Under the Radar with Josh Spencer

Louisa Cavell

This week I spoke to The Economist's Social Media Writer about starting out, his love of interviewing (and Love Island) and the importance of editing...

 Josh Spencer

What made you want to work in the magazine industry?
I’d wanted to be a writer for a long time, but for working in journalism and magazines specifically, I’d say it was the chance to tell human stories—they are the best way of exploring complex topics. Interviewing interesting people is the best part of journalism for me.

Can you chart your journey from when you started out to your current position?

I’m still in the early days of my career, but student journalism was a great way to get a sense of whether I’d enjoy the work — I helped edit the film section of Bristol’s student newspaper. After that, the Magazine MA at City University was brilliant for giving a broad and solid base of skills from media law to news reporting, as well as building belief in my own capabilities. I’d wanted to work at The Economist for a long time, so was determined to be involved when the opportunity to join their social media team came up. 

Do you have a go-to work outfit?

Yes—it’s usually just a shirt with black jeans.

What do you turn to when you’re on deadline – tea/coffee/snacks?

Always coffee. 

What’s the most unusual situation you’ve found yourself in because of your job?

Having Jordan Peterson walk into my work kitchen, or travelling to Scotland to meet deep sea divers. 

What would people be surprised to know about your job?

The collegiate atmosphere of The Economist would probably be surprising. The various section editors and writers are open to hearing out ideas, and an article is often the work of multiple people’s inputs. If you have a particular knowledge of an issue, whether that be the economics of chickens or transgender rights, you’re encouraged to speak with the relevant writers and authors. While other publications do this, I think The Economist is a more extreme example of this principle in practice—partly because of the fact there are usually no bylines in our print edition. 

Walk me through your typical day.

It depends on which projects I’m working on at the time. I have regular responsibilities, in editing the content on our LinkedIn page and posting our journalism on LINE, a messaging app popular in Asia. With the rest of my time, I write push notifications, create digital projects like this one to engage our audience on social media, and sometimes edit and write social videos or Instagram stories. 
Thursdays and Fridays are similar every week — the print edition is published online, so I spend those days reading through our articles, especially the business and finance sections, writing and scheduling copy to promote our journalism in the week ahead on social media. I also sometimes have time to write articles, though most of this is done on weekends or in the evenings. 

How has being a member of the PPA helped you/added value to your brand?

It’s great to know that there is an organisation to connect and support magazine journalists, and a way to meet different people from the industry. Many of the events I’ve been to have been fantastic, too, such as a Q&A with Dylan Jones. 

If you didn’t have to sleep, how would you use the remaining hours in the day?

Reading more, or learning how to actually produce music. 

What is the last photo you took on your phone (at time of interview)? Why?

Snowboarding in the Swiss Alps — I took a trip with my family over the holidays. 

What’s your guilty pleasure?

Predictably, Love Island.

Whose phone number do you wish you had?

Scott Mescudi. 

What’s the worst piece of advice you’ve ever been given?

In journalism, I think one thing to avoid is the feeling that you have to write the perfect story first time round, even if you’ll work as hard as possible to do so. You have to be comfortable with being edited, so being able to listen to feedback and not taking it personally is important. 

What/where is your happy place?

Zion National Park in Utah, and the Angel’s Landing hike there.

What would people be surprised to know about you?

I’m eligible for a Canadian passport, which I’ll try to get before March 29th. 

What would be in your Room 101?

The tube.

Introvert or extrovert? 

Introvert for the most part, but it varies. 

Optimist or pessimist? 


Film or television? What are you binge-watching at the moment? 

Film - I’m terrible at keeping up with the big TV series, but one I have been binge-watching is The Defiant Ones, a documentary about Dr Dre and Jimmy Iovine. 

Sweet or savoury? 


Morning person or night owl? 

Slowly becoming more of a morning person.

Tea or coffee?

Both, but I drink more coffee.

Emojis – cool or cringey? Which emoji do you use the most?

I don’t really send them, but WhatsApp tells me it’s: Call me emoji  at the moment.


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