA helped you/added value to your brand?
I think the PPA does a great job in helping us remember that although we are all fiercely competitive and would cut each other’s throats if given half a chance, there are some common interests we all benefit from and should work together to achieve.
If you didn’t have to sleep, how would you use the remaining hours in the day?
Reading about how to write a great novel. Basically, anything other than actually writing a great novel.
What is the last photo you took on your phone (at time of interview)? Why?
A photograph of a sketch of what I wanted this week’s New European cover to look like. (See below)
What’s your guilty pleasure?
I like decent wine and am trying to educate myself about it. But I only drink alcohol on alternate months.
Whose phone number do you wish you had?
What’s the worst piece of advice you’ve ever been given?
Keep your head down.
What/where is your happy place?
Bird How, a small cottage owned by the National Trust on a fellside in Eskdale, Cumbria.
What would people be surprised to know about you?
I am consumed with doubt.
What would be in your Room 101?
Introvert or extrovert?
Optimist or pessimist?
Film or television? What are you binge-watching at the moment?
Film. BFI Channel on Amazon video.
Sweet or savoury?
Morning person or night owl?
Tea or coffee?
Emojis – cool or cringey? Which emoji do you use the most?
Cool in moderation. The slightly deranged one where the face is laughing so hard it looks like it’s going to piss its pants. That’s how I feel much of the time.