Under the Radar with Clare Mullooly
As Features Writer at that's life!, Clare explains that the nature of real-life journalism makes it possible to complete 98% of her work at her desk – unless she's scoping out the birthplace of EastEnders. In her free time, she's busy listening to one of Bauer Radio's main competitors...
Ellie Austin scored a job at Immediate Media as a Features Writer for Radio Times after graduating from the Magazine Journalism MA course at City University. Here she talks about working in the fast-paced world of a major weekly magazine and the power of a good coffee.
What made you want to work in the magazine industry?
Magazines have always been my comfort blanket. One of my favourite childhood memories is my mum letting me pick a magazine at the end of a shopping trip, which I would usually have read cover to cover by the time we got home!
I’ve written for online publications and the odd newspaper, but working in the magazine industry had always been my first choice. There is no bigger buzz than flicking through a copy of a magazine and knowing that everyone on the editorial team has gone through blood, sweat and tears (not so much of the blood!) to produce the best content possible for our readers. I will never stop filling up with pride whenever I see my byline in a national magazine.
Print has had no choice but to evolve to find its place in an increasingly digital world, but the magazine industry has risen to the challenge and there is still a healthy market for magazines. Long live print I say!
Can you chart your journey from when you started out to your current position?
I originally studied History at the University of Leicester. I wrote for the student newspaper, and after I graduated, I continued to write whenever possible, alongside my main job in administration. From being a journalist for a community newspaper, to starting my own blog, I never stopped writing.
Then, bam! Nine years later, I went on to complete my master’s in Magazine Journalism! It was a long time coming – I always knew I wanted to be a journalist, but thought it was more of a dream career than anything else. After some pinch-myself-am-I-dreaming internships at publications including The Sunday Times Magazine, I then went on to land my first job as a Features Writer at that’s life! magazine. A year has gone so quickly and I’ve loved every second working in the real-life field of journalism.
Do you have a go-to work outfit?
As soon as I started my job at the magazine, I noticed the dress code was much more relaxed compared to where I worked prior to my master’s.
I now mix and match smart and casual pieces. For example, I will team a white shirt with a pretty floral skirt or a smart dress with some strappy sandals. I have the best of both worlds!
What do you turn to when you’re on deadline – tea/coffee/snacks?
I treat myself by getting a free Waitrose cappuccino or picking at chocolate/sweets from the communal snack table! The caffeine usually perks me up and gives me the extra drive to meet my deadline.
What’s the most unusual situation you’ve found yourself in because of your job?
I attended a Christmas in July party to meet very poorly children who may not make it to Christmas this year. It was such an emotional experience speaking to the parents about their child’s story and how they are making the most of the time they have left together. We put money towards presents and tried to make their party as special as possible. I feel so proud to be part of a magazine that donates money towards charitable causes like this event.
What would people be surprised to know about your job?
That 98%of my job can be completed at my desk. Some people visualise journalists running here and there for their next big scoop, but I do a lot of my chasing through social media after going through the nationals. It might be a different scenario for journalists working in other fields, but real-life journalism is quite stationary.
Walk me through your typical day.
I’d get into the office, make a cup of tea and then go through the local and national papers searching for real life stories to chase. I have to be quick off the mark because other magazines and agencies want to sign up the same stories for a fee too.
Then I’d check my diary to see if I have any phone interviews booked in for that day. I interview all signed case studies over the phone unless they require a home visit. If possible, I would start writing up copy for the story after the interview while it’s fresh in my mind, but only if I don’t have any looming deadlines (which I usually do!).
Throughout the day I help to manage the magazine’s social media pages. We have a large following on Facebook, so we make sure we interact with our readers on a daily basis. We post story requests, opinion polls and also lighten the mood with some memes!
The flatplan for an issue can change at the drop of a hat so we are prepared to pitch in and write emergency copy when needed!
If you didn’t have to sleep, how would you use the remaining hours in the day?
I want to say travelling, but I think I would take advantage of the quiet early hours to self-indulge and start writing a book or screenplay. It’s that cliché thing that most journalists want to tick off their bucket list but never find the time to do.
What is the last photo you took on your phone (at time of interview)? Why?
The last photo I took on my phone was of The Victoria pub in Dalston. I went there as part of a feature to check out the birthplace of EastEnders. I visited Fassett Square – the ‘real’ Albert Square – and then checked out The Victoria, which could easily have been mistaken as The Queen Vic!
What’s your guilty pleasure?
Listening to The Chris Moyles Show on Global Radio – it’s one of Bauer Radio’s main competitors, but I’ve been a big fan since his Radio 1 days so I think I should be let off on this occasion…
Whose phone number do you wish you had?
That’s a tough one – there are so many phone numbers I wish I had! At the moment it would have to be Simon Pegg. Spaced is comedy gold and he seems like such a down-to-earth funny guy. Simon actually answering his phone and talking to me is a whole other question…
What’s the worst piece of advice you’ve ever been given?
Don’t go back to university to study. Sometimes you may not have your life path figured out at the age of 21 so it’s never too late to return to education.
What/where is your happy place?
Somewhere away from the crowds – either staying in a beach hut on the coast or hiking in the countryside. I love you London, but I need to escape every so often to rejuvenate!
What would people be surprised to know about you?
I have quite a dark sense of humour.
What would be in your Room 101?
I’ll do the UK a favour and put Piers Morgan in there.
Introvert or extrovert?
Introvert. Contrary to popular belief, this doesn’t mean that I’m a recluse or hate talking to other people, because then I wouldn’t be a journalist, but I’m definitely a thinker first and a talker second. I also need time away from people every so often to restore my energy levels.
Optimist or pessimist?
Anxiety may push me towards a pessimist outlook, but fundamentally I’m an optimist. If I can’t achieve something one way, then I will try other ways until I can reach my goal.
Film or television? What are you binge-watching at the moment?
Television shows, but I watch them on-demand. I tend to get stuck into a box set that people have watched ages ago. I’ve just finished the BAFTA award-winning mockumentary This Country and it was amazing.
Sweet or savoury?
I have a massive sweet tooth. I have to have some kind of sweet treat after my dinner, even if it’s just a piece of chocolate.
Morning person or night owl?
I think I’m more of a morning person because I feel more productive at an earlier hour. Don’t get me wrong though, I don’t spring up from my bed with loads of energy in the morning.
Tea or coffee?
Definitely tea, even though I have a coffee machine at home. I drink regular tea at work and decaffeinated green tea in the evening.
Emojis – cool or cringey? Which emoji do you use the most?
If they are overused, then they can be very cringey. I tend to use the crying with laughter one the most, but I don’t think I use emojis to their full potential. There are pages of heart and flag emojis left unused on my phone’s keypad.