24 June 2010

My interview with Alice Wignall Part 2

What is a typical work day like for you?

Well, I’ve just started a full-time job as features director at ELLE so these days, I get to work about 10am, have a glance at the papers and then get on with whatever needs doing that day. Which will include some of: coming up with ideas for features or writers, commissioning ideas to journalists to write, editing them when they come in, having meetings with the editor-in-chief or other departments to make sure everyone knows what’s happening with various features and quite a lot of drinking tea and chatting.

When I was a freelancer working from home there was more tea and much less chatting but it was similar. I’d start around 9.30am, read the papers online, and then I’d be coming up with ideas to send to editors (in the hope they’d be commissioned) or working on a commission, which would involve research online or by interviewing experts, or maybe a celebrity interview, and then the writing. And then re-writing!

What do you think sets you apart from other journalists?

I don’t know if anything does! I think one thing I have that not many people do is that I have worked on magazines and newspapers about equally. They are normally quite separate and people normally stick to one or the other. But both have lessons to teach the other.

How do you a pitch an idea?

I’m lucky because having worked in media for about 10 years I know a lot of commissioning editors. So it’s generally a very friendly process – I just drop them an email and ask if they’d be interested in a piece on X or Y. If it’s an editor I don’t know, I might send an email introducing myself and asking if they’d like to see some ideas. They’ll almost always say yes, and then I will send some over.

what do you do if an idea gets rejected?

I don’t worry about it, because at least half the time they will be and usually it’s nothing to do with how good the idea was. If I think it’s a good one I might try another editor, or I’ll just forget about it and come up with another one.

What do you like to read?

Reading is so much part of my job that I don’t know if I could say I ‘like’ any of it anymore! I read quite a lot of blogs and online – there’s so much good writing being done. I like big satisfying articles too. I read the New Yorker most weeks and I like Prospect too (both big news-y magazines).

-Favourite Newspaper/Magazine?

I read The Guardian/Observer at home but that’s mainly out of habit. I think all newspapers have good things about them. My favourite magazine? Well, I guess I have to say ELLE since I work there but actually I do think it’s really good! My favourite is probably Vanity Fair though. It’s a brilliant mix of really frothy celebrity stuff and big intelligent articles.

What has been the hardest obstacle about your career to date?

Well, I’d say probably getting my first job. It was a very dispiriting time – being so ambitious to do something and feeling like you’re not getting the chance. But I would say now (and I think this is the same with all obstacles, in the end) is that everything I learnt in that time – from working at the market research place, just to the fact that I was resourceful enough to keep going – did stand me in really good stead. So I don’t think I’d change it. It can be easy to be envious of people who seem to have an easy time in their careers but when you think about it, it’s the hard times that make you work harder to prove yourself so ultimately they’re the times that you’ll improve the most!

Check out more next week

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