Under the Radar with Joe Mackertich
When he's not fulfilling his sweet tooth with Sweet Peach Candy Kittens, the Editor of ShortList ensures that he remains a 'professional pessimist'. He also sports one of the most enviable beards in the magazine industry...
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?
I never actually decided to work in magazines. It just happened to me. I feel very lucky that I work in an industry that lets me feel creative and muck about with talented people on a daily basis. I think if I had actually sat down, aged 18, and tried to work out my ideal career I might well have ended up with magazine journalism – but I didn’t.
Can you chart your journey from when you started out to your current position?
It’s incredibly long and tedious, but it involves Sam Delaney, a financial website, one make-believe Hollywood dog, a now-defunct online magazine owned by a shady American zillionaire, Dennis Publishing, The Times, The Guardian, a bunch of magazines that I can’t recall, an Iranian-owned television station, a Canadian-owned television station, FHM, more FHM, Phil Hilton, Mr Hyde and then finally ShortList.
Do you have a go-to work outfit?
I hate myself for it, but yes – big white t-shirt, white trainers, black trousers normally does the trick. Failing that, Legion of Doom-style shoulder pads and a full spandex bodysuit underneath.
What do you turn to when you’re on deadline – tea/coffee/snacks?
We had about 80 boxes of Sweet Peach Candy Kittens delivered to the building a few months ago. They’re pink and sour. We’re gradually working our way through them. The early-onset diabetes diagnosis is nailed on at this point.
What’s the most unusual situation you’ve found yourself in because of your job?
The non-annoying answer would be the situation I find myself in now – editing a weekly magazine with a great team. It still seems surreal. The annoying answer would be drinking vodka in the penthouse apartment of a Russian billionaire while he sang to me, backed by a full backing band. Or that afternoon with all the porn stars in a San Fernando Valley mansion.
What would people be surprised to know about your job?
Nothing ever runs smoothly. You have to allow for your own and other people’s mistakes. Don’t leave everything until the last minute, as you’re doomed to produce something flawed. My day is spent trying to prevent these situations. The thing with being an Editor is that everyone wants five minutes of your time – your team members, your bosses, your writers, PRs, everyone. But you have to always make time for colossal disasters. Because they’re coming. Oh boy, are they coming.
Walk me through your typical day.
There is no typical day, to be honest. Every day brings fresh challenges. I am a very hands-on Editor. I work with my team on every page of the magazine. I commission and edit stuff. I tweak bits on the page. I help choose illustrators. I help romance talent. I help do photo selects. Crucially, there’s someone more talented than me that deals with each of those things primarily, so I dip in and out helping them along their way. Like an annoying – but ultimately senior – editorial leprechaun.
If you didn’t have to sleep, how would you use the remaining hours in the day?
If you’d have asked me a year ago, I’d have said playing guitar, recording albums and getting good at the piano. But this job takes it out of me to such a degree that I spend all my free time sitting on the sofa, staring into the middle-distance. As you can imagine, my girlfriend isn’t thrilled with this.
What is the last photo you took on your phone (at time of interview)?
My charming bulldog Kronus, sleeping in his bed!
What’s your guilty pleasure?
Old professional wrestling pay-per-views – American and Japanese. I can’t get enough.
Whose phone number do you wish you had?
No one’s. I don’t like phoning people and I hate being phoned.
What’s the worst piece of advice you’ve ever been given?
A long-forgotten pop star (who was on the way out at the time) once told me not to worry about hurting people’s feelings on the way up because “you can’t hear them crying from the top of the mountain”.
What/where is your happy place?
Possibly on one of those sofas in the Screen on the Green cinema. With a bottle of Malbec.
What would people be surprised to know about you?
I lived in China for quite a long time.
What would be in your Room 101?
I can’t tell you, because I have to deal with them on an almost-daily basis.
Introvert or extrovert?
Optimist or pessimist?
A professional pessimist. Editors have to be.
Film or television? What are you binge-watching at the moment?
Film. The only truly, truly great TV show is The Wire. The rest, to quote Trevor Griffiths, is sweeties to rot your teeth with.
Sweet or savoury?
Love ‘em both to be honest.
Morning person or night owl?
I do my fretting in the morning, so probably the latter.
Tea or coffee?
The blackest of coffees.
Emojis – cool or cringey? Which emoji do you use the most/is your favourite?
In five years’ time, all headlines will be written in emoji, so you best get on board now. Most used emoji is the “okay” symbol.