Under the Radar with Kristoffer Stewart
This week I spoke with Chemist+Druggist's Clinical Editor about innovative ways to attract new audiences, the importance of organisation and losing himself on a remote island in Wales...
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 don't think I ever intended to work in the magazine industry, I sort of fell into the role.
I'm a pharmacist by training, I worked in pharmacy prior to this and I was a bit disillusioned with the sort of role I had at the time, which I wasn’t really enjoying that much. I took it upon myself to do a Masters, and this was in Science Communication and Public Engagement, I didn’t have any intentions of being a journalist at the end of it.
As I previously studied a vocational degree, when I chose this masters as I wanted to build up my experience and try different things. While studying I wanted to earn some “pocket money”, so I was still working as a pharmacist on the weekends as a locum. It happened that one of the magazines which you get delivered to the pharmacy, was a B2B title called Chemist+Druggist. I would regularly read through them and then a job came up for a pharmacist to be a reporter. I’ve been here for four years now.
What have been your career highlights so far?
I enjoy the daily grind of producing and editing content. That being said, a couple of years ago, I got to thinking about how, when I was a younger pharmacist, I didn't really know what I wanted to do with myself. So, I made a proposal to the different managers in the company, about creating a careers event that I would host and bring in different people from different sectors to do talks about where they came from, how they got to where they are, and highlight that there are lots of different avenues pharmacists can take.
There I was, organising a free careers events for our readers. I've loved my job, but this was completely different from the norm! It was great to not only be able to help young people but to generate a new revenue stream for the business. It was so rewarding, and we got new readers out of it as well, because it tended to be young pharmacists attending. The magazine is online only and if you’re not in front of people’s faces it can be a new way to engage with the audience. For me it has been a huge highlight.
Do you have a go-to work outfit?
I’d say it’s pretty smart, casual, kind of a David Attenborough look: blue short, sleeves rolled up and beige chinos. It used to be more casual, but there was an occasion when I was asked to go into BBC News to speak about issues in the sector and I was dressed inappropriately casually. [More on that later!]
How do you handle deadlines?
What I think really helps me is writing things down. I have an online Google Sheets document, where I just record everything; times and emails, when they went, that sort of thing. It just means that you can look at it and it captures what you've done and what you completed in the past, which helps you keep on top of things. I’ll also set up reminders on my calendar like a little safety net.
What’s the most unusual situation you’ve found yourself in because of your job?
The BBC interview! So basically, it was an issue at the time about patients in the NHS, that there was like a large chance of a mistake or an error occurring with their medicine, and so I went on to say, “this is not representative of our readers or community pharmacy in general”.
It was strange, because I'd never been asked to do live national news before. I didn’t have the right clothes and my hair was long and I hadn’t combed it. A friend lent me her hairbrush to tame my hair. I thought it would be much more glamorous, but the reality was sitting in a room with a green screen and some buckets of pain in the corner. Being prepped by my Editor who had done this kind of thing before was a huge help. It was definitely something to do again, though I’m not sure they’d have me!
What would people be surprised to know about your job?
That I need to be a pharmacist to do it? When I won the PPA 30 Under 30 Award last year, I was speaking to my boss afterwards, and he said, “you’re probably the first ever pharmacist to win it!”
I don’t think a lot of pharmacists leave pretty secure, well paid jobs to go into journalism.
Walk me through your typical day.
A typical day is, firstly, come in and deal with emails which have already gathered up overnight.
Then I’ll be cycling through the content I have. During a standard week, you produce a brief for a feature to be written, you edit one, and then you go with any questions of the Editor.
I work quite closely with like the sales team on some of our promotional projects as well, like pharmaceutical clients, recently, some promotional content with them, because they are trying to prove their product to be legitimate. We act like a sort of guard dog, making sure they're not saying anything which is incorrect or misleading.
I think most days though, it's mostly editing and commissioning and then speaking to the rest of the team, because I'm the only pharmacist in the team, I tend to be the go-to if they have any questions about pharmacy or medicines.
How has being a member of the PPA helped you/added value to your brand?
Not coming from a straightforward background, I’m sure there's always plenty of things to be learned. It’s so helpful to have more information available and seeing other people's pathways is beneficial. It’s also about having the chance to go to things like the different awards and networking and just seeing what other people are doing.
If you didn’t have to sleep, how would you use the remaining hours in the day?
I'd probably put more work into my professional development, because sometimes it can be mentally exhausting. If I didn't have that exhausted, I probably just keep on going. I also love to binge watch television series so would probably do more of that.
What is the last photo you took on your phone (at time of interview)? Why?
I’m working towards my clinical diploma to top up my knowledge and on Sunday, I went to the park and I brought my work. There were some dog some owners there with a sausage dog wandering about the place and he/she just hopped up beside me as I was revising. So, I took a picture of him or her because it was very cute.
What’s your guilty pleasure?
Can you really feel guilty about something that brings you joy?
I think it would have to be audiobooks. I'm relentless with them and they help you to switch off. So, audiobooks are probably my guilty pleasure because they're nothing to do with the real world.
Whose phone number do you wish you had?
What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever been given?
My dad used to say, “if something's worth doing it is worth doing right,” and that really stuck with me.
What/where is your happy place?
Whenever I was studying, I had a happy place years ago; I’d picture myself on a beach at night. You know, the warm sea breeze and the heat.
This has changed recently, when I went on a trip to an island in Wales, where all the puffins are. I went there with a friend, and you just sat there and these little tiny puffins fly by you, catch their fish and stuff like that. So now, often, when I think about getting away, I think about that peaceful island.
What would people be surprised to know about you?
I love board games and often spend weekends at board game cafes around London, learning new games.
What would be in your Room 101?
The new meaningless words that people are coming up with like “on fleek” and “dab”, it's maybe a sign that I’m getting old but I'm starting to hate them.
Introvert or extrovert?
Optimist or pessimist?
Film or television? What are you binge-watching at the moment?
Film, but I did binge watch Good Omens this week, which was amazing!
Sweet or savoury?
Morning person or night owl?
Tea or coffee?
Emojis – cool or cringey? Which emoji do you use the most?
Cringey but I enjoy using them in an old school way. I use the laughing face most.