Monday, 31 March 2014

How to be....a food magazine editor

Next up in our FBi Starter Series; Melanie Hansche.

Managing editor of Donna Hay Magazine, passionate Bavarian, persistent baker and pork tragic (it goes with the aforementioned Bavarian-ness, apparently). Here are her tips, should you want to follow in her footsteps:

1. Look out for advertised 'editorial coordinator' roles to get your foot in the door at a magazine or publisher. And as a pre-cursor to that, you don’t necessarily have to have studied communications or journalism – an arts degree is fine if you have a flair for writing and communicating and little portfolio you’ve built up writing for your uni newspaper. An internship or work experience in publishing while you were at uni will help, too. Pick the magazines you want to work on, but be flexible and keep an open mind – if a job comes up at a small publisher, take it. It’s at the smaller publishing houses where you invariably be given the widest range of tasks and get the greatest exposure to the entire publishing process (part and parcel of working in small companies to small budgets). The editorial coordinator basically supports the day-to-day operation of the editorial team – it’s more or less and admin role. You’re the point of contact for internal and external enquiries, you process invoices, deal with reader queries and do any admin work to support the editor. The coordinator is usually given a page or two in the magazine to look after, such a product or style or news page to call in product for and write small amounts of copy. The editor will generally start you off on small amounts of writing and subediting, proofing or fact-checking copy. The better and more confident you get, the more writing you will get. Most coordinators are in their jobs for around 18 months to 2 years before they move into other roles at the magazine such as a junior staff writer or a junior subeditor.

 2. Be prepared to work your way through the editorial hierarchy So once you jump into those junior roles, that’s when you start gaining your experience and earning your stripes. The typical trajectory is a couple of years as a writer or subeditor, then a deputy chief-subeditor, then a chief-subeditor, a deputy or features editor and finally a managing editor or editor-in-chief. Once you are in the cycle and in the system, it’s easier to jump around between magazines and between publishers. You can really go down two paths – as a subeditor where you will be checking copy, rewriting, checking facts, as well as fixing grammar and spelling. As a writer you will be pitching stories, writing features and writing sections of the magazines. You may be angling toward becoming a features editor or deputy editor. For food editors the trajectory will be a bit different. You’ll have done a commercial cookery course at TAFE or an apprenticeship or spent a few years in commercial kitchens. You also need a sense of brand and writing recipes for an audience – not everyone who works in a kitchen can write a recipe. You will most likely get your start in a test kitchen as a junior or as an assistant and work your way up from there. Look out for junior test kitchen positions or assisting on shoots.

3. Be a competent cook and know your way around a recipe or you're curtains. I know this sounds really obvious but you’d be surprised by how many people say they want to do this job because they love to eat or go out to restaurants. It’s not enough to be good at eating or to be a glutton – you need to know how to cook in order to edit a recipe and be a good food writer. You need a knack to be able to read the food landscape and see what the trends are, what’s happening in the economy, and how people are eating out in order to form your editorial content strategy. And increasingly to be successful at a food magazine and at any magazine, you have to be digitally savvy – content creation happens across all different mediums. You have to be commercially savvy to attract advertisers and you also need to be good with people to manage and lead a team. Follow Mel Hansche as @melhansche on Instagram.


Macky Blaise said...

Nice tips. I will take note of all your advises.